Ellis Communications, Inc.
Changing Guest Service Doesn't Magically Happen;
It Requires Preparation, Acceptance and Commitment
By Martin R. Baird
I’ve been working with the gaming industry for nearly 20 years helping properties improve their guest service and I’ve noticed something rather interesting. Most properties talk about wanting to change more than they commit to change. They want better guest service because they know it will result in more repeat guests and more revenue. But they are not committed to making the necessary changes.
I attended a change seminar and one of the presenters explained how change happens. He looked at it from a macro perspective of how companies change and the steps that are followed during change. A critical part of his presentation concerned a change “sponsor” and their responsibilities. This person or group that sponsors the change is responsible for funding and holding people accountable.
The sponsors we have worked with in the past have ranged from floor people to general managers and even higher up the ladder at the corporate level. When the sponsor was higher up the ladder, it was always easier to get funding. When the person who’s accountable for the budget is the sponsor, they are more likely to find the money to invest in improving guest service.
Then there’s the matter of accountability. As an outside consultant, people are always looking to hold us accountable. They want to make sure we do what we say we will do and that we stay within budget. I understand that. Frankly, I think it’s good to keep people accountable.
But there’s room for improvement in holding the property’s people accountable. If you make the investment to hire us or some other company to do guest service research and training, that’s great but the money can only do so much. After we’re finished, we will go back home or to the next casino. You and your management team will be the ones that must hold your people accountable over the long term. If your team isn’t ready or willing to do that, then the money you invest in “change” may not be well spent.
The change seminar I attended broke the process down into three major phases: preparation, acceptance and commitment.
The first two phases – preparation and acceptance – deal with awareness, understanding and positive perception. That’s the early part of creating change to improve customer service. I don’t remember who it was, but someone used a phrase in an ad campaign that said, “Awareness is the first step.” That is critically true for improving your guest’s experience.
Properties sometimes believe their own press and comment cards a little too much. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the great comments you hear. It’s equally easy to forget that unhappy guests don’t tell you anything. But they do spread the word about their unpleasant experience at your property to anyone who will listen, including the people they play with at your competitor’s property.
Next, you need to be positively predisposed to making the change. You’re off to a bad start if you’re only changing because you were told to or corporate is forcing the change. When change is forced, it shows and not in a good way.
The last phase – commitment – is where the investment is matched with the desired change. It’s important to note that change isn’t cheap. The reason auto manufacturers don’t launch all new models each year is because of the cost of change.
The investment is the first thing most people notice but in reality it’s a small part of the true cost of change. For example, people will be asked to step outside their comfort zone and try new behaviors. Believe me, that will come at a cost. Next, they will be held accountable and that has a cost, too.
Casino managers often think that improving a guest’s experience is simply a matter of training – hire the best training company and your people will easily change and provide better service. It’s more complicated than that. If you think change is easy or fun, try this little experiment. Take any one of your consistent behaviors and do it differently. It could be as simple as using your right hand to pick up the telephone and hold it to your right ear. Most people have a habit of using their left hand and left ear. If you normally order coffee in a restaurant, order tea.
This exercise will give you a feel for how change can affect a person and a company. Change must have commitment if it is to have any hope of succeeding.
Changing a property’s guest experience isn’t as simple as deciding you need to change and then wiggling your nose and watching it magically happen. It’s a process that needs to be facilitated to generate the best possible return while also generating the least amount of disruption.
To read other articles by Martin Baird, go to www.casinocustomerservice.com/post.htm
Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based consulting firm to the global gaming industry that is dedicated to helping casinos improve their guest service so they can compete and generate future growth and profitability. Robinson & Associates is the world leader in casino guest experience measurement, management and improvement. For more information, visit the company’s Web sites at www.casinocustomerservice.com andwww.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com or contact the company at 208-991-2037. Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.
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