by Dennis Conrad
How to Listen to Your Customers
By Dennis Conrad
I have met very few people in the gaming industry who don’t believe in the importance of listening to their gaming customers. In fact, I believe that my company’s simple mantra of “Find Out What Your Customers Want and Give It To Them” has been at the heart of our success because it reverberates with the beliefs of most casino executives on the value of these listening posts. And yet too few casinos religiously, effectively and comprehensively monitor feedback from their casino customers, especially their best casino customers.
So what’s going on here? Why the disconnect???
Well, I believe this is a situation where the “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Most casinos want to listen to their customers, they try to listen to their customers and might even believe they do listen to their customers. But from my experience, all of that “GOO” (budgets, meetings, reports, employee issues, etc., etc., etc.) gets squarely in the way of really listening to our customers. It’s kind of like listening to our car radio when driving out in the country. We’d like to hear the song, but the static from the radio is too high!
So I have given this great thought and I have analyzed the casinos that do a pretty good job of gathering and effectively using their guests’ feedback. So I’d like to share my thoughts with you now. I believe it’s pretty important stuff.
Important Principles for Listening to Your Customers
1. Consistency Is More Important Than Any Single Tactic – whether you are listening to your customers through organized focus groups, exit surveys, customer advisory boards or just good old fashioned “one on ones” on the casino floor, it is more important that you keep doing it on a regular basis than using any one specific magic listening bullet.
2. A Comment Card Program Does Not Qualify As A Listening Program – comment cards, no matter how well marketed or used, tend to attract participation from either your very happy or your very upset customers. It is hard to make important, strategic business decisions by listening to the “fringes.”
3. The GM Should Dedicate Time To Listening To Live, Breathing Casino Customers – whether it’s just walking the casino floor or hanging out during the VIP event or the promotional drawing, the GM needs to hear from real casino customers. He or she will get a definite earful. And it will put real meaning into those charts or numbers on “guest satisfaction” that come across the cherrywood desk.
4. Some Customers Opinions Count More Than Others – sure, you care about keeping your “two-bit” customers and your buffet goers happy, but let’s face it. The 80/20 Rule applies and the opinions of your best customers count more than others. So listen mostly to your best customers.
5. Listen Hard To What Your Customers Are Really Saying – I have never been to a casino where its best customers did not say “the slot machines have gotten tighter since the casino first opened.” This is the natural result of playing “negative expectation” games over time. But that doesn’t mean you automatically go out and loosen your slot hold percentage by 1% (a huge expense!). But maybe it means they want more nickel machines, or machines with a higher “hit frequency,” or just want to feel like a winner when they do win (congratulations, celebrations, “way to go,” etc.). So listen hard!
6. Have All of Your Casino’s Executives Listen To Your Customers – when I last worked for a casino property, one of the best exercises that we did was to have all of our senior executives call good customers who hadn’t visited in the past year (and find out why). Oh sure, several execs hated the exercise, but the information we gained was truly eye-opening. So make sure even the CFO gets piped in to your customers!
7. Listen To Your Employees Too! – sometimes we think it is just about the customer customer. But employees are customers, too. And not only are they piped in to what customers are saying, but these employees are critical to the success of your tribal casino, often having ideas and suggestions worth thousands or even millions of dollars!
8. Now That You’re Listening, Act On The Information – remember, the deal is to find out what your customers (and employees) want, so that you can give it to them. So when they tell you to fix the restrooms, do it!
Take these principles to heart when listening to your customers at your tribal casino. You may just find that they have no reason to go to the casino down the street because “Hey, they never listen to me!”
Date Posted: 08-Jun-2008
Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing consulting company that has worked with numerous Native American casinos. Raving’s Monthly Strategic Promotion Newsletter offers information, analysis and follow up consulting on current successful casino promotions in North America. To order, call 775-329-7864 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Raving’s web site www.ravingconsulting.com.