Exceptional Guest Experience Requires
Dedicated Resources for Effective Performance
By Craig Pendleton – President National Foodservice Consulting, Inc.
Published in Indian Gaming Magazine September 2018
Experience creates memories. These memories are what provide the recollections of great past experiences that make casino customers want to return. Memories are not simply based upon the actual visit but the times before and after each visit involving any interaction with the casino.
Customers can choose to do anything with their time and money. Every day they make decisions regarding what they will do. The goal for casino operators is clear.
The goal of a casino operator: capture the highest amount of the customer’s “wallet” (total amount that the player is willing to spend with the casino, their competition or on other non-gaming expenditures) by providing the best experience initiating more/longer play and additional future returns to the casino resulting in increased play, advocacy and word of mouth marketing.
What Many Casinos Do
The majority of casinos are by now proficient at driving headcount through their doors. If enough value and money are given away the casino can be filled with traffic. This does not necessarily mean that this exercise is profitable and often results in poor experiences for existing customers. In fact your best players may be overrun by crowds, have their visit interrupted and may return less frequently during these types of promotions to avoid the large amount of people. Promotions not only have the potential to negatively affect your regular players but often also impact the casino staff with the requirements to work additional hours and days off to accommodate these special promotions.
Many casinos rely on each department to create and manage their guest service standards, operations and physical areas. All departments are intended to provide a seamless guest experience and rely on each other in the support of this goal. This rarely occurs without oversight and coordination. Customers will typically experience differing levels of service and experiences during the course of their visit to the casino.
What is Guest Experience?
Guest Experience is not simply a matter of Guest Service. Service is an important element in the guest experience but is in no way the only element of guest experience. There are multiple elements of the Guest Experience all with differing levels of importance to each guest. Product Expectations, Emotion Expectations, Physical Expectations and Social Expectations form the strongest elements in Guest Experience.
What the players want
Every customer/player has their own perspective of what their personal standard levels of expectations are to be met or exceeded during their trip to the casino. Casinos don’t always know what the customer’s expectations are. Different standards exist per individual, per age group, player group and vary by other demographics.
Here are some of the typical expectations of players:
An excellent variety of gaming options with a perceived fair chance to win (at least some of the time) and a feeling that the odds are “as good or better” than the competition.
All players would love to win during every visit. Most are reasonable and understand that this is unlikely or the casino would not remain in business. Once a player selects their gaming type/station/device and starts playing the odds are set.
Loyalty programs and their rewards can fulfill some emotional expectations but are not always key drivers in creating memorable experiences for many players.
Excellent and frequent promotions, giveaways, entertainment events, sense of excitement, coupled with simplicity in discovering promotions and opportunities are expected.
Simple processes for: gaming, getting change, cashing out, redeeming points and offers, reviewing loyalty account.
Variety of experience, constant casino evolution and change, new interesting things
Energy in the form of an appropriate “vibe” for the player, interactions with staff and other players or observed friendly interactions between staff and other players.
Individualized and personalized experience where players are recognized and made to feel important and special
Pleasant facility – temperature, sights, sounds, smells
Players expect their visit to be convenient and comfortable.
Easy to find facilities such as restrooms and restaurants with simple access.
Variety of non-gaming amenities (restaurants are the number one item of reward and non-gaming use mentioned by many players)
Availability of resources/help/personalized experience
Staff members who provide interactions exhibiting: responsibility/respect/reward/ competence/helpfulness/responsiveness/ appropriate behavior/ great attitudes/ perceived excellence of service and care delivered
A sense of community between the player, the casino, staff and other players resulting in the feeling that this is “our casino”
How Success Can be Measured
There are a variety of methods of data collection including: hosts, direct feedback (one-on-one conversations with players), feedback collection through surveys, focus groups, and social media.
The goal of measurement is to quantify and determine what are viewed as the acceptable levels and exceptional levels of experience by player and player group. This will create the baseline for service models and guest experience standards.
Data analytic process: measure past history and the effect of trial actions presented to each player to determine what their emotional priorities are and hopefully the “magic button” that results in the greatest return on investment for that player (lowest cost investment resulting in the greatest return).
Often the respondents who participate in surveys are the most vocal players with the most time on their hands to complete surveys. These respondents may not necessarily represent the casino’s players of most value. They speak for themselves, not for others. It is very important to collect enough information about the respondents when conducting surveys to be able to qualify and filter the information collected by player group.
Social media and other forms of immediate feedback typically provide information of experiences that represent the outliers (really good or really bad experiences). Often average experiences are not shared as this may be an indication of what is normally expected by guests.
Surveys give indications; data when interpreted properly gives hard facts.
Predicting the feelings and behaviors of players
Throw common sense out the window when considered how to predict human behavior
The best predictors of behavior and a person’s intention to perform the behavior is based upon 3 things:
- The person’s attitude to the specific behavior
- The person’s subjective norms
- The person’s perceived behavioral control (how easy they believe it will be to perform the behavior)
|Example Studies Performed by Casinos
Here are some example results of a study performed by a casino. Note: these results are specific to one casino property and should not be considered to be indicative of any other casino or player group.
Results of a losing slot player study: determining leading factors that affect their intent to return
· The casino and fun and exciting place
· The friendliness and helpfulness of casino staff
· The wait time for casino cashiers
· (no beverage service metric noted)
Results of a losing pit player study determining leading factors that affect their intent to return
· Customer perception of casino restaurants
Overall satisfaction in both groups determined by:
· Quality of Food and Beverages
· Wait time for service in restaurant
Determining the differences in guest service drivers for men and women
· Rewards club benefits
· Variety of slots
· Casino with lots of excitement and fun
· Appealing restaurants
· Good rewards program with good cash bonus and offers
How a customer evaluates a casino is heavily based upon the contrast effect verses a fixed standard. Standards are fixed in the customer’s mind. Contrast is the difference between the casino and other casino competitors.
It is critical to have knowledge of a customer’s attitudes and their perceptions and then to run trials on dedicated groups to test the validity of survey answers.
Studies by Player Tier Group
Here is an example of another customer study based upon ADT used to segment the player survey opinions:
In this study, customer behavior was analyzed by three card tier level types based on ADTs. (ADT is accumulated daily theoretical win, and is the current sum of the coin in hold for all of a player’s gaming sessions that have thus far occurred during a “casino day”.)
Type “A”: (high level player) includes customers with ADTs of $300 or more.*
Type “B” (medium level player) includes customers with ADTs from $100 to $299.99
Type “C” (low level player) includes customers with ADTs from $20 to $99.99
*(note: very high level players were all grouped into the Type “A” group)
In this study an analysis was utilized to identify the drivers of overall satisfaction and intent to return for each card type. This study used a combination of regression analysis and a psychological path analysis to identify the drivers of customer behavior.
Overall Satisfaction and Intent to Return Drivers
For card type “A,” satisfaction and intent to return driven by:
· Customer’s perceptions of the casino being a place where they have fun.
For card type “B”
satisfaction was driven by:
· the customer’s perceptions that the casino had a good mix of slot machine themes
· how appealing they perceived the casino’s restaurants to be.
intent to return was driven by:
· their perceptions of the wait time at the player rewards card center
· how fair they perceived the comps earned based on play to be compared to those at their other favorite casino.
For card type “C”
satisfaction was based on:
· the customers’ perceptions that the casino had a lot of action and excitement
· based on the friendliness and helpfulness of the restaurant staff
· the perceived value of the gaming rewards program benefits.
Intent to return was driven by:
· the customers’ perception of feeling lucky in the casino
· friendliness and helpfulness of the restaurant staff
· the perceived quality of the food and beverages in the casino’s restaurants.
It is interesting to see that the different level of players in this study had different feelings of what is important to them and also different reasons to determine satisfaction of their visit verses their intent to return. It must be considered that certain expectations may not be discovered by each study if these are not listed as possible choices in the survey. This increases the importance of direct one-on-one discussions with players without the constraints of fixed answers in addition to surveys.
Information such as this can be developed by each casino to determine player’s perceptions and then take direct actions that will increase overall satisfaction and intent to return for customers of all ADT levels. This type of applied customer research is vital to the success of any business.
A New Approach to Guest Experience using Dedicated Resources
The process to fully address Guest Experience requires a new approach.
First acknowledge that guest experience is a casino-wide seamless experience spanning all departments, elements and often in all areas of the casino which must share common guest experience standards. This is the comprehensive combination of experience with: staff members, the facility, the products (gaming and non-gaming), atmosphere, emotions and interactions.
Guest service experience requires a casino specialist and a department specifically dedicated to the whole casino evolving seamless experience with the role of constant inspection and with the power to make immediate adjustments.
Establish new Casino-wide “Details and Standard Operating Procedures for Guest Experience”. These must be defined and closely followed. Every hour that the casino is open requires guest experience team members who are constantly inspecting and interacting with the guests on their behalf to insure compliance with casino-wide standards. Team members must have an immense sense of urgency to immediately correct any situation that is or could potentially negatively affect guest experience.
Staff must be empowered to take immediate action to resolve any situation. (examples: restroom out of paper, floors needing attention, casino environment temps, sounds smells.)
The new department director should report directly to the casino Director of Operations, General Manager or COO. Attempts to place this position within the marketing department may reduce the effectiveness of actions and resources as well as create the view that the new department is merely an extension of marketing/hosts verses an evolution of a new cultural imperative in whole-casino guest experience oversight.
Constant and immediate feedback must be solicited from all players, staff members and from those who already collect information (players club attendants, PBX, hosts, all floor personnel, customer facing staff) with no grace period for correction of problems. Collect concerns, facilitate adjustments, measure results and continue to communicate with all.
Daily feedback must be shared with each department from inspections and guest feedback to not only make managers aware of challenges in their area but to look for patterns of repetition indicating a weakness in a system, process or staffing verses a one-time occurrence.
Some physical areas may need to be re-designed for simplicity of upkeep and staff maintenance. New software systems will need to be designed for real-time tracking and communication to all affected parties
Social media must be used and monitored on a dynamic 24 hour basis to not only disseminate information on a promotional marketing basis but also for the collection and immediate response to social media input. There can be no tolerance for hesitation to react.
This department must work closely with casino hosts. The hosts assigned to specific player demographics should be of the same demographic themselves to relate to those they represent and to also be viewed as more approachable by their group for feedback. (i.e. a young host should not be assigned to the seniors, a senior must be assigned to them. Many properties do not currently engage “same age” hosts).
Differentiating Advantages Over Other Casinos when Moving Forward with Dedicated Resources
Guest Experience is more than guest service and more than player development. The terminology may be confusing but the autonomy to address and affect each and every element of the guest experience is critical for this new direction.
Here are some examples of possible opportunities to create differentiating advantages in guest experience over the completion.
Gaming: an excellent variety of options for gaming and non-gaming. In the slot area this will require having equipment from multiple manufacturers on the gaming floor. In table games this will require having some new options to the standard games and options geared towards different ages and demographics. This must be in a stage of constant change and updating. Experiment with new trials of social and skill based gaming, not necessarily as a profit center but a differentiator of offers from the competition. Look at new esports gaming options as well as “non-gambling” amusement gaming opportunities.
Non-gaming: constantly evolve an excellent variety of restaurants, bars, entertainment, retail and reward/redemption available verses the competition. (In many surveys restaurants are the number one item of reward and non-gaming use mentioned by many players)
Continuous and constant new exciting promotions and activities providing a reason for continuing return to the casino by players as determined by player feedback and visitation by new players.
Personalized interaction between the customer and the staff to create a sense of care and importance for players
Fast and efficient service in: player’s club interactions, reward redemption, food and beverage outlets and efficient casino floor cocktail service. Provide new pre-order and kiosk ordering options in quick serve outlets.
Immediate and real-time LTO (limited time offer) offers sent to players via social media and/or text messaging. More communications, newsletters and connection via apps and online connections.
FUN, FUN, FUN (as perceived by the player)
Pleasant clean facilities, clean restrooms
Players expect their visit to be convenient and comfortable. Find ways to exceed this.
Exceptional parking/valet system. Consider increasing the amount of accessible parking spaces above the amount required by fire code and creating a dedicated entrance for seniors that leads directly to their preferred gaming area. Adding valet services for those requiring accessible parking will not increase visitation. If there are not enough accessible parking spaces often these customers will simply keep driving. In this case convenience outweighs other considerations.
Look for physical improvements for the younger players such as WIFI and cell phone charging stations (these could be drop off locations similar to coat check lockers), lounge and hang-out areas with food and beverage outside of the gaming floor to develop the habit of casino visitation prior to their turning of age to gamble.
Physically address individually all of the 5 senses:
Feel: Room temperature, comfortable seating and playing areas
Smell and taste: – air quality of the casino areas, smoke evacuation and pleasant odor in the casino, attractive smelling and tasting food and beverage outlets, signature dishes offered that can’t be found anywhere else, restrooms with pleasant odors
See: attractive surroundings and gaming devices, unique entertainment, amazing staff, specialty lighting, a constant stream of information regarding promotions and upcoming events
Hear: incredible sound system, playing what is emotive and energizing, auto- adjusted volumes based upon current noise levels in the room, different programming in different areas based on the energy and demographics of each space.
The Sixth sense: (emotive) – energy, vibe, excitement, friendly, welcome, happy, satisfied. (This is different for each guest)
The effect on all combined senses must all be compatible to be effective in exceeding guest experience expectations.
Staff interactions enforcing the customer point of view that: “staff is the service” as defined by attitude and behavior
Feeling of group, community, belonging, community support programs, “round-up the change” for a local cause etc.
Ultimately every player group should have their own “Happy Places” within the casino (slot areas, food outlets, hang-outs etc) that directly appeal to them.
Moving Forward to Excel in Guest Experience
This is a new time for casinos to directly change how they handle guest service and create a dedicated whole-property system.
Dedicate staff and supervision.
View the entire experience of the guest. Inspect and act.
Collect information and adjust.
Measure and adjust again.
New emphasis and the subsequent success in the Guest Experience area will be noticed by the players. Constantly evolve and grown your business by taking this holistic approach to your casino and your players.
Craig Pendleton is the President of National Foodservice Consulting, Inc. He has consulted for the past 25 years as a Tribal Casino Specialist. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nationalfoodserviceconsulting.com
Full PDF copy of this article from Indian Gaming Magazine Sept 2018: