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 Every Time You Turn Around in a Casino These Days,
Something Is Missing with Regards to Service! 
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The 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail Is Long Gone But the Need for
Value and Superior Customer Service Remains
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by William “Billy-O” Orilio, MHS - CEO, Orilio & Associates, Inc.
January 2007

The days of the foot-long hot dog and 99-cent shrimp cocktail are long gone. I doubt they are sorely missed. Neither was of any value. Not real value. Not player value. 

What happened to player value? To put it bluntly: Who is the idiot that created the “No player card, no comp” policy? Why, if an amateur or new player spends a few thousand dollars, or for that matter a few hundred dollars, then asks for a comp, is told, “Sorry. Without a Players Card my hands are tied.”

Think about how many times you’ve heard that, or better yet, had to say it. Have you ever thought how absurd it sounds, or how ridiculous you look, when you say that your hands are tied while trying to convince a player that it’s “policy”? 

“If you get a Players Card maybe we can do something,” the newcomer is told. It really is ridiculous when you think about it.

Consider this from the player’s perspective. He or she just gamed $3,000 and received no comp. More than likely they were treated to average service, a common occurrence these days. After all that, they’re told to go show their ID, fill out a form, get a card and start from zero? How would you feel? Why do we as operators think this makes sense just because some genius decided, “No card, no comp”?  

So I ask again: does anyone know who that idiot is?

Basically, I think a meeting of the middle-management minds concluded that players were working the system. Comps had gotten out of hand, so in order to fix a perceived flaw, operators implemented a policy that inconveniences their guests and makes the system so accountable that if a player doesn’t follow the rules, they get nothing. A new player and potential loyal customer walks away offended, unrecognized and empty-handed.

I understand comps were being abused. But the real question is, by whom? A player had to ask for a comp in order to get it. They had to be playing in order to deserve it. If comps were being abused, that abuse, more than likely, was facilitated by the people who gave them out. Yes, your employees, your pit supervisors and your bosses.

That’s where the stroke of marketing brilliance came in. “Hmm. We can’t seem to control ourselves in giving out these comps, so…let’s punish the players.” Hell, that’s easier than dealing with those blameless employees. Put a policy in place that the employees have little or no control over, and if the players go away angry, too bad. If the guest wants that comp bad enough they’ll just have to comply. What a bunch of crap!

I’m not trying to downplay the value Players Club cards have to the gaming operation. They are the most valuable marketing tool we have. Comps have very little to do with the reasons we use them. Tracking play, collecting data, calculating and manipulating strategies to gain market share is what it’s all about. These cards are the lifeblood of our marketing knowledge. They increase house advantage by gaining invaluable information not found anywhere else. The person who came up with the Players Card concept truly is a Genius!

So why all this ranting about the Idiot?

It’s simple. A great concept poorly executed from a player’s perspective equates to poor value. The hospitality industry in general has allocated a huge amount of time and money into educating the public about service and exceeding the guest’s expectations. Our customers are now so sophisticated that they know the “my hands are tied” excuse is a bunch of crap. They see right through it. Even when the hands of the pit supervisors, MOD’s and shift managers really are tied, Joe Public still sees this as bad policy and leaves your establishment with nothing but bad feelings. 

Here’s how it looks from a player’s perspective: either the employee is too lazy, is lying, or they really can’t do anything about it and don’t care. The player knows there’s someone in management who can do something about it. Tied hands or not, they want the problem resolved.  

When your systems and procedures become the enemy of superior customer service, you are failing at what you do. All too often, policies and procedures are enacted in an effort to gain more control over the employees and their actions, without any thought about the effect on the guest and their player value. When systems and procedures conceived in a boardroom become your biggest enemy, it’s time to remember how simple things can really be.  

It’s this simple: a basic T account with a comp checkbook that a boxman, pit boss, MOD or shift manager can write a check for a comp, sign it off, and hand it to a guest as a value-added service.  

It’s as simple as your employee writing down a certain number of points and the guest going up to the Reward Booth to get a card and those points being automatically added for play they already had, be it at a table or a slot. Who cares about the points you issue in the beginning of the player relationship? You just want them to get the card. But to be told there’s no comp because you weren’t holding that piece of plastic before you played is very disappointing. It’s a case of the age of technology and systems cannibalizing your customer service; eating away at it until the value to the player has disappeared. At the same time, from a player’s perspective, prices have gone up, service is the same or worse, and the common denominator remains: No card, No comp.

