by Desmond Lam
Marketing to the Macanese Employees
I just completed a course to a group of Macau casino employees, ranging from dealers to shift managers. Frankly, it was a pleasure exchanging ideas and imparting management concepts to them. This fine group of people was well-represented by major casinos in Macau and had decided to devote a substantial part of their time for further education. For many, this course provides an exciting opportunity for career advancement in the gaming industry. For others, it is a chance to learn more about casino management and to enhance their operational skills with more solidly-grounded management theories.
The interactions with my students had been extremely fruitful and, in most cases, entertaining. It has helped me realize that casino operators in Macau have much to learn about internal marketing – the application of marketing within a casino, focusing on attracting, motivating and retaining employees in order to deliver satisfying customer experience. Coincidentally, Sudhir Kale recently came to my university to give a talk on the rising importance of internal marketing. A timely issue that, I think, needs to be addressed urgently in order for Macau gaming industry to move forward.
My interactions with my students and with others outside of classes have revealed many weaknesses in how casinos in Macau are currently treating their staff. These weaknesses, which go all the way to the top, are hidden within the tremendous growth experienced by Macau’s gaming industry. Amidst the fight for a bigger share of the gaming market, the casino operators have forgotten about the basis of successful businesses – well-trained, motivated and satisfied frontline staff, dealers and supervisors.
There are a range of problems discovered. For example, there is constant miscommunication (or non-communication) between general manager, shift managers, pit managers, supervisors and dealers. In some cases, managers are not listening to their junior staff and vice versa. Almost as seriously is that many managers are foreigners who do not speak Cantonese and do not understand or attempt to understand the Chinese culture. Communication is so badly managed that some dealers have chosen not to talk to their managers as it takes too much effort to communicate with (and to understand) them. On the flip side, my Canadian neighbor who works for a major casino here was recently declined his promotion to directorship; the reason cited was that he could not speak Cantonese and, hence, unsuitable to manage his team of Macanese.
Moreover, each manager brings with them slight differences in expectations, demands and procedures. These differences created large uncertainty among supervisors and their dealers. Over time, junior employees become unsure how to deal with their immediate superiors and with their jobs.
There is also a lack of managerial competence in interpersonal and people management skill. Emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) appears lacking compared to intelligence quotient (IQ). In current Macau market, people are more concerned about getting things done. They forgot about the personal touch and the emotional connection.
At the same time, many junior dealers are young, inexperience, and incompetent. Some are simply insufficiently trained by the casinos before going to the floor. More seriously is that some dealers adopted ‘bad’ attitude towards their employer. They feel that they can switch to another casino easily because of the shortage of croupiers in Macau.
Last but not least, there are constant changes in top, middle to line (including pit) managers due to job hopping or other reasons. These changes have further created great uncertainty among frontline staff.
Casino operators need to recognize that their employees are valuable assets to their company. They are the first priority in building a sustainable business. Marketing a company starts from within. Satisfied employees feel good about their company and deliver superior customer value. The ability to successfully lead, motivate, and retain staff is thus an utmost important task that must be undertaken by Macau casino operators especially in the wake of an increasingly competitive labor market.
Date Posted: 03-Feb-2008
Desmond Lam is an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Macau. He can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo.