Casino Customer Service Is the Key to Success
by Martin R. Baird

Casino Customer Service Is the Key to Success
By Martin R. Baird

“Don’t worry about profits, worry about service.” Thomas Watson Sr., founder of IBM.
I can’t think of a better quote for the casino industry today. It says it all! Too often, businesses lose sight of what is important or even critical to their long-term success – stellar service.
In the years that I’ve been working with the gaming industry, I’ve seen it explode with growth and the competition that comes with that growth makes guest service more important than ever. For example, I live in the Phoenix area and the changes to the Native American gaming market there have been staggering. It has gone from a couple of small, smoky, crowded card rooms to huge, beautiful casinos that offer just about everything. They have top-name entertainers and wonderful promotions. These casinos are some of the nicest looking buildings in the state.
Here’s the new challenge: how do they and other Native American casinos across the country compete to keep people coming and ensure their continued success?
At one time it was OK to live in the world of “build it and they will come.” But those days are going, going, gone! So how will casinos win the battle for guests? Recently, the answer to that question was to add more amenities. Many casinos opened RV parks, golf courses, fine-dining restaurants, resorts and more. But I seriously doubt casinos can just keep building bigger and better as a way of attracting more guests.
The answer will come down to guest service. For casinos to grow and prosper in the midst of increased competition, they must provide a better guest experience. It is not enough to have the newest games. All the other casinos have them, too. The way that casinos are going to stand out is through better service and that will require employee training.
When I meet with casinos about their guest-service needs, I always ask, “Is the management team committed to guest service?” This question is critical because management commitment simply must be there. If it isn’t, none of the service-related training will work. The casinos that have the most success at building a guest-service culture are those that do it from the top down and the bottom up.
When the GM participates in the training along with hourly employees, it sends a very strong message to all of the people that this is important. When each person from the management team participates, word gets out that this is a mission, not a one-time event.
Once you have the management team on the customer-service fun bus, it’s time to get all the other employees on board as well. It’s important to note that I do mean ALL of the employees. It’s not enough to train only the people who have direct guest contact. Many casino employees who do not interact with guests do have contact with other employees who, in turn, have an effect on the guest’s experience. If customer service is the key to success, you can’t afford to have any weak links. Everyone must be on the service bandwagon.
So why should casinos make the investment in guest-service training? The answer is very simple: some employees don’t know how to provide great service and they don’t understand how important guest service is.
Think for a moment about the number of employees you have who had not worked in the hospitality industry before you hired them, those who have never really experienced great service. If a person has never experienced great guest service, how can they be expected to provide it?
Learning how to give quality service and the act of actually providing it need to be a fun process. Passing down an order that people will be fired at dawn if they don’t have fun at work doesn’t build a very good attitude for the troops. Customer service and customer- service training need to be truly fun and interactive.
This is important for two reasons. First, people learn and retain more when they have fun. If it’s the same old boring training, people will just zone out. Second, if you create an understanding that guest service is fun, people are more likely to do what is fun.
After the training, it’s important to have a system in place that provides unbiased evaluation and feedback on your guest service. Once a person learns a new skill, it’s very important that they use it and develop the positive habit. If you have an incentive program that’s tied to guest service, people are more likely to provide better service. If your employees know that they could get an extra five dollars for smiling, your guests will see more smiles. You need to give your employees the skills through training and then reinforce them with positive rewards.
The casino business is not going away any time soon. And as long as it is not going away and casinos are making money, competition is going to increase. This makes guest service more important every day!

This article first appeared in the December 2001 issue of Native American Casino.

Date Posted: 28-Jan-2002

Martin R. Baird is president of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a customer service consulting firm based in Phoenix, Ariz., that provides specialty customer service training, management skills training, presentation skills training, team building programs and employee incentive and recognition programs for casinos. Baird has a Web site, www.casinocustomerservice.com, that’s devoted to helping casinos improve their customer service so they can compete and increase revenues. Baird may be reached at 800-279-1775 or 480-990-1775. He also may be reached by e-mail at mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com.

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