Money Talks – Techniques for Improving Guest Service
by Martin Baird

I was recently reminded of a common saying that my friends and I used often in high school and college: “Money talks and stories walk!” We didn’t use the word “stories,” but I think you get the point.

This phrase of bygone years came to mind while I was chatting with some casino managers. They were noodling about ways to make training “stick.” You know, how do you get employees to use their new guest-service skills after training and not just talk about it?

With more than 10 years of experience helping casinos develop and promote a guest-service culture, I’ve learned a few things that will help make guest service a way of life on the job and not just a topic of discussion.

Improving guest service is not about rocket science, it’s about changing behavior and helping people experience a new way of doing things. If people have always done things a certain way, it’s a habit. When we do things out of sheer habit, we’re functioning on autopilot. Think of driving to a store that you have been to hundreds of times. When you drive home from the store, do you mentally plan what you must do every inch of the way to reach your destination? It happens to all of us. We’re home and can’t really remember how we got there. Our autopilot was functioning and we made it home safe and sound with little or no real thought.

So to improve guest service, you need to get people to shed old habits and adopt new ones. That is often easier said than done. People are creatures of habit and change is not a habit that most people want to pick up. We like to do things the familiar way because it’s easy.

Let’s look at some techniques that work.

1 – Money talks! If you want to change a behavior, CASH is a good way to get people’s attention. If you want your employees to perform the basic behavior of smiling, it should be simple enough, right? Think again. I’m amazed every day at the number of people who don’t smile while they’re at work. I’m not talking about people who have serious, demanding jobs. I’m talking about people who work at floral shops, rental-car companies and even gifting companies.

People listen when money is involved. Money talks and people are suddenly focused. I’m not saying people are basically greedy, but if you want people to do something new, make it worth their while. Give them something they can spend on Friday night and you’re on the right track.

2 – In one of the famous Chrysler commercials during their more challenging times, Lee Iacocca walked on screen and said, “Lead, follow or get out of the way!” When it comes to making guest service improvement, two of the three are not options. It takes leaders and leadership. People are followers. They look to people to lead them to a better place. Management needs to be that force that they are drawn to.

If employees see those in management performing the desired behaviors – for example, smiling at and with guests and coworkers – they notice it. They may not verbalize it in a positive way but it’s noticed. For example, you may over hear things like, “I’d smile, too, if I got paid as much as she does.” Or “They don’t work grave yard; it’s easy to smile.” Or “They don’t have to work, so all they have to do is smile.”

These comments are actually positive. They tell you that people notice that you smile all the time. They notice that you are different in a good way. It may start as little digging comments, but it needs to start somewhere.

Lead by example because even when you don’t think a coworker or guest is looking, they are and they can learn from your behavior.

3 – Finally, look at your fun factor. Are your people, you included, having fun doing what they do? If a person dreads their day-to-day activities, it’s very difficult to get them to help guests have a great experience.

One comment we hear with a high level of repetition is “can’t we do stuff as a group?” I’m amazed how often people want to be together even after working long shifts and crazy hours. They become a family and, as such, they want to do social things together. Having four fun events each year helps raise the fun-o-meter. Your people want to have opportunities to blow off steam and talk with friends in a non-work environment.

Look for ways to inject fun into your property on a regular basis. These don’t have to be huge galas. They can be as simple as softball and hot dogs. Adding fun on a regular basis will affect people in a positive way.

Money still talks, but it takes an organized effort to make guest service improvements. Improving guest service is a never ending battle that can be won!

Date Posted: 06-Nov-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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