Are You in Casino Customer Service Training Hell?
by Martin Baird

I recently read a column in Inc. magazine titled “The 9 Circles of Customer Service Hell” and, to my delight, some of the information looked very familiar. It pointed out service and customer service training problems I have been counseling casinos on for nearly 20 years.

It’s wonderful to have your expertise validated by another expert, even if it is a coincidence. The column was written by Jay Steinfeld, founder and chief executive officer of Blinds.com, an online source of window coverings. His company has captured more than half the online window treatment market, so Steinfeld has a successful business. He knows what he’s talking about.
Clearly, Steinfeld’s article focused on retailers and other traditional businesses that have customers walking through the door and calling on the phone to buy products and services. But there were lessons for casino management as well.

Of the nine circles Steinfeld wrote about, three jumped out at me. Here they are.
The Disappearing Clerk. Let’s revise that to say the disappearing casino employee. How frustrating can it be for a casino guest who’s expecting help from an employee only to discover that that person has vanished? I’ll tell you how frustrating – VERY! The same goes for a guest who’s trying to get the attention of an employee and that staff member simply wanders off and is never seen again.
The disappearing employee goes to the heart of two problems – not caring and not paying attention. Casino employees simply must understand that guests are the most important people at the property and show that they care about them by helping guests any way they can. That includes doing what you say you will do for guests instead of wandering away and forgetting about it. Employees must be observant at all times so they can see when a guest needs help or even anticipate what a guest will need. Be caring. Be diligent.

The Agent Doesn’t Understand Your Question. This applies to the casino employee who doesn’t understand what the guest is saying. The root of this problem is one simple thing – not listening. Any casino employee who has worked the floor for a decent length of time has heard it all and it becomes easy to assume you know what the guest is saying and that you have the answer. Each guest is an individual with unique needs. That’s why employees must listen closely when guests speak. Stop, slow down, clear your mind and just listen. That will solve communication problems that can become maddening for guests. It also ties in with showing you care.

The “I’m Sorry, but I Don’t Have the Authority to Do That.” Personally, I have no tolerance for this problem and neither does the typical casino guest. Employees must never, ever say that what guests want is outside their responsibilities. It may, in fact, not be the employees’ job to fulfill the request, but employees are there to help, not hinder. Employees must have an “I can do that” attitude at all times. That is precisely what guests want to hear. Just say you will take care of the request and then find help if you need it. Guests don’t care how things happen, they just want their needs fulfilled.
Steinfeld didn’t just outline the nine circles of customer service hell and leave it at that. He also offered solutions. Again, three of them caught my attention.
Staff Up With the Right People. This is an area of critical importance to casinos. From a bottom line point of view, it’s extremely costly to hire people, fire them when they don’t work out and hire replacements. This is a vicious cycle that involves throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars down a rat hole. From a customer service aspect, you simply can’t expect people to be good at providing service if they are going to be lousy employees to start with.

Casinos must go beyond hiring warm bodies for the casino floor meat grinder. They must go the extra mile and make a concerted effort to hire the right people for the right jobs. This takes extra effort but it’s worth it in the long run. I’m a huge fan of personality assessments. These assessments can help casinos understand each job applicant’s strengths and weaknesses and form a picture of how that person will behave on the job.

Train Them Well – and Keep It Up. Even if casinos hire the best people possible, those employees will still need customer service training. Few people are naturals at providing service. For most people, it’s an acquired skill. The good news is that it can be learned. I strongly recommend that casinos hire trainers who bring the following characteristics to the table – they understand the casino business, they teach rather than lecture, they break up learning into bites, they teach through extensive audience participation and they make the whole process fun, fun, fun. Make prospective trainers audition so you can watch them in action. And make training an ongoing commitment so employees continue to learn.

Check Your Policies. In the case of casinos, I’m talking about standards. Many casinos talk big about providing excellent customer service, but they lack the one thing that gives them a firm foundation – written customer service standards. How can employees possibly provide great service if they don’t know what is expected of them? There is a lot involved in creating a customer service culture at a casino, but it all starts with deciding what the service standards should be, putting them in writing and making sure all employees know them by heart. Wonderful things can happen from that point on.

Date Posted: 22-Sep-2012

Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement, management and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www.casinocustomerservice.com and www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-991-2037. Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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