by Martin R. Baird
What Makes A Casino Guest An Advocate?
By Martin R. Baird
For the last few months, I've been telling my readers that measuring guest satisfaction is a waste. Until your casino starts measuring advocates, it might as well take the money it spends on satisfaction surveys and throw a giant employee party instead. You would have a better chance of getting a return on your investment.
With that being said, I hope some of you are starting to realize that you need to understand what an advocate is.
Let’s start with a conversation I recently had with one of my associates. She was sharing her thoughts about our company and therein lies the problem. I don’t need to hear what we think about our company. I need to know what our clients think about our company. Unless you’re talking with your guests about whether they do or don’t like your casino, you might as well take a random sample of chimps.
Notice I didn’t suggest you determine if your guests are satisfied with their gaming experience. I’m saying you need to determine how they feel about your property. In other words, are they advocates? And being an advocate has nothing to do with satisfaction or the lack thereof.
Perhaps it would be enlightening to describe someone who isn’t an advocate. I had dinner with a group of friends recently. After the meal, I asked everyone if they were advocates of the restaurant and what score they would give it. All through dinner, each of us commented about how much we liked the food and I expected scores of 6 to 9. I was shocked when the ratings were 3 to 10. When asked why they scored the restaurant the way they did, the reasons surprised me even more. I was especially amazed with one fellow.
One of the lower scores was from a person who felt he did not receive a good value for his money, even though the meal was fairly decent. I found that fascinating because his feelings went beyond being dissatisfied. He would not risk his reputation and tell other people about the restaurant. The value was too low in his opinion. There you have it, folks. He was not an advocate. Obviously, an advocate is someone who would risk their reputation and say good things about this restaurant to other people.
Here’s another interesting thing. This restaurant had all the bells and whistles: from fountains to torches to a fancy bar with attractive young servers. I could easily envision the food-and-beverage people and key casino executives who could have designed this establishment. The restaurant was not in a casino but it felt like it could have been. To my dining companion, that was all window dressing.
Now let’s play a little “what if” and, as we go along, think of the restaurant as being your casino. What if many of the people who dined at this restaurant felt like my friend did and, a few months down the road, the restaurant started to see a drop in sales? What if many people only dined there once or twice? What if the restaurant continued to struggle even though patrons said they liked the food and the servers overhead nice comments?
The problem is that the restaurant’s customers are not advocates and they are not telling the owners why. If I had asked my friend if he was satisfied with his dining experience, my guess is the answer would have been yes. We had fun and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. That creates satisfaction. But until I asked if he would risk his reputation, I didn’t know how he really felt. I also believe that if the manager or a server had asked him how his meal was, he would have said it was good. But in our what-if game, the restaurant would have remained frustrated because customers weren’t coming back.
Advocates are interesting people. If you want to grow your property (and surely you must), then it’s critical that you how what drives and motivates these people. What makes an advocate for your property? I couldn’t possibly know but you should. If I ask a seven-member casino senior team why guests come to their property, I get at least five different answers. How can this be? If you want to create more advocates, it all starts with knowing what makes them advocates in the first place.
The first step is to create a system that gives you ongoing input from your guests. Now I’m going to make a statement and I want you to read it at least three times: guest comment cards are not what I'm talking about! You need a real system that delivers statistically significant data every month. That will give you an advocate score for your casino. It doesn’t cut it when a guest simply decides to tell you how great or horrible his gaming experience was.
After putting the system in place, you need to connect it to best business practices for internal improvement. Your advocate score is just a number. It’s a very important number, but unless it’s connected to a process that will improve your property and drive the score ever higher, you’re wasting your time.
That restaurant experience was incredibly telling. My friend said it wasn’t a good value. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s out of business in 18 to 24 months because customers aren’t coming back. My friend certainly won’t. In the restaurant business, you’re either making money or closing. Many casinos have the luxury of cash flow, but that can hide the fact that they are not creating advocates.
Please take a step back and look critically at what you are doing to grow your casino. Is it truly driving your property or just reporting yesterday’s news? Do you really know what makes a person an advocate for your casino? Do you know why guests will or won’t risk their reputation for your casino?
This article first appeared in Native American Casino
Date Posted: 27-Nov-2006
Martin R. Baird is author of “Advocate Index™: An Operational Tool” and chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a global customer service consulting firm for the gaming industry. Robinson & Associates helps casinos worldwide determine their Advocate Index, a number that indicates the extent to which properties have guests who are willing to be advocates, and then implements its Advocate Development System to help casinos create more guest advocates. The Advocate Development System uses the proven methodology of Advocate Index in combination with best business practices to chart a course for growth and profitability. More information about the Advocate Development System and Robinson and Associates is available at the company’s Web sites at www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com and www.casinocustomerservice.com. A copy of “Advocate Index: An Operational Tool” may be obtained by calling 206-774-8856. Robinson & Associates may be reached by phone at 480-991-6420 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Based in Annapolis, Maryland, Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.