Make Guest Service Your Casino’s Defense Against Tough Times
by Martin R. Baird

One of the truths I remember from high school and college basketball is that the teams that win do it with defense. Yes, offense gets the glory and makes it on the news, but it’s the “stops” that make a team win. Without defense, teams rarely succeed at the highest levels of the game.
Other than a trip down memory lane, what does this have to do with casinos and helping them be more successful? Quite a bit. I think great service and great defense are one and the same.
The fun and excitement of new casino games and buildings are like offense. They provide the sex appeal that generates trial and gets people through the door of your property the first time. The challenge is that after guests see what you have to offer, do you make the entire experience so attractive that they can’t wait to come back or tell their friends about your casino?
Great service is what creates the “stop” for your casino. It makes guests not want to leave and, if they do wander away, it makes them want to come back for more. Does every person on your staff know that for you to succeed at the highest level, they need to provide amazing service to each and every guest? Do they know that there are no exceptions to this rule? Do they know this at the core of their being or were they simply told about it a long time ago during orientation or perhaps at a team meeting?
I went to school at Purdue University and our number one rival was Indiana University. When I was in school, IU’s coach was none other than the infamous Bobby Knight. I’m not and never have been an IU fan, but I know that coach Knight preached defense at every practice. He was known for sitting down star players when they missed defensive assignments. I’m not saying to follow in his footsteps, but he was very successful and his teams were, too, because they knew what was critical.
Great casino service takes a high level of repetition, just as basketball players and other athletes practice, practice, practice. Your team needs to be reminded daily – and I do mean daily – of the importance of providing a great experience for each guest. I’m saddened when I visit properties and see that some of the employees understand this while others are clueless. In Bobby Knight’s world, those who didn’t get it were benched or kicked off the team.
As casino leaders, you need to make some decisions about benching people or removing them from your team. I’m not suggesting that being punitive is the best approach. My first choice always is positive reinforcement and helping people learn what is expected of them, as well as how to do it. In the area of what is expected, do you have written guest service standards for the property as well as for each department? If you do, when were they last reviewed and updated? If you don’t have standards or can’t remember when they were last revised, then put that at the top of your to-do list right now.
Having written standards gives the team needed direction and accountability. For example, what does it mean when you tell floor employees to greet each guest? Some of your people might think that means a nod and nothing else because that is what they do with friends when they see them. If a simple nod is not your definition of a greeting, then you need to lay it out. Other employees may greet guests with eye contact, verbal recognition and a smile. That is certainly much better, but not necessarily the only way to greet someone. My point is that a proper greeting must be tailored to your guests and your team and then clearly explained. And that’s just one element of good service.
Few people are born with the guest service gene. Usually, if they appear to be a “natural,” it comes from years of practice with past coaches who could include family, friends, schools, the military or even other companies. Now is the time to set expectations and manage them.
Great service is what keeps your guests coming back day after day in good times and bad. Just like great defense, stellar service can win the day. This will require each of your employees to get back to the basics of outstanding service and put them into action every day with every guest. Memorable service is what creates casino champions.

This article previously appeared in Native American Casino.

Date Posted: 22-Nov-2009

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 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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