Casino Customer Service Suffers At the Hands of Poofs
by Martin R. Baird

Casino Customer Service Suffers At the Hands of Poofs
By Martin R. Baird

I was at a training seminar one time and the presenter asked how many of the participants were “poofs.” Many of us looked around puzzled thinking we must have missed that day in facilitator’s school.
He explained that poofs are the people who have been given a new job and – poof – they are now trainers or managers or supervisors!
After having worked in gaming for a number of years, I can say that poofs are not only alive and well, they are growing by the minute. When we contact casinos about their customer service needs, we often talk to the human resources manager or director and soon learn that he or she is, in fact, a poof.
Some are new to the industry. Some are even new to human resources. When we talk with people in the casino’s training department, the poof factor goes up exponentially. Many of them did a good job training their staff so, poof, they must be a real trainer or, better yet, a training manager.
Poofism is not limited to this part of the business. It’s in all areas of gaming at all levels. If a person is a talented slot tech with good customer-service skills, they’re the logical choice as a slot manager or supervisor.
The problem with management by poofing is that when someone is good at one thing it doesn’t mean they have the skills to take it to the next level.
Think about sports for a moment. Some of the people who are exceptional at the collegiate level flop in the pros. They had the size, speed and drive to make it in college but they were not a good fit as a pro. The same is true for managers. Just because a person can fix a slot machine and be nice to the customer at the same time doesn’t mean they are trained or prepared to manage other people doing it.
This is not a slam on casino management or human resources. It is a fact of life in the gaming industry today.
With the meteoric rise in the number of casinos, it’s impossible to find trained and seasoned people all the time. Back in the gaming dark ages, people were groomed for years and moved up through the ranks. Now a casino opens across town and they hire the floor people from the competitor and make them all managers because they have experience.
This is not the way to grow a stable business. It only makes things worse at places that are weak and will fall during tough times.
So what is the solution? What can casinos do to have the management they need without hiring poofs? The answer is to start a casino farm team just like they do in baseball.
Develop internal and external systems to help people learn the skills they need to be managers. It’s important to note that if you don’t help them learn the skills you want or think are important, they will go their merry way on the job and do what they think is best.
For example, they might manage by intimidation or motivate with punishment because that’s what their supervisors and managers always did. They could have some bad habits that you really don’t want at your property.
You need to educate them about what your property believes are the best ways to motivate and manage employees. This can be done in a variety of ways.
One great way is through actual training. That can be done in-house or through local colleges. In Phoenix, Arizona, there is a casino management curriculum that people can go through and obtain a certificate of completion. This is great for an area that has a number of casinos and is looking to help people have the skills they need to succeed.
Training is needed because people are not born managers. They need to learn it like any new skill. If you want people to be great managers that lead your property’s customer service message, they need to be trained on how to do that.
Another option is mentor programs. It’s a great thing when people with stellar management skills show the ropes to new managers. Those new to management ranks like to learn from people who lead by example and demonstrate the skills they aspire to have.
The challenge is that the mentors need to lead by example at ALL times. It’s a problem when a new manager hears that their mentor – the very person who says praise is more effective than punishment – let one of their employers really have it. It’s important to select mentors who not only know what to do but who show it each day.
I laugh because a casino that wouldn’t dream of putting a dealer on a live game without hours of training on game management and how to deal often will make someone a manager or supervisor in no more time than it takes to tell them they are now – poof – the manager.
If casinos want to provide customers with a consistently great gaming experience, it takes more than poofs, it takes well-trained professionals.

This article first appeared in the November 2003 issue of Native American Casino.

Date Posted: 21-Apr-2005

Martin R. Baird is author of “Gaming Guest Service from A to Z,” a book that uses the alphabet to help gaming executives, managers and employees understand the importance of outstanding customer service and how to provide it. He is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a customer service consulting firm based in Annapolis, Maryland, that provides specialty customer service training, management skills training, presentation skills training, team building programs and employee incentive and recognition programs for the gaming industry. The company Web site, www.casinocustomerservice.com, is devoted to helping casinos improve their customer service so they can compete and increase revenues. Robinson & Associates may be reached by phone at 480-991-6420 or by e-mail at mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com. The company is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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