Is Your Casino Racing to the Bottom?
by Martin R. Baird

Is Your Casino Racing to the Bottom?
By Martin R. Baird

As a frequent flier, many of my customer service experiences involve airlines. These days, I think airlines are quite similar to casinos.
Airlines and casinos are both highly competitive. They both work very hard to attract customers. The business environment is tough for airlines and casinos because people have less and less disposable income to enjoy the services they offer.
I was an elite frequent flyer with America West, now US Airways. I was at their top customer level for about six years. My guess is that over the last 15 years, I have flown more than a million miles with them. I know in today’s world a million of anything doesn’t sound like much, but I think that amount of air travel puts me in the top 20 percent of all people who fly. Look at it this way – if I frequented your casino to that extent, I would be among the top 20 percent of your guests that generate 80 percent of your revenue. For most casinos, that would make me one of your better players.
One would think such a customer would be considered extremely important. Perhaps not. Not long ago, I had an issue with US Airways and I told them I was going to spread my business around with other airlines. I wish casino guests would do that when they decide to stop playing at a particular property. Now I fly almost exclusively on United. They have provided consistent, friendly service and they treat me well.
Here is the part that I find amazing: US Airways doesn’t realize that, for all practical purposes, I’m gone! I went from more than 100,000 miles with them to about 25,000 miles. Now I fly considerably less with them. I don’t think they even realize this.
If I were consulting with US Airways on their guest service, I would ask the marketing department to run a report on their best customers that are no longer patronizing them. Can your casino’s management comb through data and see which of your top 20 percent of guests is playing less or not playing at all? I know it’s easy to say the economy is in the tank and, therefore, people are not playing. Don’t use that excuse. That is not what has happened to me and my travels. The fact is, I’m flying and if US Airways was smart or had the technology, it would know that I’m racking up all my frequent flyer miles with United. That should be a huge warning to US Airways that it has a problem.
During these tough times, it’s easy to blame slow casino play on the economy, but could it be something else? This is the time to re-connect with your guests. Do the hard work of digging into data and guest experiences to find out how you can serve them better. Use mystery shops to see where you are lacking and fix it.
I know some of you are thinking your casino doesn’t have the money to do this because it’s cutting costs. I understand the need to spend wisely, but for a moment think about how much revenue you lose when one of your 20 percent leaves. The time and money invested to find out why they left and what it would take to get them back is money well spent.
The reason I switched to United is simple. They do a better job of serving me. Flying is a commodity. The airplanes are the same, the seats are the same and the airport hassles are the same. So why do I select one airline over another? Because of the service experience.
The same logic applies to your casino. You are a commodity, too, and your guests have many choices for entertainment. So why would they select you? Are you serving them in such a way that they say they need to go to your casino? The idea of providing outstanding guest service is simple, but doing it is another matter. If it was easy, every casino would provide amazing service. When President Kennedy announced America would go to the moon, he said it would be done “not because it is easy but because it is hard.” Our lives today are greatly enhanced by the technologies that evolved from the Apollo program. What could you reap by doing the hard thing?
Finally, investing in your guests and the service you provide them is a smart move in this economy. It may not generate financial rewards in the short term but it will long term. Down the road when your players have more money and are less worried about their jobs and the value of their homes, they will come to you with their entertainment dollars. The time to sharpen your saw is before you need to do it. Now is that time.
The title to this column mentions “racing to the bottom.” If businesses don’t invest in their employees and their service, they are racing to the bottom. US Airways will need to improve their service companywide and offer heavy enticements to lure me back as a customer. I don’t know why their service has declined, but it has. From my point of view, United is better and US Airways is on a downward spiral that will be very difficult to stop.
There’s a better way. Race to the top with amazing service and great guest experiences every time.

Date Posted: 18-Apr-2011

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 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 an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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