Productivity vs. Customer Service: Can You Provide Both?

I used to think that the best way to run operations at the cage was to be fast … and then faster. The strategy reminds me of Alan Alda as Captain Hawkeye from M*A*S*H. You might recall that Hawkeye, along with all the other surgeons of the 4077th, performed “meatball” surgery—in and out, patch them up and get them out.

In this very competitive market, not only must we be fast and accurate and increase productivity at all times, but we also have to provide superior customer service. But can we do both effectively? If not, on which one should we compromise?

The good (and maybe surprising) news is that you can accomplish both your productivity and customer service goals … but only if you plan ahead and only if you know which types of transactions your cage does the most … and what shift and what day! Gathering this information is actually not that complicated, and the information that you gather will make your job much easier.

Say it’s Friday and you’re starting off a three-day weekend. Let’s also say your property has a slot tournament and a concert planned this evening. And three of your swing cashiers called in sick. Uh-oh. You can keep a couple of volunteers from the day shift, but they have to go home before 6 p.m. Uh-oh again. We all have faced this scenario at the cage. Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy evening, and the lines are going to be long all night.

A scenario like this one has all of the ingredients for a really bad recipe—sour customer service—and we all know this happens more often than we like to admit. But if you and your staff are proactive and prepared, this situation doesn’t have to become a disaster.
Do you know your average volume of transactions per transaction type on a Friday night on swing shift? If you have this information, then you can open more windows for just that specific transaction type that dominates that shift. And you can obtain this information by performing a cage transaction analysis survey once a year.

A cage transaction analysis survey will help you analyze your transactions per shift and per day of the week. I have been conducting a survey like this for five years now, and it is truly amazing how much they differ from year to year. Analyzing the survey results helps you identify the specific transactions that will likely dominate the attention of the cage during each shift. Figure 1 shows the results of one such survey for the entire cage (all shifts included), with each transaction type shown as a percentage of the total transactions. As you can see, in this particular survey, chip cash-out transactions account for almost 50 percent of this particular cage’s transactions. What does this tell you? Perhaps to open more windows for chip transactions only?

Figure 2 shows a comparison of the example survey results to the previous year’s results. This is very useful information, especially if you are planning to ask for an increase in staff. In this particular case, the transaction volume decreased from the previous year, but the reason is justifiable (token redemption was down 3,167 percent due to the introduction of TITO).

Just like any other survey, the error ratio is between 5 percent and 8 percent, but this is still better than just guessing. This survey will give you the basic information you will need to make schedules, staff increases, shift FTE allocation and future equipment purchases. As I always preach, “Numbers don’t lie.”

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