by Dennis Conrad
If you haven't read the book RAVING FANS by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles,
you should do so tomorrow. No, make that TODAY. It is the simplest and most
powerful expression of the value of superior customer service that exists
today. I won't tell you how the story is told (but if you liked the movie
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, you'll like RAVING FANS) - you need to spend the
$20 to make it part of your library. Or rather, you need to make it your
Anyway, the message behind RAVING FANS is that SATISFIED customers are no
longer enough. To truly have a successful business you need "RAVING FANS",
people who are blown away by your product or service. And the key to creating
raving fans is threefold:
1) Decide What You Want
2) Discover What Your Customer Wants
3) Deliver Plus 1%
Now I realize that telling you about this "theory" is nowhere near as effective
as describing it in action, so with apologies to the Raving Fans authors,
I thought I would tell you the story of a "Raving Fans" hotel casino. Some
of the elements come from existing practices of casino operators, some come
from outside of the gaming industry and some, well hopefully come from a
creative corner of my mind. So anyway, here goes.
The "Raving Fans" Hotel Casino
We pulled into the porte-cochere area underneath the big "RF" sign. We had
driven all night from Reno. It was our first trip back to Las Vegas since
moving up north and Amy was hungry and Casey had a headache. My wife Becky
just wanted to get to the pool. We had heard about the RF casino and wanted
to stay there. When we were two hours from Las Vegas, we even called them
on my cellular, as suggested by the reservationist. Something about the
PHONE AHEAD CHECK IN and having our room ready for us. But even at 8am?
The Valet parking attendant opened all four car doors and when he got to
mine he startled me by saying, "Welcome to RF, Mr. Conrad, my name is Turk."
"How did you know my name?" I asked.
"Oh, that's why they asked for your license number when you phoned ahead.
I just spot the license plates coming in and check them off on my list.
It sure is neat surprising people with a personal greeting."
After he opened my door he used our one-minute stretching and orienting
period to quickly wash our windshield.
"Lots of desert bugs at night," he said.
After Turk finished the window (and the front grill), he handed me our room
keys. "You're all set," he said. "Just follow the blue path in the carpet
to the elevator."
"But don't I have to check in or give you a credit card, or something?"
"No," he replied, "we got the credit card number and your authorization
when you made the reservation. And when you phoned ahead, we were able to
get you the first available room in your type and we had time to check you
in and make your keys."
I was a little dumbfounded.
"Besides," he added, "a phone ahead service wouldn't have much value if
we didn't provide a "special" service with it. Now let George and Allie
here take your bags to the room. And don't event try to tip them, they won't
accept it. RF adds a 20% service charge for each day of your stay and we
have a really neat way of dividing it among the hotel staff. I'm sure you'll
find the service well worth it. Now enjoy your stay and don't forget to
try the RF buffet."
I have to admit that I was pretty impressed so far.
We found our room with no difficulty. The bellpersons were already done
unloading the luggage and were about to leave. I wanted to test this no
tipping policy. I offered George a $20 tip.
"Now Mr. Conrad," he scolded, "you heard what Turk said in the Valet Parking
area. Don't embarrass me with another gratuity. If it will make you feel
better, we're the best paid staff in Las Vegas - besides the guaranteed
service charge, we have performance bonuses, profit sharing and a company
stock plan. So put your twenty away."
It was the first time anyone successfully refused a tip from me. "Don't
forget to try the buffet." George shouted as he left.
We looked around the room. I can't say that it was anything terrifically
special - new, clean, sort of "homey" feeling. But everywhere we turned,
there was one little surprise after another.
For the kids, there were the free SEGA games on the TV, the Walt Disney
coloring books (and new crayons) on the table and the Cheez-Its on the lower
of the two bunk beds (I guess the bunk beds were a little different!). "So
that's why they asked me if the kids preferred pretzels, potato chips, Cheez-Its
or granola bars when I made the reservation!" my wife exclaimed.
And RF hadn't forgotten us middle-aged adults. They had our brand of mouthwash
and shampoo in the bathroom. One of those fun little hand held video poker
games was on the nightstand. On top of the VCR were videos of the last ten
Academy Award winners for Best Picture. There was a little newspaper type
booklet that listed that day's top jackpots on the various RF slot and video
poker machines, plus a map listing the entire slot area and where these
machines were located. Another daily sheet listed the various "hits" over
$500 on all $1 and 25Ë slots in the last 30 days. Knowing slot percentages
and "randomness" as I do, I knew it was baloney, but I couldn't stop my
wife from putting this chart in her purse.
Further exploration revealed a grab bag of assorted hotel room surprises.
A note on the bed told the story of Southern Nevada's water supply and how
RF helps the environment by changing sheets only upon request or after checkout.
There not only was a bible in the top drawer, but also holy books for Jews,
Muslims and Buddhists as well as a few "breezy self-help pep talk" books.
A sign said that the air conditioner automatically shuts off when you leave
the room. And there were several gaming periodicals by the bed - the Las
Vegas Advisor, Casino Executive, Chance, Casino Player, Card Player, a pamphlet
from the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. "RF prefers well-informed gaming
customers," said the table tent nearby.
The kids were coloring and eating Cheez-Its (at 8:30am).
My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. It was that disbelieving,
amazed snorting kind of laugh. "Can you believe this?!!!" she howled.
I couldn't wait for the RF casino.
After discovering the delights and surprises in our room that first morning
at the RF Casino/Hotel in Las Vegas, it was time to explore the property
Becky and the kids were eager to hit the pool and I was ready for some blackjack,
but we all agreed that we should get something to eat first. With the already
twice repeated words "You've got to try the buffet" ringing in my ears,
we decided to try RF's "Blow You Away Buffet." It sounded like
Date Posted: 21-Dec-1998
DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry.
He can be reached at: 475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501
· (702) 329-7864
· fax (702) 329-4947
· email: TheRadcon@aol.com.