Category Archives: Random work-related

Why Being Customer-Centric is Important

No matter what business you’re in, it pays (literally!) to be customer-centric. Whatever you do, you have customers, and understanding their needs and preferences is part of your responsibility to them. Why? Because part of any customer’s expectations of someone with whom they do business is that their needs will be met and that they won’t be disappointed unnecessarily throughout the process. This is implied, of course, but those businesses who fail to meet their customers’ needs and who disappoint them will not keep their patronage for very long.

In the casino industry of late, there has been a lot of talk about how to engage The Millennials in bricks-and-mortar gaming. Most of the articles I’ve read on the topic say something like this: ‘The adults of the digital age have come to expect a personalized experience. They prefer interactive entertainment and seem more likely to play table games or forgo the casino entirely and play on a mobile device. These preferences seem to be based on their online experiences in an increasingly connected world.’ So it follows that understanding this generation and meeting their expectations and preferences would give the savvy, customer-centric casino operator an advantage over his competitors who do not. This is true of many businesses who find themselves striving to remain relevant to a younger generation.

In retail, buyers and sales clerks need to be customer-centric in order to understand what their customers hope to find in their stores and provide that. Salespeople anticipating a shopper’s needs by observing body language and actively engaging them in conversation is a customer-centric practice with real value. Unlike in casino gaming, a retail operation with a customer-centric focus is not appealing to just one desirable segment of their potential customer base. Stores benefit from successfully engaging with patrons of all ages and socio-economic strata…and will earn their repeat business.

In B2B settings, being custom-centric is even more important, because providing the product and/or service you offer is an act of faith in your business on the part of your clients. Being both proactive and appropriately reactive are beneficial in this world, by first offering the best product or service you can at a reasonable price and then by understanding the business problems of the customers you serve. Doing this well will keep them with you even without long-term contracts…they will stay because you “get” them. (Again, the principle applies to most kinds of ventures.)

For those who work in service industries, much like in the casino world, understanding the individual in front of you and providing them the best possible experience is a game-changer. Whether it’s in a hotel, a restaurant, a sports arena or a movie theater, each of your customers has come to you with an expectation of their very own. It’s up to you to meet that expectation. Automatic assignment to one’s favorite room, a sample taste of a new dish, acknowledgement of the next person in line, treating people with professional familiarity when you’ve learned who they are, all these kinds of behaviors will set your operation apart from those of your competitors if you’re doing it right. It’s basic customer service, but with the personal touch.

So why is customer centricity an important component of any business? Because it buys you more business. Inexpensively, easily, manageably bought repeat business. It gains you customer loyalty because you have shown that your operation is worthy of it. I agree (in part) with Sir Richard Branson’s assertion that creating happy employees make it easy to create happy customers. I suggest this addendum: Empower and encourage your employees to conduct your business in a customer-centric way. Reinforce positive outcomes, address performance weaknesses, and you’ll have a winning combination.

Customer centricity is important because it is the best way to get, delight, and keep your customers. If they know you are willing to understand and accommodate them, they will reward you with their ongoing loyalty. Use analytics to ensure you’re applying this appropriately across your enterprise, and your customers will reward you with greater profitability. Then everybody wins. Happy employees, happy customers, happy stakeholders. Everybody wins.

Do you love what you do?

Like some of the people I’ve met in my career, I ended up in Casino Player Development almost by accident. I never intended to apply for a job at a casino, but I heard they had a job opening for talkative social types, and I had to know more. After being hired, I fell in love with the atmosphere, the guests, the giveaways (they gave me a microphone!), the tournaments, and especially all the hugs. We were a family, the guests and employees, and I was hooked. So hooked, actually, that I worked my way from host to supervisor to manager to executive before going to “The Dark Side.” (It’s my affectionate term for having left the industry to work for a casino technology vendor…and I love that, too!)

There are people I’ve worked with over the years who were naturals at casino hosting, and I’ve worked with some for whom another vocation was their true calling. Both groups can harbor Rock Star hosts, for sure. Some members of both groups have moved on to other career opportunities for a variety of reasons, and some of them are still in the trenches in a casino operation somewhere. Obviously, the choices these friends and acquaintances made revolved, at least in part, around doing something that makes them happy.

