With growing competition and the desire to gain a greater share of player’s wallets, managing guest service—and the expectations that come with it—are some of the most challenging obstacles facing operators today.

It’s all too easy to sit and strategize about elevating guest service, evaluating the competition and developing standards that support what may be best for the guest while creating a communication plan that puts it all together.  The key here is ensuring your organization has the internal resources and stakeholder commitment to deliver on the promise that makes your guest service and the standards you set a reality… and ensuring the standards you set are sustainable and meet the expectations of your guests. 

Guest feedback, focus groups and communication play an important role in the ability to manage these expectations, both for your guests and for your team members. Knowing what your guest deserves versus what your guest wants for their time and gambling dollar are almost always very different, as is what you and your team are willing and capable of delivering to them.

When it comes to managing your guest’s expectations there should be no “try.”  It must be “do” or “don’t do.”  If you set the expectations and deliver a compelling message to support the guest service promise, but then fail to fulfill this promise, you risk guest dissatisfaction at many levels.  Reactions range from simple guest complacency and acceptance to total guest dissatisfaction and defection. These are only two of the possible outcomes related to service missteps.

To better understand some of the challenges and pitfalls associated with managing expectations for you and the guest, here are a few things to consider when you are in the guest service planning stage:

Never ask a question unless you know what the answer will be. Before you ask your guests what their expectations are, you should know and understand what your organization is capable of and what you are prepared to do. This will help set the bar and establish what you can or can’t do. This way when you do speak to the guests, you can better evaluate what you may need to do internally to meet guest expectations.

Brainstorm what you think your guests may want, what your competition is offering, and what you may need to do to differentiate yourself from the competition.  Remember to include the tangible and intangible expenses associated with creating a culture of extraordinary guest services—team member training, collateral materials, changing the existing culture, refining business processes and so on.

Look closely at your organization and your business structure.  Evaluate your team, your staffing and your internal resources. Do you have the operational support available and accessible to carry out your plan? And if there is a void within your support team can it be filled with external resources?

How does your subjective vision of the guest’s expectations and your potential service promise fit with your team and the delivery system you have?  Can the team that is ultimately responsible to fulfill the promise actually implement and deliver your vision?  When making this evaluation, it’s extremely important that you are realistic with yourself and what you can and can’t reasonably do. If not, you may be setting yourself up for failure by setting your own standards too high. It’s often better to take slow, steady, calculated steps towards a lofty goal, rather than tackling the entire big picture at once. 

Armed with your subjective view of what you consider to be your guest’s expectations and your realistic approach to deliver it, it’s time to talk to your guests. Solicit their open and honest feedback so you can clearly understand what they need, what they want, what they expect, and most importantly, what they may be willing to accept. This is crucial information since you need to see how your assumptions and overall plans align with your guest’s expectations.

If what the guest tells you is completely different from what you expected or does not support your assumptions, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rethink your plan.Ask yourself a few key questions: Are the expectations of your guests realistic and if so are you willing to stratify them? What do you need to do internally to create a system that can deliver, satisfy and manage the guest’s actual expectations?

Once you develop your plan it is time to test it against the expectations of your guests.If it meets the goals you have set it’s time to execute your plan through internal and external communication and team member training. This will create the culture and set the service standards and deliver on your guest service promises. 

With all this considered, what promise are you prepared to make to provide and communicate extraordinary guest service?