There are numerous customer contact positions in a casino operation that are critically important to crafting a superior service experience for guests. Many of them involve “first and last” points of contact, like valet parking, hotel registration, and security; where all of those first and last impressions are made when a guest is arriving or departing.

Then there are the positions that deal with premium customers—VIP services, limo department, gourmet restaurants, and the like. These are important because of the heightened value of most of the casino customers they serve. Screw up here, and watch a lot of “lifetime spend” walk down the street.

Other areas like dealers and slot personnel are important because that is where casinos are separating guests from their bankrolls. Do it coldly or with a snarl, or even indifferently, and the cash cow can stop producing milk.

And then there is the casino cage.

The “cage” is one of the most challenging staffing areas in a casino. It has the rules and regulations of a nuclear power plant. Cage cashiers are under tremendous pressure to balance their banks, not accept a bad check or a counterfeit chip or token, serve both guests and employees, and often live and work behind bars, or at least an intimidatingly separate area. At the same time, the cage is one of the most important service areas in the casino, being a critical touch point for both casino winners and losers.

For me as a player, the most frustrating experiences I seem to have in a casino are at the cage. Yes, I have encountered numerous outstanding employees in casino cages around the world, but I have also fallen victim to cage operations that seem like a conspiracy to make banks and dentists seem like a joy.

I have given a lot of thought to this, as well as earned many gray hairs from “being caged,” so allow me to make a few suggestions to improve your guests’ cage experience:

  • All Hands on Deck—That cage supervisor at the raised desk in the back of the cage has many important duties to perform, I’m sure. But when he or she is sitting there and there are eight or 10 guests in the cage line, they don’t understand why he or she won’t come down and work a cage window to speed the line along. So, find a way to get them down and participating with the troops on the front line.
  • Customers First—It may be unavoidable to serve both guests and employees in the same cage area, but either find a way to get the employee transactions out of the public eye, or find ways to send the message that guest transactions come first. That’s what a guest believes should happen, and they stew about it when they see a bartender cashing out his tokes, while they wait to cash out a $13.54 slot ticket after a losing session.
  • Time Matters—Find ways to make time-consuming cage transactions such as cashing a check, issuing an ATM cash advance, etc., shorter. These are the biggest, quickest contributors to cage snarls. Also, get as many low-value and meaningless functions as you can out of the cage. Do you really need to be cashing out pennies and nickels from a guest shoebox?
  • Train Ahead—For those of you who are going down the seemingly inevitable road of combining cage and players’ club operations, please have enough employees to handle the inevitable logjams, make sure that they are trained equally well in both cage and players club transactions, and that they don’t short shrift the important job of selling the value of the players’ club membership. And find ways to have a flexible method of segmenting the highest-volume transactions (chip cashing, card replacement, etc.) to keep lines moving.
  • Perception Counts—Make sure that your “WINDOW CLOSED” signs at the cage aren’t “in your face” with a negative message, and don’t always make it look like there are way more windows closed than open.

There you have it, some thoughts on having a cagey cage operation. And while you’re at it, be sure to remind those often unappreciated cage team members how valuable they are in their role of making winners feel even better and turning losers into winners; which can have a powerful marketing result.