So, why do you do what you do? My years in a casino operation meant I went to work every day knowing that the day would present me with unanticipated challenges, small victories, and only rarely would I be bored. There was always something new to learn, interesting (or baffling) problems to solve, guests to meet (or placate), and often a crisis brewing. It was hardly ever boring. I did what I did because it was fascinating, challenging, and rewarding. I did it because I am a social creature, and I spent my workdays surrounded by people from all walks of life. It was, particularly in the beginning, my dream job.

Now, I do what I do because I believe Harvest Trends can make the lives of Player Development pros easier. We have assembled the tools I wish I’d had when I was running a Player Development team. To be able to quickly spin a list of players who fit a certain profile that the property had determined was our target, assign those players to hosts for contact, and track their progress as they worked toward completion is a dream come true for most of the folks I know who are taking care of the best players in properties around the US.

I do what I do because I fell in love with an industry that provides entertainment with the chance for a life-changing prize. I do what I do because somewhere out there is a good player who wants to know why no one appreciates his business, and I want him to know his “home” casino is glad he plays there. I do what I do because I am happier when I am feeling accomplished and fulfilled, and I want my children to see that making a living can be rewarding and is not always a drag. I do what I do because there are untapped resources available for casino marketers and player development professionals, and I want them to know about those resources.

So, tell us: Why do you do what you do?

The Stanislavsky Method in Customer Service

Fall often brings reminiscing, at least for me, about cooler mornings and warm weekday afternoons in a classroom.  In my high school years, I was fascinated with acting and drama, so it’s no surprise that I thought back to those classes after getting the kids onto their respective buses this morning.  Happily, I remembered learning The Stanislavksy System (or Method)…and realized that it influenced my approach to customer service. (Cool, huh!?)

For those of you who never aspired to act, the Stanislavsky Method (known more commonly these days as “Method Acting”), was a huge departure from the 19th century approach to bringing characters to life on stage. Instead of the big, broad movements and exaggerated speech that had been the norm up to the turn of the century, Constantin Stanislavsky believed that a more natural-looking performance would be more believable and just as entertaining.  At its heart, his Method stressed that the actor must first be believed, an accomplishment even more important than being heard or understood.  He must have been on to something, since his Method is being taught in acting schools around the world today.

So, you’re asking, “What the heck does all this acting stuff have to do with Customer Service?”  I’ll answer your question with a question of my own.  Have you ever had to act your way through a customer service interaction?  Have you had to pretend to care, or hold your tongue because the guest in front of you was being unreasonable, or try to keep from laughing because the situation was so absurd?  Yes?  I thought so.  The Stanislavsky Method, applied to these situations, would be immensely helpful.

Here’s how the Method works:

  1. Ask the “Magic If.”  “If I were insert name or description of person here, what would I do?  This is helpful because it allows you to step outside yourself for a moment and find a different perspective for handling the situation.  You could put yourself in the guest’s shoes, channel your boss, a mentor, or your mom to find the right point of view with which to approach the situation.  (WWJD also applies in this step, but from a slightly different perspective.)
  2. Re-think how you move and talk.  This step could make or break your interaction with an upset guest. Letting your own negative emotions show can quickly escalate an already unpleasant situation.  Take a moment to check your body language, facial control, and tone of voice.  If you look and sound annoyed or inconvenienced, the guest will pick up those vibes and react accordingly.  Make a conscious effort to project positivity, confidence, and empathy.  The rest of the steps will support this effort.
  3. Observation; be a people watcher.  Actors are always looking for a way to get into the thought processes of their characters.  One way to accomplish this is to observe real people in their natural habitat and learn about different behaviors, interactions, and personalities.  There are multiple ways this powerful tool can be of help to those who deal with customers every day.  First, even without a guest in front of you, if you are paying attention, you can spot people who are on the cusp of an issue (people looking around for help, confused facial expressions, guarded body language) and sometimes avert disaster before it develops.  Additionally, while you are interacting with someone, paying attention to how they hold themselves and respond to you and others around them can be a powerful guide to handling them more appropriately.  Plus, you can learn from the examples others have provided in their customer service conversations and adapt their more successful strategies for yourself.
  4. Ask “What’s my motivation?”  Surely you’ve heard aspiring actor characters in pop culture asking this question of an acting coach or director.  It’s a great question for actors to ask, because understanding the reasons behind someone’s actions helps an actor get more deeply into the head of the character. The same is true for customer service.  If you understand WHY the guest is angry or frustrated or laughing hysterically, it’s easier for you to resolve the situation to that guest’s satisfaction.  Without an understanding of the motivation behind a behavior, you will have difficulty convincing the guest that you really care about their issue, and you’re taking shots in the dark to hit the right solution.
  5. Emotional memory.  If you’ve ever wondered how someone can cry on cue, this Method step may be the answer.  Clearly, actors sometimes have to transmit emotions that they may not actually feel. To display the appropriate emotion (whether you’re feeling it or not), channel a time when you did feel the emotion in question. Dredge up that memory and let the replay loop in your mind’s eye. You’ll start to feel it again, and it will show up in your expression, posture, gestures, and tone.  In customer service, use a memory of being helpful, in charge and successful.  Or, if you prefer, find a memory of poor service and “wear” that to empathize with your guest, then bring him back with you to a level playing field where you can work with one another to solve the dilemma you are now facing together.

