Contrary to popular wisdom, it is not easy to operate and maintain a successful and profitable casino operation.
There are numerous regulations and taxes to deal with. Competition can be fierce, and competitors can act irrationally. Ever-increasing entertainment options can take bigger bites out of casino customers’ wallets. Local economies can tank.
So in this column, I am going to identify three of those tough challenges that I have seen and that clients have identified and that many casino executives spend countless hours pondering over. These challenges are not insolvable, even if they may be perplexing and frustrating. I know, because I have seen a few elite casino organizations solve them.
Challenge: High employee turnover rate—Casinos often have 30-40 percent turnover rates. HR executives moan about tight labor markets, inability to offer competitive wages, lack of qualified candidates, tribal hiring preference, slow moving onboarding processes, paltry training budgets and the like.
Solution—Some casinos have turnover rates at or below 10 percent. They take great care in selecting who gets to work in the organization. They have well-defined career paths in all departments. They encourage employees to apply for internal transfers if something interests them. They pay a living wage and allow top performers to thrive financially. They remove the “slackers” quickly.
Challenge: Finding new casino players—Most casinos now are in mature markets where players who are interested in gambling as an entertainment option, have already been identified and are being marketed to. Even those casinos that have healthy daily numbers of new player’s club sign-ups will see 50-60 percent of those players never return (or not use their loyalty card if they do). Everyone moans about Millennials not embracing casino gambling. Older, avid players are dying off.
Solution—A few savvy casinos are still finding plenty of quality casino players, even in long-mature markets. They are training their player development staffs to build relationships with new gamblers, rather than buy visits with bribes. They are finding ways to utilize their motivated employees and top players to attract other quality players. They are not letting all those new player’s club sign-ups who show potential get away. They are tapping into new player segments and finding ways to reach players a little further away.
Challenge: Providing great customer service—In the current casino landscape, most customer service is pretty average, and many casinos have found ways to have technology take over for humans (e.g. redemption kiosks). Most have an old service program “in the can” and haven’t refreshed it in years. Service training is often one of the first casualties when business gets soft. Good service is more about “being nice” than it is having a powerful, clear reinforced system of training, protocols, measurement and rewards designed to create an amazing experience for both guests and team members.
Solution—Casinos that have difference-making and loyalty-producing customer service do many things to generate that result. First of all, they spend resources against having great service and understand its role in the service profit chain. They have service training that matters. They leverage and reward their service stars. Their casino executives model all of the behaviors of great service, rather than just take a stick to those who aren’t providing it. They continually ask their team members and guests what can be done to improve the guest experience. And most importantly, they just keep at it—inspecting what they expect, looking for that 1 percent improvement with each moment of truth, continuously working to create a culture where employees will give guests not only a piece of their time but, more importantly, a piece of themselves.
There are many other challenges in running a casino. But if your casino can get employees to stick around, find new gaming customers and have great service, the rest will fall right into place. Believe it.