More Lessons from Apple: Restlessness, Tinkering,
by By Martin R. Baird

I recently wrote a column praising Apple for setting an example of top-notch customer relations. Well, I’m turning to Apple again, this time for its willingness to constantly evolve, a tactic that would serve casinos well as they buck the headwinds of a deep recession and stiff competition.

In an opinion piece in Newsweek, technology writer Daniel Lyons said a lot of nice things about Apple and I will use some of them here as illustrations of how casinos can evaluate their behavior and improve their guest service.
In the first paragraph of his article, Lyons described Apple as “restless and innovative.” Casinos are busy places, but are they creatively restless? I’m not suggesting that casinos literally innovate in the area of customer service, although that would be exciting. I am, for example, challenging Casino XYZ to be innovative and creative in the sense that it tries to do a few things each year to improve service, things it has never done before. It doesn’t matter if these methods are used at other casinos. What’s important is that they are new to Casino XYZ. I want all casinos to always wonder what else they could do to improve each guest’s gaming experience – in other words, be restless. Take that approach and something excellent is bound to happen. Doing what you have always done to provide outstanding service will not move you ahead of the pack.

Lyons asked an important question: “What other company so constantly tinkers with its products, even the successful ones?” I cannot overstate how important this is for developing quality guest service. You may be doing a number of things to offer great service but you can always do better with what you have. Giving a confused guest directions to the restroom is good service. Walking the guest to their destination to be sure they arrive is even better.

Lyons also wondered “who else, in areas where it falls short, so persistently keeps trying new approaches until it finds one that works?” Not every idea for improving service works well. But that’s no excuse to discard the idea. It must have held out some possibility of success in the first place, so take a look at what went wrong. Maybe there’s a way to work around that. Let’s say your casino conducts its first-ever mystery shop. Unfortunately, you’re disappointed with the results because there wasn’t enough hard feedback to act upon. Did you give the shoppers very specific instructions on what to look for as they evaluated your customer service? If your instructions were too broad, the data will be vague.

Here’s another good one. Apple is planning to overhaul its Apple TV product, Lyons wrote. “Instead of pushing a device with a big hard drive that can store lots of movies and music, Apple will try a much smaller version that simply streams content,” Lyons said. “Will it work? Who knows? But (Apple CEO Steve) Jobs recognizes that people would rather let everything be stored up on some ‘cloud’ in the Internet than in their homes.” Here’s the crucial part of that comment – “Jobs recognizes that people would rather…” Jobs knows what his customers want. Do you? One of the most crucial elements of providing great customer service is first knowing what your guests think about your current level of service and how they believe it could be improved. You simply cannot provide guests with a great gaming experience until you know what kind of experience they desire. Know your guests!

Lyons wondered “what the world would be like if more companies were like Apple. What if the Big Three automakers made products that were simple and easy to use … while also constantly trying to push the state of the art?” I wonder what the gaming industry would be like if all casinos constantly reached for the golden ring of a better and better experience for their customers?
OK, perhaps I should be more realistic. Not every casino will pull out all the stops to polish its service. I’m going to borrow from Lyons one more time to issue a more reasonable challenge. Lyons wrapped up his article with yet another question – “How can anyone keep up with these guys?” I challenge you to drive your competitors crazy with your constantly evolving and improving customer service. Drive them nuts as you tinker, tinker and tinker again with your approach to service. You want them to realize there’s no way they can keep up with you.

Date Posted: 27-Dec-2010

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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