by Sandra Galletti
CHINESE CULTURE AND CASINO CUSTOMER SERVICE
Las Vegas is a favorite destination for Asians, from groups of budget travelers to high-stake gamblers who can individually affect a casino’s bottom line. Gaming is part of the Asian culture and eighty-five percent of the high rollers that play in Las Vegas come from China, Taiwan and Japan.1
The latest available statistics from in-flight surveys reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce Tourism Industries shows that in the year 2000, Japan sent 511,000 visitors to Las Vegas, first among overseas markets. South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are also on the top of the list of Pacific Rim visitors.2
According to Shelly Mansholt, a representative of MGM Mirage, “Asians are well-known for being among the high-end gaming customers.”3 Sales increases at places such as The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace are directly associated to the Asian visitors. Maureen Crampton, marketing director of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace states that Asians customers are very focused on quality and brand name of products that they purchase. Compared to customers from other nationalities, Asians tend to spend larger amounts of money when shopping.
The gaming industry is aware of the potential of Asian customers. Understanding their culture, needs and expectations can lead to an increase in customer service and therefore customer satisfaction, which is one of the factors that can generate repeated visits to the same casino.
A study published by Bear Stearns market analysts estimates that 3/4 of the Strip’s baccarat players come from Asia, “indicating that the health of Asian economies has a direct bearing on the bottom line of several Las Vegas casinos.”4
To increase these numbers, some gambling companies have strategically placed executives in potential Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo in order to establish partnerships with local travel agents to send visitors to Las Vegas. But these efforts will only be worthwhile if a prepared team is ready to properly serve these customers when they arrive at the casinos. Getting to the casino is one thing. Having a positive experience while there is another.
SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
Statistics show that in Las Vegas, losses by Chinese have been extraordinary.5 Even though the volume of Japanese visiting Las Vegas is greater than the volume of Chinese visitors, the amount of money Chinese are willing to gamble is exorbitant. For example, some reports indicate that individual losses at a casino reached US$10 million over an 8-month time frame.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority does not offer data detailing the number of travelers from China to the US, but casinos report that in the past two years, the number of Chinese gamblers has increase dramatically, probably because it became easier for Chinese citizens to travel to the U.S. for business or conferences, and, according to tour operators, most of the visitors pass through Las Vegas.6 The Las Vegas McCarran International Airport statistics shows that in the year 2000, 45,000 Chinese landed there. (This includes only direct flights from Hong Kong; statistics of Chinese that landed in other US airports and then traveled to Las Vegas were not available).
Casinos consider the Chinese New Year the best gambling weekend in the year when thousands of Chinese come to Las Vegas to celebrate and gamble.7
All these factors have caught the attention of gaming companies for this emerging market. The Asian regional marketing director for Harrah’s Las Vegas, Bill Chu states that “Asians are the only growing segment of the casino market, and the Chinese are the only people in Asia with cash.”8
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal (March 2002), Las Vegas strip casinos reported gambling revenues of nearly $5 billion in 2001. MGM Mirage and Park Place Entertainment, the two operators with the biggest high-end operations, currently control three-quarters of the city’s $500 million to $700 million high-roller market and they already have marketing representatives in China.9
Considering the potential of Chinese customers and the potential difference that they can make on the casino bottom line, casino managers should be extremely interested in better understanding such customers. Therefore my research will focus on the Chinese.
GOAL OF THE RESEARCH
The goal of this research is to identify and discuss key aspects of Chinese culture in order to inform casino managers about how to deal with these customers specifically.
Understanding their behavior, communication methods, values and superstitions is extremely important so that the casino can create an environment that will induce Chinese customers to play and return to the casino. While many factors may influence a customer’s decision to play and return to a specific casino, customer satisfaction with the service provided plays an important role in the customer decision-making process.
A study by Bowen and Lawler10 suggested that companies can clearly benefit by increasing the lifetime spending of their customers. So by ensuring effective customer service casinos can increase customer loyalty which in turn will benefit the casino over the time. Therefore casino managers should pay special attention as to how to serve these customers effectively.
Several aspects might influence the decision to return to the same casino rather than choosing a new alternative upon returning to Las Vegas. Customer service is one of these factors and is strongly connected to cultural communication. Considering that cultural communication provides us critical information of how social interaction can be accomplished smoothly among people from different cultures, the research question for this study is: What cultural considerations need to be observed by casino managers to increase patronage among Chinese gamblers?
GAMING AND CUSTOMER PERCEPTION
Gaming resorts offer a complex entertainment experience. The entertainment experience is delivered through several elements, both tangible (such as quality of food, type of slot machines) and intangible (such as employee courtesy, ambience of the building). A casino visitor will determine his or her satisfaction with the trip and the desire to return not based on wining or losing at the gambling tables, but based on the entertainment value created from the whole experience related to his or her expenditures during his or her stay at the resort. The value of the gaming experience perceived by each customer will vary because of his or her individual background, variable expectations and valuation criteria, and perception of what happens during the time he or she spends at the casino.11 Therefore it is extremely important for casino managers to understand how to create and add value to the Chinese guest experience in the casino to ensure customer satisfaction with the products and services provided.
Customer satisfaction factors, as well as aspects that positively or negatively impact a visitor’s experience in the casino have been object of many studies. Richard and Adrian (1996) suggest that repeated visits to a casino is a function of the casino location, casino physical attributes, games offered, extra amenities of the casino, hospitality attributes and the attributes of the casino staff. According to the authors of this study, a single above-mentioned attribute cannot fully explain repeated purchase intentions, since consumers consider several attributes in their decision-making process regarding whether to return to a casino or choosing a different one.
According to a study by Brewer and Petrillose (2000), participants in a focus group questioned about what an excellent hotel experience would consist of, said that the most important factors determining an excellent experience are: courteous, friendly and helpful staff. Guests also suggested th
Date Posted: 05-Oct-2002
IMBA – Group 3
Loyola Marymount University – Los Angeles, CA
Instructor: Don Schroeder, Ph.D.