by Dennis Conrad
The Southwest Airlines Casino
By Dennis Conrad
I travel a lot in my consulting work, so I have the dubious pleasure of flying on a lot of airplanes. After 9/11 and for many months thereafter, it was a royal hassle to fly, but for whatever reason (maybe you just get used to the snarls), it seems to at least be manageable again. And I actually believe airline service has improved – it has gone from awful to poor.
I was thinking about this as my plane was on the tarmac after landing on time (!) in Miami. The pilot came on the speaker saying that it would be “just a few minutes” until we got to the gate, as another plane was exiting it. Thirty minutes later (with no further explanation), I exited the plane, now with a tight connection for a flight leaving from the other end of the terminal. On the plane, they had (nicely, I thought) told us our connecting information and gate numbers. Heck, you know the rest of the story – gate change, wild goose chase through the terminal, almost miss my flight.
This would never happen on Southwest Airlines. At Southwest, service is great, systems are simple and things actually work! I shudder to think of my rating for airline service without the attentiveness of Southwest.
From Reno, I fly Southwest probably 80-90% of the time (mostly because Southwest has kicked every other airline’s butt in that market). Between those hundreds of Southwest flights and the thousands of Southwest employees I’ve encountered, plus the several books I’ve read about Southwest (I recommend “Nuts!” and “The Southwest Airlines Way”), I feel somewhat of an expert on the Southwest formula – and boy, could casinos learn a thing or two from them! Here’s why I think SWA is so successful and what I think the corresponding application is for the casino industry:
1. Low Prices, No Frills – Southwest has everyday low prices and simple point-to-point, (mostly) short haul air service. They don’t gum it up with fancy, first class options, or long hauls on huge planes to exotic locations, or in-flight food service.
Casinos, hello? Your customers without fail say they also want a simple gaming experience with good time on device, a reasonable chance to win and some basic feeling of value for their discretionary entertainment dollar. But noooooo… we give them double points and car giveaways and coupons and entertainment on Saturdays. Somehow I think the Southwest Airlines Casino would be a lot simpler.
2. Relational Competence – that’s what Southwest calls it and it means that their employees are hired and trained in WORKING TOGETHER. That’s why Southwest flight attendants clean the flight cabin (in minutes, usually while passengers deplane), why pilots act as greeters, why gate agents and flight crews can execute 10-minute boardings and 20-minute flight turnarounds.
In the Southwest Casino, you’d see pit and slot employees work together (heaven forbid!) for the benefit of the GAMING guest. You’d see an employee from another department get a drink for a thirsty guest without worry of a union grievance. You’d see the GM as a visible greeter, because hey, he flies this casino plane!
3. Fun – I can’t tell you the number of times Southwest has made me smile (besides their warm, friendly ads). Whether it’s the irreverent safety instructions, or being serenaded in song by a flight attendant upon landing, or watching a 6-year-old Southwest passenger help hand out bags of nuts – flying Southwest is just plain fun!
And that would be the hallmarks of the Southwest Casino – playfulness, humor, lively interactions. No more clueless dealers, or slot employees going through the motions, or cage employees with no personality. No, at the Southwest Airlines Casino, they understand they are on stage and the customer came for short haul entertainment!
4. Easy To Do Business With – if you are ever at an airport where Southwest flies, watch the movement of their check-in lines at the ticket counter – they probably process passengers twice as fast as other airlines. This isn’t because their employees are administrative wizards, but because all of Southwest’s systems support rapid passenger processing. They have on-line check-in, numerous airport check-in kiosks and a host of other technology and system solutions to move passengers efficiently.
In the Southwest Casino, key points of contact would be geared around moving gaming guests (especially VIP’s) through the numerous, everyday casino transactions. There would be redemption kiosks, on-line inquiry and point redemption capabilities for Players Club transactions, and simple, friendly employee interactions with a minimum of hassles. No more “Take this to the cage” or “Fill out this application” or “Table game chip transactions are at another window.” No, the Southwest Casino would recognize that being “easy to do business with” is a great marketing tool itself and minimizes those dreaded “lines” that casino managers and casino guests both detest.
5. Easy To Use, Meaningful Rewards – Southwest Airlines’ frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards, is simple to understand, easy to use and has meaningful benefits. Fly eight roundtrips and earn a free flight – fly only six roundtrips that were booked online and earn the same free trip (are they training us or what?). The free flights are simple to redeem (and transferable!) and are valid for ANYWHERE SOUTHWEST FLIES. Hey, fly 6 trips between Reno and Vegas and head for Disney World, free!
The hallmark of the Southwest Casino Player Reward program would be simplicity of use, ease of understanding and meaningful player rewards with meaningful choices of VALUE. One point would equal one dollar of coin-in. Guests would have choices to spend their cash back or comp credit. There would be no more snarls because you were a table game player, or played different casino games or didn’t visit for 6 months (hey, what happened to my point balance?). There’d be no more secrets – it would be a simple, but meaningful loyalty program that truly engendered loyalty.
Yes, I look forward to the first Southwest Airlines Casino. After all, we ARE in the flight business. We provide our guests flights of fancy and the freedom to escape on our amusement rides, hopefully with the everyday LUV I see so wonderfully and so consistently on Herb’s marvelous Southwest Airlines.
Date Posted: 14-Apr-2008
Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at 775-329-7864 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Raving’s web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.