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A Casino Full of Raving Fans
by Dennis Conrad

If you haven't read the book RAVING FANS by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, you should do so tomorrow. No, make that TODAY. It is the simplest and most powerful expression of the value of superior customer service that exists today. I won't tell you how the story is told (but if you liked the movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, you'll like RAVING FANS) - you need to spend the $20 to make it part of your library. Or rather, you need to make it your business BIBLE.

Anyway, the message behind RAVING FANS is that SATISFIED customers are no longer enough. To truly have a successful business you need "RAVING FANS", people who are blown away by your product or service. And the key to creating raving fans is threefold:

1) Decide What You Want
2) Discover What Your Customer Wants
3) Deliver Plus 1%

Now I realize that telling you about this "theory" is nowhere near as effective as describing it in action, so with apologies to the Raving Fans authors, I thought I would tell you the story of a "Raving Fans" hotel casino. Some of the elements come from existing practices of casino operators, some come from outside of the gaming industry and some, well hopefully come from a creative corner of my mind. So anyway, here goes.


The "Raving Fans" Hotel Casino


We pulled into the porte-cochere area underneath the big "RF" sign. We had driven all night from Reno. It was our first trip back to Las Vegas since moving up north and Amy was hungry and Casey had a headache. My wife Becky just wanted to get to the pool. We had heard about the RF casino and wanted to stay there. When we were two hours from Las Vegas, we even called them on my cellular, as suggested by the reservationist. Something about the PHONE AHEAD CHECK IN and having our room ready for us. But even at 8am?

The Valet parking attendant opened all four car doors and when he got to mine he startled me by saying, "Welcome to RF, Mr. Conrad, my name is Turk."

"How did you know my name?" I asked.

"Oh, that's why they asked for your license number when you phoned ahead. I just spot the license plates coming in and check them off on my list. It sure is neat surprising people with a personal greeting."

After he opened my door he used our one-minute stretching and orienting period to quickly wash our windshield.

"Lots of desert bugs at night," he said.

After Turk finished the window (and the front grill), he handed me our room keys. "You're all set," he said. "Just follow the blue path in the carpet to the elevator."

"But don't I have to check in or give you a credit card, or something?"

"No," he replied, "we got the credit card number and your authorization when you made the reservation. And when you phoned ahead, we were able to get you the first available room in your type and we had time to check you in and make your keys."

I was a little dumbfounded.

"Besides," he added, "a phone ahead service wouldn't have much value if we didn't provide a "special" service with it. Now let George and Allie here take your bags to the room. And don't event try to tip them, they won't accept it. RF adds a 20% service charge for each day of your stay and we have a really neat way of dividing it among the hotel staff. I'm sure you'll find the service well worth it. Now enjoy your stay and don't forget to try the RF buffet."

I have to admit that I was pretty impressed so far.

We found our room with no difficulty. The bellpersons were already done unloading the luggage and were about to leave. I wanted to test this no tipping policy. I offered George a $20 tip.

"Now Mr. Conrad," he scolded, "you heard what Turk said in the Valet Parking area. Don't embarrass me with another gratuity. If it will make you feel better, we're the best paid staff in Las Vegas - besides the guaranteed service charge, we have performance bonuses, profit sharing and a company stock plan. So put your twenty away."

It was the first time anyone successfully refused a tip from me. "Don't forget to try the buffet." George shouted as he left.

We looked around the room. I can't say that it was anything terrifically special - new, clean, sort of "homey" feeling. But everywhere we turned, there was one little surprise after another.

For the kids, there were the free SEGA games on the TV, the Walt Disney coloring books (and new crayons) on the table and the Cheez-Its on the lower of the two bunk beds (I guess the bunk beds were a little different!). "So that's why they asked me if the kids preferred pretzels, potato chips, Cheez-Its or granola bars when I made the reservation!" my wife exclaimed.

And RF hadn't forgotten us middle-aged adults. They had our brand of mouthwash and shampoo in the bathroom. One of those fun little hand held video poker games was on the nightstand. On top of the VCR were videos of the last ten Academy Award winners for Best Picture. There was a little newspaper type booklet that listed that day's top jackpots on the various RF slot and video poker machines, plus a map listing the entire slot area and where these machines were located. Another daily sheet listed the various "hits" over $500 on all $1 and 25Ë slots in the last 30 days. Knowing slot percentages and "randomness" as I do, I knew it was baloney, but I couldn't stop my wife from putting this chart in her purse.

Further exploration revealed a grab bag of assorted hotel room surprises. A note on the bed told the story of Southern Nevada's water supply and how RF helps the environment by changing sheets only upon request or after checkout. There not only was a bible in the top drawer, but also holy books for Jews, Muslims and Buddhists as well as a few "breezy self-help pep talk" books. A sign said that the air conditioner automatically shuts off when you leave the room. And there were several gaming periodicals by the bed - the Las Vegas Advisor, Casino Executive, Chance, Casino Player, Card Player, a pamphlet from the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. "RF prefers well-informed gaming customers," said the table tent nearby.

The kids were coloring and eating Cheez-Its (at 8:30am).

My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. It was that disbelieving, amazed snorting kind of laugh. "Can you believe this?!!!" she howled.

I couldn't wait for the RF casino.

After discovering the delights and surprises in our room that first morning at the RF Casino/Hotel in Las Vegas, it was time to explore the property itself.

Becky and the kids were eager to hit the pool and I was ready for some blackjack, but we all agreed that we should get something to eat first. With the already twice repeated words "You've got to try the buffet" ringing in my ears, we decided to try RF's "Blow You Away Buffet." It sounded like

Date Posted: 21-Dec-1998

DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry.
He can be reached at: 475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501
· (702) 329-7864
· fax (702) 329-4947
· email: TheRadcon@aol.com.

 
 
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