Casinos Should Learn from Motor City’s Big Mistake
by Martin R. Baird

Casinos Should Learn from Motor City’s Big Mistake
By Martin R. Baird

It finally happened and I suppose it should be no surprise. The Associated Press reported that Toyota overtook Ford Motor Co. in 2007 to become the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales. According to the story I read, this broke a 76-year lock Ford had on that position. Wow, 76 years!
This only goes to show that no one can rest on their laurels. Casino employees and their managers can’t let past success fool them for one second, either. The situation U.S. auto makers face offers important lessons for casinos because I think it all comes down to giving customers what they want.
For decades, American auto manufacturing plants churned out cars and trucks that people couldn’t wait to buy. Think of all the classic Fords and Chevrolets consumers snapped up and that’s just two brands among many. These were great cars and trucks that people loved to drive. Many of them are still on the road today. During its heyday, Detroit had it all figured out. Motor City knew what customers wanted and gave it to them year after year. Business was good with no end in sight, and customers were exceedingly happy.
But the end did come, and Americans began buying foreign cars, particularly Japanese models. What happened? I believe Detroit lost its focus. At some point, it forgot it was in business to please customers and kneeled instead before the almighty bottom line. Profit replaced product in the business plan. The end result was bland cars that weren’t particularly well built. These vehicles excited no one, and Japan swooped in to fill the void.
In late 2006, I read a quote from Katsuaki Watanabe, the president of Toyota. He was asked about Toyota possibly becoming the world’s No. 1 car manufacturer. His answer went to the heart of Detroit’s problem: “That would merely be a result, not a goal. The important thing is to be a leader in car making, and that's done by improving products. Vehicle quality will be Toyota's top priority.”
And there you have it. American car makers took their customers for granted, their product quality slipped and now they are struggling to survive.
Casinos cannot afford to make the same mistake on the floor. You must not take your eye off your guests and let the quality of your customer service slip. Your guests have plenty of entertainment options. They don’t have to spend money at your property. If you work for a successful casino and you’re a middle manager, I challenge you to determine what it is you’ve been giving your customers that keeps them coming back. Most people lose money when they play at a casino, so you’ve been giving them something else they value. What is it? Do your employees know what it is?
If you want to have guests that return to your casino to play again and again, then you need to follow Toyota’s example. Have a goal of being a leader in quality customer service and the result will be continued success.
I don’t think I’m asking much because good service is often about the little things that are so easy to do. Here’s an example. A friend of mine lives in a 50-year-old house, and the exhaust fan in one of the bathrooms recently broke. It was a 30-year-old Nutone that’s no longer in the company’s product line. My friend contacted the company via e-mail and expected to hear back in that fashion, if he got a response at all. Nutone has made these little fans since the beginning of time for millions of customers, but a company representative took a few minutes to call my friend. Nutone told him which model would replace his old one and how to install it. Now I know why they’ve been in business so long. Whether my friend does the install or he hires an electrician, he says the fan will be a Nutone. That was easy-to-provide quality service that resulted in a sale and a happy customer.
So, do you greet your guests with a smile? Do you refresh their drink before they ask? Do you clean up spills immediately? Are you familiar with the buffet so you can recommend what’s particularly tasty? Do you help guests find the bathroom when they’re obviously lost? Do valet employees retrieve cars quickly? Do you closely listen when guests speak so you understand precisely what they need? Do you help guests have fun? None of these things are difficult to do and they all matter.
I don’t know what your guests like but you should. If Toyota and Nutone can consistently put their customers first for decades, so can you today, tomorrow and the day after. Know what your guests have appreciated over the years and keep doing it.

This article first appeared in Casino Connection.

Date Posted: 03-Jul-2008

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 provides guest service training and employee incentive and recognition programs, as well as presentation skills training, management skills training and team building programs. The company is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association. Robinson & Associates may be reached at 480-991-6420, mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com or via its Web site at www.casinocustomerservice.com.

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