According to gaming and hospitality experts, guest service fundamentals are just fine—it’s leadership’s support of frontline team members that needs to change. 

With the current state of heightened emotions, new and stringent protocols and the potential for guest-to-guest and guest-to-employee conflict, once again, the need is apparent for strong guest service and leadership foundations in our gaming and hospitality organizations. 

In a recent interview conducted by Deana Scott, Raving CEO, we heard from Steve Browne, Raving partner, guest service and player development and Paula Allen, director of leadership development and guest services, 7 Cedars Casino and an enrolled tribal citizen of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Browne and Allen delivered a one-two punch: Browne has established guest service programs across the globe for commercial and tribal properties; and Allen heads her casino’s leadership development as well as assists other tribal leadership teams with their coaching techniques across their organizations. 

During their long careers in gaming, both Browne and Allen have worked tirelessly to spreading the message of “guest worship,” which will translate into a more sustainable and profitable organization. According to a recent Forbes article, “50 Stats That Prove The Value Of Customer Experience,” customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers and 84 percent of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue.”

Browne was in the Philippines on a project during the month of January, and told us, “COVID-19 was barely on the radar, as it was confined to China. Everyone was caught by surprise; shutdowns put everyone in a tailspin. Just like our clients in the U.S., they’re facing the same issues of security and safety and the importance of maintaining relationships in the meantime.” Allen was conducting leadership training in Oklahoma in March when everything hit the fan; the casino shut down and she returned home to 7 Cedars Casino in Washington State, which was in the eye of the storm.

When asked about reopening service strategies, Browne said that casinos should revisit their in-place guest service standards and it was critical to incorporate them into their orientation and reopening training. “It’s extremely important to get back to basics,” Browne said. 



The second strategy was to address conflict resolution. Browne explained that there’s going to be a conflict between the guests who want to follow the rules, social distance and have masks and the guests that think the rules might be silly and don’t care. “Frontline team members are not equipped to deal with this conflict with standard guest service skills. You need to integrate security and management out on the floor to address that,” he said.

Allen concurs and said that leadership needs to create an environment where team members feel comfortable and they are able to engage with guests freely, and not worry about behind the scenes. She added, “It’s a highly charged environment for emotionally-driven arguments. We need leadership to step in there and take over for our frontline team members so they are not caught in the crosshairs; so they can devote their time to creating a great experience for our guests.”

“Frontline employees and certain frontline supervisors need to be taught how to identify potential ‘tells’ that show conflict is starting to develop, between players and between players and employees,” Browne said. He added that there will be situations that your frontline team members can’t resolve, so there must be clear procedures with immediate access to engaged leadership, on the floor, who can immediately step in. 

If there is a silver lining in this, Scott added, “We’ve always talked about the issues around the silos in our organizations. This experience is will make us better. These silos have been keeping us from being our optimum selves and delivering service. Now, if we are going to be successful and have our properties open and safe, communication at all levels really has to flow much better.”

“As tragic as this is, it is really shining a light on those great employees that are doing a good job; it’s highlighting those ‘facility-type’ positions that really thought they didn’t have a place in the organization,” Allen added. “It’s collaborating with your team. We need our team members happy; if our team members aren’t happy they are going to let our guests know about that. We know that guests are walking through our properties with their phones on and sharing it. We want to be proud of what they are showing. We want our team members to communicate the same message.”

When asked if guest service is more important than ever, Browne responded, “Guest service has always been important. Humans crave interaction with other humans; it can’t be replaced by online experiences. The casino sells a product and the product is socialization. At the heart of socialization is how people react and act with each other. That is guest service. Those are service skills. They’ve always been critical. This will remind people how important it always has been, and I hope service training receives more time and resources than in the past.”