by Sudhir H. Kale
Customer Service Training in Macau Casinos
With US$ 5.8 billion in gaming revenue last year, Macau is challenging Las Vegas as the largest casino market in the world. On every trip to Macau, I am amazed at the massive pace of construction and the number of new casinos that keep opening at a feverish rate. With the billions of dollars already invested, another US$ 10 billion is slated for new gaming and related amenities in the next couple of years. Foreign operators, in particular, cannot seem to get enough share of the Chinese gambler’s wallet.
With such frantic expansion, Macau is obviously hurting for front-line casino workers and managers. Casino companies are very much aware of the crunch when it comes to front-line personnel and have instituted aggressive measures to recruit and train the workers. The Macao Tourism and Casino Career Centre has done an excellent job of training front-line casino workers to meet the ever-growing needs of industry. It is an entirely different story when it comes to dealing with employees at the managerial level. While some smart executives have seized the opportunity to make their mark in Macau, a sizeable proportion of middle and top-level managers in this explosive market could be classified as below par by world standards. This is understandable; any new gaming jurisdiction will seldom attract top-notch managers or employees.
Every trip to Macau opens reinforces in me a distressing truth—the vast gap in managerial ability as you cascade down the managerial levels. What I have observed in most casino companies in Macau is the precipitous decline in talent below the casino manager’s level. There simply isn’t the competence to go around when it comes to staffing at the various managerial levels for Macau casinos. Yet, with such on-going massive expansion in capacity, casino operators in Macau will have to get their management act together in short order. A “build it and they will come” approach will simply not work in an environment where the number of gaming tables has jumped from 339 in 2002 to 1,648 toward the end of the first quarter this year, a trend that will only gain in magnitude in the coming years. A capacity expansion on this scale will necessitate that each casino, from now on, makes its money the old-fashioned way, by earning it.
With significant additional capacity to be added this year and next, the demand for customers will greatly intensify. Casino executives will soon discover that high levels of customer satisfaction and service reliability are necessary, yet insufficient, conditions for customer loyalty and sustainable competitive advantage. To survive and prosper in the long-run, every casino operator in Macau will have to lift its game, particularly in the areas of marketing and customer service.
Companies that create a customer-centric culture and train all their employees on the basics of customer service will be the market share leaders in the Macau gaming jurisdiction. While others may attract first-time visitors, their success and longevity will indeed be brief.
So, what key elements should companies be looking for in a customer service training program? At the highest level, you are teaching a philosophy, the philosophy of customer-centrism with the immutable attendant truth that customers are the reason why the employees have jobs. This philosophy needs to be demonstrated by way of practice when it comes to decisions such as recruitment, promotion, and incentives. With demand for employees far outstripping supply, many employees, frontline or otherwise, may start to view themselves as indispensable and may thus resist imbibing the philosophy of customer-centrism. It is management’s job to ensure that they do so; no exceptions!
At the second level, you need to teach people the basic processes—how you actually work with customers. Of course, the specific approach will depend on the unique nuances of your organization. However, there are a few general items that should be on your customer service training agenda. Listed below is my Top-10 list for training content:
- How to greet customers?
- How to diagnose customer problems?
- How to demonstrate customer empathy?
- How to establish procedures for handling various kinds of customer complaints?
- How to set priorities in serving customers based on the relative value of the customer?
- How to communicate the philosophy and overall image of your organization during customer interactions with consistency?
- How to learn and use specific response patterns that evoke a positive reaction from customers across a wide range of situations?
- How to answer customer questions with regard to your property?
- How do you ensure a seamless customer experience across touch points?
- How to establish rapport with customers regardless of their nationality, demographics, or personality?
You can use a whole series of tools to deliver this kind of training—readings, lectures, videos, role-plays, and case studies, to name a few. Regardless of the mix of tools, the true success of the program will overwhelmingly depend on the seriousness with which management treats training and the effectiveness with which this seriousness is communicated to employees.
Most casino executives in Macau are presently obsessed with their opening or expansion plans. People are being hired by the thousands and they are expected to perform effectively with a minimum of hand-holding. Very few companies are providing the attention needed for employee development, particularly when it comes to understanding and servicing the customer. Companies that short-shrift customer service will do so at their own peril. For the first time ever, the gaming customer in Macau will have a wide array of suppliers to choose from. Suppliers falling short on the customer service dimension will be shunned into obscurity, while those who excel in customer-centric practices will be rewarded with the greatest currency of all—loyalty. In the dynamic gaming Mecca that Macau has become, serious customer-service training at every level is not an activity to be treated as optional.
Date Posted: 17-May-2006
Sudhir H. Kale, Ph.D., is the founder of GamePlan Consultants, a company that trains and consults on the marketing aspects of casino management. He also teaches marketing in the School of Business at Bond University. Sudhir has already trained scores of managers at Macau casinos through his seminars, workshops, and lectures in Macau. You can write to Sudhir at firstname.lastname@example.org or download insightful articles from his Website: http//www.gameplanconsultants.net.