Simple Things Make A Huge Difference
by Martin Baird

By Martin R. Baird

It’s a shame that good customer service is so uncommon it rates high-profile coverage in a major media outlet when it happens. Great service should be so ubiquitous that poor service becomes the exception.
Erika Andersen is a blogger for Forbes.com and the headline over one of her posts really grabbed my attention: “I Love JetBlue – Customer Service Done Right.” WOW, you can’t buy that kind of positive coverage! Andersen fully embraced a particular company for its service and she did it in a very public way. I seriously doubt JetBlue asked her to write about them, so that makes Andersen the ultimate advocate for the airline.

I was astounded again when I read the first sentence in her blog: “The difference between great customer service and terrible customer service is often so simple.” How many years have I been saying this to casinos? Nearly 20. And I keep telling them that simple things learned in casino customer service training can make all the difference.

After making that statement, Andersen went on to explain just how correct she was about simple things making a huge difference with service. She started with a seriously unpleasant experience with another airline, then described how JetBlue got everything right. The following direct quotes are from Andersen.

“I watched as the flight attendant was unfailingly kind and respectful to every passenger.” At casinos, employees must learn that the customer is king and that guests simply must be treated with respect and in a kind manner at all times. They just want to be treated the way everyone else wants to be treated. Offering this common courtesy to guests makes them feel comfortable and at home. And that is precisely what casinos should want to achieve because they are as much in the hospitality business as they are in the entertainment business.
“(The attendant) handed me my computer bag and gave the woman next to me her purse, all without being asked and with a smile.” In baseball parlance, that JetBlue attendant hit a double. First, she anticipated what her customers would need and fulfilled that need before the passengers even spoke up. Thinking ahead for guests is a hallmark of outstanding casino customer service training. I’m not suggesting employees spy on players on the floor. I am strongly recommending employees be observant and quick to serve when they put two and two together. For example, anticipate when a guest will finish his drink and have a fresh one ready.

The other key component of great service training to point out here is that little word “smile.” It may be little but it is powerful. A friendly smile always makes a casino guest feel good. It always brightens their day. Smiles are appreciated and they are extremely important.
“The difference in my experience (between JetBlue and the other airline) was 100% in the attitude of the customer-facing employee.” My hat is off to you, Erika Andersen. Attitude makes all the difference. Casino employees won’t – make that can’t – be observant, anticipate, think ahead, serve quickly, smile and do all the other things that create memorable service if they show up for work with a poor attitude. They should be taught to think positive thoughts, practice deep breathing, meditate, play with the kids or the dog before they leave for work – do whatever is necessary to get into a happy frame of mind before they start their shift. Guests can easily spot a sour mood.

“JetBlue has figured out how to build a positive, friendly, respectful way of interacting with customers into the DNA of their company.” Focus on Andersen’s reference to DNA. It’s all about building a customer service culture at your casino, weaving service into the very fiber of your casino’s being. That takes serious, never-ending commitment. Clearly, JetBlue has made service the company’s mantra, not the training technique de jour. The kind of service Andersen experienced evolves over time and becomes ingrained with all employees. Everyone buys in. Everyone adheres to it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
“I suspect they hire for it, train for it and reward it.” This is a continuation of the DNA quote. I believe Andersen is correct. She refers to the three fundamentals of rolling out quality service and I apply them here to gaming properties: (1) casinos should hire good people and match them with appropriate jobs (2) even though they hire talented employees, casinos still need to train them to provide great service and (3) please, please, please reward employees when they demonstrate the desired behavior. Everyone loves to be recognized for a job well done. Positive feedback is a strong motivator for future behavior.

“I tell my assistant to look first for JetBlue flights whenever he’s making travel arrangements for me.” Casinos always want to know the ROI for their customer service training investment. Andersen cut to the chase by pointing out that service contributes to the bottom line. When someone decides they want to play at a casino, you want them to think of your property FIRST. Memorable service contributes to a fun gaming experience and a fun gaming experience puts you top of mind. Top of mind means guests return to your casino again and again. Need I say more?

Date Posted: 11-Nov-2012

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, management 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 a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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