Don’t Be Fooled: Customer Service and Time’s Illusion

Most operators think they know their base service times from event creation to completion. They also think their casino has the best customer service possible. Most are wrong. And that can be a problem when prompt and personalized customer service is often the difference between customers who visit your casino once and satisfied players who frequent your establishment.

Poll 50 slot directors and ask them if they know their core service times, and the vast majority will tell you they do know and that their times are significantly better than those of their competition. If you pressed these same operators for their average initial response times, event completion times and jackpot completion times, few will provide you with accurate information. It’s not that they won’t know at all—each will have an idea—but it will usually swing within 45 seconds of the true average.

Too bad 45 seconds is not nearly close enough. Profits rise and fall with customer service, rising when it’s better than the competition and falling when it’s worse. Those operators who understand and act on the difference between “close” and accurate average service times will differentiate themselves and increase customer loyalty.

Time’s Illusion
Processing human transactions is the single most difficult part of a slot director’s day. Thoughtfully listening and responding to the needs of another human is difficult enough in a quiet and stable environment, yet we must accomplish this goal in a loud, hectic and oftentimes frenetic environment. To add to this already difficult environment, you, your staff and your customers all have different perceptions of time when it comes to service.

From your staff’s point of view, they are running from call to call, balancing customer needs against the needs of equipment that must be constantly maintained. For them, time appears to be sped up. Ask them why a call took an inordinate amount of time and they will almost always be surprised by the question. In their minds, they were busy the entire time and operating efficiently.

What they don’t take into account is that the call they just finished was redirected to them when someone else couldn’t resolve the issue or was called away before the task was completed. In your staff’s minds, the call began when they became aware of the need, not when the customer’s need actually developed. Because of this unintentional time blindness, your staff members have a skewed perception of their service times.

A player’s perception of time is far different than that of your staff, and you must not only understand their perspective but also acknowledge the difference and take steps to accommodate them. No matter how efficiently we believe our floor operates, your customers are always going to feel they have waited longer than your team believes they have waited. Before we disregard this notion, let’s examine the facts.

Management purposefully ensures there are few windows and no clocks on casino floors so players have a stilted perspective of time. We certainly don’t want them thinking about going to work tomorrow or how much money they owe their babysitters. We want them to continue to enjoy the environment and spend money.

We create an exciting, frenzied environment packed with events, contests, flashing lights, ringing bells and the excited exclamations of other players. When a player is not able to play due to a malfunction, the customer subconsciously registers each of the events going on around him. Because the casino environment is far more event-driven than everyday life, your customers’ perception of time passing by is artificially accelerated. This means that time moves by so quickly for a casino patron that a mere minute may feel like five, or even more.

Each customer who enters your casino may have one or both of the following limitations: time and money. These limitations guide players’ choices while they visit your facility. If a player is limited by money alone, he may be limited on the number of games or denominations he can choose from. If the customer’s sole limitation is time, she generally knows what game she wants to play and is disinclined to find another similar game should something happen to it. Most customers have limitations on both time and wallet. Because of this, each moment they are not in play lowers the satisfaction level of the overall experience.

When a service need arises for a customer, the candle at the top of the machine is lit either by the customer or the machine itself. In the mind of the customer, and rightly so, this is the beginning of the event timer. Our team, however, has a different perspective: Their perception of the event is driven only by their personal involvement. It’s not that they are not interested in the entire transaction, but, much like a battlefield medic, they have a number of requests for service in their section and can only effectively manage the load by triaging the calls prior to working on a machine.

If they can solve a problem, they are willing and able. If they can’t solve a problem, they radio the appropriate team member and the original team member moves on to the next call. Let’s look at the flow of a service event and view it from both points of view.

Sheila’s an elite player with two hours of playtime. She settles on a game, buys in and begins to play. She is playing on a dollar stepper in the nonsmoking section when the machine locks up with a reel tilt. Sheila is pretty sure she knows why the game stopped since the reel strip actually came loose and is jammed against the glass. She immediately looks for a slot person to help her but can’t see anyone and is afraid to leave her machine because she has credits on the meter. Time of play stoppage: 12:45 p.m.

Ben, the slot floor person in her section, sees Sheila’s candle immediately from across the section and starts toward it. Along the way, however, he answers several service lights and watches a machine for a player who needs to hit the cash machine. When Ben finally arrives at Sheila’s machine, he sees that the reel strip has come loose and immediately calls Bill, a slot technician, as property rules do not allow him to fix this sort of issue. So, he informs Sheila that he has called a technician and that Bill will arrive shortly. Time of completion by Ben: 12:52 p.m.

Bill is servicing another machine six banks away. He is in the middle of replacing a monitor and needs to finish the task in order to secure the machine. He finishes the replacement, signs the MEAL, closes the door and hustles to Sheila’s machine. Time of arrival: 1 p.m.

When Bill arrives at Sheila’s machine, she is upset that she has been waiting for an excessive amount of time and just wants to go home. From her perspective, the first guy to arrive at the machine did nothing and wandered away. Bill immediately calls a supervisor to the machine and proceeds to affix the reel strip. Bill finishes the call, apologizes to the player for the delay and leaves for his next call. Call completed by Bill: 1:07 p.m.

The supervisor arrives at 1:11 p.m. and listens to Sheila’s complaint. He knows he received the call from Bill at around five minutes after the hour. He steps aside and calls Bill to ask when he received the initial call. Upon finding out that Bill arrived at the call at 10 minutes to 1 p.m., he calculates the call has only taken approximately 15 minutes and effectively disregards Sheila’s complaint as exaggerated. Time of call completion: 1:15 p.m.

See how easy it is to think you know your service times when you actually don’t? In this example, you and your staff would likely think the total service time was 15 minutes. When in fact, from Sheila’s perceptive, the total service time was 30 minutes! For a player with less time than money, 30 minutes of wait time means lost profits and loyalty for your casino.

When Sheila complains to the slot director as she leaves the building, the cost to retain her as a customer has significantly increased. And given the service time information from his supervisor, the slot director chalks up the complaint to Sheila being overdramatic.

However, if the casino had better tools to identify service needs immediately and allow supervisors to view events as they occur, there would be no confusion and management would almost certainly have reacted differently and offered a service recovery. Without better service-time measurement tools, we will likely always be beholden to time’s illusion on the casino floor.

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