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Casinos that Focus on Guest Service Hit the Jackpot

When it comes to guest services, it takes a formidable strategy to be successful in the gaming industry. Satisfying guests who aren’t too happy about dropping $500 at the craps table in 20 minutes can be extremely challenging. The bottom line for the casino is to use every possible angle of guest services to achieve what every executive wants from their customers: lifetime loyalty.

How did a small bingo parlor become the largest gaming company in the world? They focused on guest service.

Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., which was purchased by two private equity firms for $17.1 billion, rose through the gaming ranks from its humble beginnings as a bingo parlor to yearly revenues of nearly $8 billion with 40 casinos in 13 states, including Las Vegas mainstays like Caesars, the Flamingo, and Bally’s.

William Harrah was emphatic about guest service, focusing on satisfying customers and employees. In the post-William Harrah era following his death in 1971, the company grew by focusing on venues catering to Middle America, avoiding the brighter spotlight of the flashier Vegas casinos. Instead of pouring their precious resources into building the next mega-casino many casino properties have discovered the profitability of becoming the everyman’s casino, with guest service being the magnet to attract more customers.

No matter how a gaming corporation chooses to utilize their resources, the fact remains that no casino today can survive without making a guest’s time at the property as pleasant as possible.

“I would argue that guest satisfaction for the mass market customer is delivering as few hassles as possible,” said Jim Kilby, a professor in hotel management at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. “When dealing with casino players, as opposed to a hotel customer, guest service gets them to continue buying. I see guest service in a casino as more guest sales. The nicer we treat you, the more you buy.”

Kilby, a co-author of the book “Casino Operations Management,” says that gaming companies are investing millions in service and technology to please every customer, but not all customers, especially in the casino business, will be treated equally. This is by design.

“As far as guest satisfaction, there are different standards depending on the playing level of the customer,” said Kilby. “We have players who are provided with a 24-hour butler. They have a private limo with a driver for their use at any time. Some players require this level of treatment to be satisfied.”

Alternatively, many casinos have discovered that their bread and butter are the players who don’t require the around-the-clock staff or stretch limo. Not that they don’t want the business from “whales,” gambling’s highest rollers. But many casinos have never had the panache of a Bellagio or Venetian, so after trying for years to consistently land big money players, many have given up on it.

Many casinos today are focusing on measuring and analyzing customer behavior through guest service surveys. Casinos use these surveys to garner the necessary feedback to help the property create and maintain an environment that appeals to its guests.

“Guest surveys can be effective in designing a moments of truth cycle for casino play,” said William Thompson, a UNLV professor and author of several gaming books. Thompson says that casinos invest heavily in guest satisfaction, but there are still flaws in the system. The typical guest survey tends to highlight whether a gaming facility is meeting the expectations of its guests, what improvements are necessary, and how it compares to the competition. But the most important piece of information, by far, that a well executed guest service survey can uncover is the likelihood that a guest will return to the property in the future and why.

Dr. Jan West, Ph.D.
Organizational Psychologist
National Business Research Institute

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