Last month we talked about the different ways casinos communicate and interact with their players. While we’re not knocking those tried and true methods, we must ask ourselves: Are they really the best tools available?
Getting a new customer to visit your establishment is expensive. Your facility spends a large portion of its resources on offers to your existing customers to encourage them to bring in their friends or family, all while spending resources proportionate or better than your competition to lure their customers to your facility. Retaining existing customers is far less expensive if we relentlessly maintain the best possible service. If your service standards are high enough, it will make a difference when your customers choose between your facility and the competition’s equally alluring offers.
Let’s be honest—there is little difference in the customer service casinos provide and that big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart or Target, provide. Sure, at each place there is someone available to help you, but you have to actively seek out assistance. The real difference between a casino and a retailer is that the retailer provides tangible products for the customer’s money while we offer an experience.
At the end of a casino trip, many of our customers have nothing to show for their visit except the memories they purchased while visiting. Since this is the case, customer service is by far the most important feature we provide to our guests. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Are the methods we use truly the best options to reach and communicate effectively with those customers that are the lifeblood of our facilities?
In making a conscious choice to supplement our traditional communication methods with new alternatives, we can increase customer satisfaction and truly raise the bar. The vast majority of your players carry the key to better customer satisfaction in their pocket or handbag. What if the first new tool you implemented to improve your service was the creative use of simple text messaging?
How cool would it be if a casino started with text notifications in a few basic areas and tested this theory?
Valet and Reservations
You take your sweetheart out to the casino for dinner and a movie. You leave your car at valet, and the retrieval ticket you’re issued says you have the option to text your number when you’re ready to leave and they’ll have the car ready for you in 10 minutes. If you use this service, you will receive both a request verification and a second notification when your car is warmed up and waiting for you in the casino porte-cochère. This option appeals to you.
You have had a great evening at the casino—a nice dinner, a great movie and a little light slot play, but it’s getting late and you’re ready to go home. You remember the test option and decide to try it out. So, you send the message and get a confirmation while you finish up your game. But before you can leave to get the car, you hit a jackpot. Instead of holding up the valet line, you send a message telling them about your win, and they re-park the car. When you’ve collected your money and tipped the staff, you send thew valet another message, and you’re off before you know it.
Similarly, you could adopt this feature to let customers make restaurant reservations and notify them when their table is ready. This allows you to get people on your machines and tables and keep them there longer, which you’ve worked so hard to do. You could also share the day’s specials, making it easier for guests to decide what they want to order before they even sit down in the restaurant.
Would you download and use a mobile application on your cell phone if it helped you find the nearest gas station, offered coupons and deals at nearby shops or allowed you and your friends to find each other on an interactive map? From the relatively routine to the cutting-edge, location-based services (LBS) have arrived and provide you with powerful tools to help you engage with your existing customers.
Using mobile device location is not new; wireless carriers have always utilized the information. In fact, for mobile communications to work, the carrier must remain aware of the approximate location of all mobile devices using the carrier’s network. This is how the carrier is able to route wireless communications (calls, text messages, etc.) to and from the devices even as you are moving. Whenever a mobile device is turned on and within range of a carrier’s cell tower(s), the device sends periodic signals that are read and routed to the nearest cell tower. As the device moves closer to a different tower, the carrier’s network redirects the communications to the closest tower.
As with any technology, LBS carries certain risks, including the potential for misuse. No mobile device user should be “tracked” without the user’s knowledge and consent. It is therefore critical that any application you utilize allows the user to opt out. For instance, you could send players who have opted in to your location services special offers through notifications when they are within a specific radius of the casino.
To take this a little further, you could provide a compelling offer when certain players are close to your competition’s casino. Additionally, as your customers travel throughout your facility, you could send them specials or discounts associated for each business as they walk by. How cool would it be to receive the daily specials as you passed the café or the upcoming shows as you passed the box office?
How do we currently tell if our customer service is up to par? Many casinos use secret shoppers programs to monitor their service levels. The problem with this solution is two-fold: 1) all secret shoppers have personal biases, and 2) we can’t afford them for every shift on every day of the week. And the worst-kept secret in your facility is the presence of secret shoppers. Most of your employees can spot a secret shopper from 100 yards away.
Instead of relying on imprecise secret shoppers, what if a short text survey was sent to actual customers that asks how their visit was? It could be three to five questions rating service in key areas, such as slot selection, overall friendliness, environment, food/drink service and cleanliness of the facility. If a player issued a bad rating, you could flag a manager to follow up with that player. Perhaps that player even gets a personal message from the general manager or upper management, opening up a direct line of communication to show recognition and appreciation.
Addressing service issues of this nature so quickly will enhance customer relationships. The one-on-one interaction between casino management and players will go a long way in showing that the industry cares about each player’s personal experience.
We don’t know if it’s age or the fact that texting has been such an important communication tool for the majority of the last 10 years, but we greatly prefer communicating though text messaging as opposed to telephone conversations. While voice-to-voice communication will always have a place in our society, texting provides some powerful features that voice-to-voice does not:
• It’s far less likely that an SMS conversation can be overheard. Conversely, this can also be a matter of courtesy; don’t you wish more people in public settings would use text messaging rather than voice calls if they must communicate with someone right that minute?
• Text messaging provides greater accessibility, not just for people with hearing impairments but also to compensate for ambient noise, weak or spotty cell network connections, or the poor quality of microphones and speakers that plague many cell phones.
• Text messaging encourages briefer, more efficient exchanges of information. Even “social grooming” chitchat often gets abbreviated so it’s quicker to type and read.
• There’s less psychological or social pressure to respond immediately to texts. So you can take a moment to finish a task at hand such as parking your car or consider what you want to say before responding.
• Text messaging can also reduce the discomfort or impatience some people experience with pauses in real-time voice conversations or the chance that they may instantly blurt a response that they’d later regret.
For our industry to thrive and flourish, we need to examine all the available technology and weigh the pros and cons against those tools we currently use. While there are new and exciting applications released to the market each day, they are often not available on all devices or are unable to be deployed on older devices. Texting is available on virtually all cellular phones, regardless of their ability to access a data plan or not. Since the vast majority of our customers now carry some sort of mobile device, why wouldn’t you leverage this ability?