Best and worst practices in guest satisfaction research
Many casinos have determined that it is in their best interest to measure and track their guests’ satisfaction.
They understand that, even with the likelihood of losing money gambling, most gamblers can—and do—have a positive experience at their casino. Obtaining feedback directly from guests can help ensure that’s the case—and can identify problem areas that get in the way of guests having a good time.
But are casinos measuring guest satisfaction effectively? To answer, let’s start with the basics:
- There is only one reason to implement a guest satisfaction tracking program, and that is to learn what you’re doing well and where improvements are needed—and to monitor your success in improving the guest experience. It’s really that simple… if your goal is to admire your high scores, save your time and money.
- Effective guest satisfaction programs require commitment from the top. It makes no sense to track guest satisfaction unless you’re willing to consider operational changes and capital improvements to enhance guest satisfaction.
- If you are truly committed to guest satisfaction, your survey should demonstrate that fact. The survey instrument should be designed to be completed in five minutes or less with no unnecessary questions. Focus on overall metrics (overall satisfaction, overall customer service satisfaction, willingness to recommend, likelihood to return) and evaluation of the significant touchpoints any given player has experienced.
So let’s get specific:
- Because effective guest satisfaction programs are ongoing, they should be guided by a set of business rules, which dictate virtually every aspect of a guest satisfaction tracking program: how sample is selected, how frequently invitations are issued, how often a given player can be invited or can take a survey, how results are distributed, etc. This makes nearly all decisions easy to make—and ensures consistency even as administrators turn over.
- Sample from your entire database. You may think players with $10 ADTs are not worth surveying, but your $10 player may be a $30 or $50 player somewhere else—or six months from now.
- If you’re going to sample from your entire database, ensure that your sample correctly represents that database. If you randomly sample or invite everyone, your ending sample will be skewed because different segments of your database will respond at higher or lower rates. Instead, break your sample into deciles based on theo, calculate a historical response rate for each decile and secure an approximately equal sample from each decile. (You can always look at your higher value players based on decile or card tier.)
- Focus your survey on the last visit. If you aren’t specific about what visit you’re asking about, you’ll get ratings that are essentially an average of visits over some unspecified time frame—perhaps skewed by one or two outlier experiences. In addition to not obtaining a current reading, you’ll be unable to measure the impact of changes you make in service, amenities, etc. because you have no anchor to a “pre” and “post” period.
- “Gate” questions to ensure that each is relevant to the guest’s last visit. If you ask a customer who self-parked about valet parking, he or she may just answer your question, muddying results.
Most touchpoints can be effectively covered with two attributes: friendliness and helpfulness of service and time it took to provide service.
- Make sure that questions are clearly worded. Asking for a rating of the players club, for example, will result in some respondents rating benefits and others rating the service they got at the players club desk.
- Choose a simple scale that everyone can use. We’ve found that a report card scale (A, B, C, D and F) is very effective and easy for respondents to use. Focus on A scores to track excellence and D/F scores to monitor dissatisfaction.
- Include a service recovery process triggered by dissatisfaction in general or low ratings for specific service areas. Ask triggered respondents if they wish to be contacted by the property. If so, make sure they are contacted by a representative who is empowered to address the player’s concerns.
- Use the survey strategically. The most obvious use is to identify perceived deficiencies and measure your effectiveness in correcting those deficiencies. But our clients have also used guest satisfaction surveys to identify/evaluate capital improvement opportunities, address staffing levels and incentivize management and staff.
- Create exception reports identifying both favorable and unfavorable trends to focus managers on what is being improved and where improvement is warranted.
- Include opportunities for guests to provide comments. Comments add texture and direction that you won’t get from ratings alone.
- Share results throughout your organization so everyone understands their role in satisfying your guests.
Now for a few worst practices to avoid:
- Don’t over-invite your guests or invite guests who habitually do not respond or have opted out of receiving surveys.
- Don’t ask about touchpoints the guest hasn’t encountered.
- Don’t ask leading, redundant, unnecessary, irrelevant, confusing or potentially offensive questions.
- Don’t fail to contact a customer who has requested to be contacted. They’re already dissatisfied; do you now want to double down on their dissatisfaction by ignoring their request?
- Don’t tell your guests a survey is or may be coming. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with imparting that information, it can often lead staff, particularly when bonuses are in play, to plead for an “A” rating. (Think car dealer.) You want your “A” ratings to be earned. More importantly, if a player doesn’t think you deserve an “A” rating, you want to know it and learn from their feedback so you can improve.
- Don’t focus so much on the short term that you ignore longer term trends. It’s easy to just look at changes from month to month or from quarter to quarter, but a small decrease (or increase) in a particular rating repeated over time represents a longer term trend meriting attention.
Most of your guests are going to lose money when they gamble at your casino. But they still can—and in our experience often do—enjoy their casino visits. Obtaining guest feedback on an ongoing basis will help you provide your guests with the service and amenities they seek, and enable you to identify opportunities to enhance guest experiences so they are happy to return and speak highly of your casino to their friends. True, some respondents will offer such “helpful” advice as to loosen the machines or be more generous with your comps. But, in addition to ratings that you can compare over time, you’ll also get very specific direction on the service your casino is providing across numerous areas, the quality of the dining venues, the lighting, the air quality and so much more.
Last point: you’re in charge. Just because customers don’t like something doesn’t mean you need to change it. But you should be aware of their preferences, and if you elect to maintain a policy that your customers do not like (tight slots and skimpy comps are a couple of examples), at least you can track those perceptions over time and see how other positive attributes compensate for those perceived deficiencies.