Acting and customer service don’t have a lot in common at first glance, but the Method proves that there are effective steps to find the right approach almost any situation in which you need to convince someone that you are who you claim to be.  These steps, whether put together in this order or applied one at a time as needed, will help you to become a better, more empathetic advocate for your guests.  They will appreciate the time and energy you put into it, and you will grow from the experiences.  It’s a Win/Win!  (And how often does THAT happen in the casino industry?)

Do Rainy Days and Mondays Get YOU Down?

The prevalence of Monday-themed memes on social media would suggest that many people dread the arrival of another work week.  If you work in the world of casino gaming, your “Monday” may well fall on another day of the week, but the question remains: Do you, too, feel despondent over the prospect of returning to the weekly grind?

As a matter of fact, a quick Google search…well, a picture is worth a handful of words:

Mondays1

In a study published in the UK in 2011, Marmite(?!) found that Mondays are so depressing that many people won’t crack a smile before 11:00 am.  Nearly half of us are destined to be late for work on Monday mornings.  As Google autofill suggests, Mondays suck.

But that begs the question…Why?  The study’s authors opined that our collective slow start upon the return to work is a throwback to our tribal instincts.  We feel the need to re-connect with our co-workers after being apart from them over the weekend, and thus spend the morning hours in common areas of our workplaces commiserating over how much we dislike the return to work after the relative freedom of our two days off.

But, if you are a Casino Player Development professional, connecting with people is your stock – in – trade.  It’s what you do.  So you can’t let “Mondays suck” become a time suck at the beginning of your work week.  The impact this will have on your productivity is likely to depend on your specific shift(s) and days off, but it’s safe to assume that you can’t lose half your first shift every week to reconnect with the people you missed while you were away.  Or is it?

In fact, the study suggests that those who participate in the “tribal bonding” at the beginning of the week are better prepared for productivity, while those who start their Monday with gusto are more likely to burn out before the week is up.  Spend the time at the beginning of your first shift of the week connecting with people.  Have a plan.  Target a certain group of people each week and put your innate programming to work for you instead of pulling against it.  Don’t forget to include relationships other than those with guests, too.  Just the same way you would segment players, break down your working relationships and include a few of these in your weekly bonding time.  Whether you do it by department or some other way, make the effort to build and maintain relationships with people of at levels and responsibilities across your property.  Make 10 guest calls, then leave your desk and hit the floor.  Talk to guests and associates as you go, then go back to the office and crank out some more calls.  Now, you’re all better.  Right?

Alternatively, you can proactively get the Mondays out of your system.  The study has some ideas for a pick-me-up to banish your doldrums before you arrive at work.  They are:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Have sex
  3. Shop online
  4. Buy chocolate or makeup
  5. Plan a vacation

Make sure you don’t indulge in any of those activities at work, okay?