by Dean M Macomber
I. CONTENTION: A SYSTEMS APPROACH TO CREATING AND MAINTAINING THE
CASINO "PRODUCT" WILL PRODUCE OPTIMAL RESULTS
Gaming is a business. As a business, gaming has a product. The product
is a set of leisure time services, which includes, but is not limited
The goal for casino executives is to initially conceptualize and accurately
align the services with consumer needs, wants and expectations. Thereafter,
the goal shifts to consistently producing those services at predetermined
target levels of performance. The challenge is to achieve these goals
in a business, which has a complex set of production and consumption
variables. One approach is to utilize a systematic approach to conceptualizing
the service and then a systems approach to produce and maintain the
Not all organizations will be capable of taking a true and total systems
approach to the challenge. Standing in the way will be ingrained cultural
objections, built-in organizational impediments and/or limited financial
resources (real or perceived). For those gaming companies who choose
to do so, however, the rewards could be meaningful in both competitive
positioning and raw financial terms.
II. DESCRIPTION OF "THE GAMING PRODUCT"
A. THE CASINO INDUSTRY AND THE PRODUCT IT "SELLS"
Casinos are part of the leisure time industry king to attract consumers
discretionary, disposable income. While gaming may be the focal point
of a visit to a casino, the gaming product has expanded to mean much
more. Today, a gaming visit certainly includes enjoying the roller coaster
excitement created by the win-loss cycles at the blackjack table or
slot machine. But equally important, a trip to a casino also means having
dinner near a waterfall, vicariously engaging in the social spoil of
people-watching at a bar, seeing a high-tech pyrotechnic extravaganza,
relaxing by a Caribbean inspired pool or purchasing haute couture at
a Romanesque mall.
The "product" which customers come to buy and therefore, what casinos
sell is an experience: a gaming related entertainment experience. It
is the responsibility of casino management to conceptualize, produce
and deliver entertainment experiences that meet the needs, wants and
expectations of the guest at a price that creates a perceived value.
This responsibility does not exist in a vacuum, however. Competitively
this experience must be executed in a manner that results in the business
capturing its fair share, or greater than fair share, of the existing
or future demand. Under capitalism, the final test is financial. The
experience must be manufactured and sold at a ratio of costs to revenues
that results in operations meeting or exceeding target financial returns.
B. THE KEY ELEMENT TO SUCCESS - CONSISTENCY
Any product that is successful over the long term depends upon the initial
alignment of the customer's expectations for the product with the actual
delivery of the product. This evaluation extends first to the experience
qualitatively ("Did I get what I wanted?") and if that criteria is satisfied,
second, whether the price paid for the experience created a perceived
value ("Did I get what I paid for?").
Thereafter, long term success is built upon generating a steady flow
of new customers and converting a target core group to loyal repeat
customers. Admittedly, such marketing programs as advertising and promotions
can generate demand, but it is far more effective to build demand upon
a foundation of a solid, positive reputation.
Consistency is the key element to creating and maintaining both loyalty
and a positive reputation. The initial quality levels for opening day
must be consistently reproduced every day thereafter. It is this "average"
experience that a customer has with the business that determines reputation.
Great companies are not generally characterized by peaks of excellent
product/delivery. Rather, they consistently deliver a "range" of experiences
that materially exceed the experience created by the competition. Consistency
is also important for the repeat customer because they need to know
that each time they visit they will have the same "great time" they
had on their first visit.
The challenge in a service industry is that a great deal of the production
of the experience is from human beings and thereby subject to an infinite
number of human driven variations each time the service is delivered.
This is in stark contrast to the far more predictable and precise machine
produced products such as retail and hard goods. Aggravating the situation
is that no two customers are alike, each bringing with them another
set of infinitely variable expectations and valuation criteria. In fact,
the same customer may have different experiential expectations and valuation
criteria from one trip to another.
The first goal is to create a viable product/service. The second, perhaps
more difficult goal, is then to sustain the product/service to target
levels. Finding a way to deal with the production - consumption variables
is the key to maintaining the all important consistency.
C. GIVING STRUCTURE TO THE GAMING ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE
The casino experience is "manufactured" utilizing a number of elements,
tangible and intangible. An impulse driven walk-in visit or an overnight
vacation to a casino is an experiential accumulation of contacts with
the bricks and mortar, design, environment, employees, products and
services offered by the casino. The total time- space continuum that
defines each visitor- trip is actually a compilation of an infinite
number of contacts with the casino.
This stream of contact events has been referred to as the "service cycle",
each node on the cycle constituting a major service. Within each major
service node category are the services that comprise that category.
Each service may then be then be broken down into tasks, tasks into
procedures and so on until the entire customer experience is depicted
by a model of all the elements which produce the customer experience.
The ingredients which comprise the experience include tangible and intangible,
human and bricks-and-mortar/system elements, conscious and subconscious
stimuli. These range from the hard, tangible aspects of the service
such as the mix of services offered: quality of the food purchased and
the types of slot machines put on the casino floor; to the soft, intangible
aspects such as employee courtesy, ambience of the building and perceived
chance of winning. A
Date Posted: 30-May-1999