Well, for the love of all that is good, let’s do something about it and untie those hands! Let’s create value for the player at the point of play. Reward them now and it will go a lot further.

Players are always going to lose. That’s the unshakable rule of gaming. Since we’re going to take their money, we need to instill the perception of real value. They don’t need a lot. Remember, it used to be only 99 cents for a shrimp cocktail or a foot-long hot dog. They don’t expect to bust the house, but they do want value.

The Player’s Price-Value Concept

Value is what one perceives they are receiving for the price paid. Service has all but disappeared on many gaming floors. Longevity of play is good, if not great with slots, but it won’t last the test of time. Change attendants have moved to change kiosks. With Ticket In/Ticket Out systems (TITO), you hardly see a real person any longer. TITO is great for the operator, but now the guest has to leave his or her favorite machine to cash a ticket, get change or to talk to a human being. When they return to their favorite machine it’s occupied by someone else!

Why do we have service lights on slot machines when we render close to zero service in those locations? Why do the lights stay on for so long without anybody responding? Why do casinos in Nevada, more than anywhere else, remind you of where you are when it comes to getting a drink, The Mojave Desert! Do you really have to die of thirst, before you can get a drink? 

Why do slot machines reject $20 and $100 bills more than any other denomination? I, like the rest of you know why, but the player doesn’t and really could care less. From their perspective, it’s your problem not the players.  It’s a drag when you want to give a casino your money and the machine won’t take it. Why do multi-denomination machines offer a bonus round and after the free spins the player hasn’t won anything? Is a bonus really a bonus if there’s no payout?  

Why do players have to get their own Players Card when the main benefactor is the casino? Why do we need a Players Card at a table to earn points? Does non-Players Club money not spend the same? Why does the player have to be inconvenienced? 

I know as operators, we have answers for all these questions. But if you stop for a moment and look at it from the player’s point of view, those answers are just like something else that everyone has: Excuses. It doesn’t matter what the back-of-the-house justification is. Good service isn’t reaching the guest, and ultimately, that’s all that matters, because that’s all the player remembers.  

What happened to the value of gaming? I’ll tell you. Our systems and procedures have eroded away at customer service to the point of zero-value play. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “I don’t mind paying for a cocktail at an Indian casino; at least I can get one,” I’d have a mountain of nickels. If the tribal operators can get this thing with service down right, why can’t the rest of us? Why do we constantly implement policies and procedures that are the enemies of good service? As operators, we tend to look at things from the inside-out instead of outside-in. Policies and procedures, when it comes to players and gaming institutions, need to be looked at from the player’s perspective. Then you manipulate the policy and procedure to meet the objective. These aren’t cash cows being led to slaughter, these are people. They’re our guests. We’ve instituted polices with the objective in mind and not the player in mind. The result is a cancerous attack on the kind of service players have come to expect and enjoy.

Players aren’t looking for big things. They expect big things to happen if they win, but when they’re playing, they expect a lot of small things to happen. Service, or the comprehension and perception of service, is made up of hundreds of little things that nobody notices until they’re missing. Every time you turn around in a casino these days, something is missing with regard to service. That is leading us to zero-value play. “Hooray” for the longevity of play, but even longevity of play loses meaning when it’s zero-value play.

Losing has to be fun. Nobody likes losing and having a bad time. Nobody likes losing and not getting service. When there’s zero-value play and you lose, you’re getting “serviced” in more ways than one, but not the way you’re hoping for. If I wanted to get serviced like that…well, you get the idea. I know the person who first said, “No card, No comp” is not literally an idiot, but clearly that person is not a player either.

Gaming options are increasing every day. In our hyper-competitive industry, service and perceived value are critical factors in determining a player’s loyalty. The foot-long hot dog and the 99 cents for a shrimp cocktail are gone. The need for value and superior customer service never left…and has never been greater. 

Gaming and services combine to form Real Player Value. These are the tangibles and intangibles experienced by the player which then create the overall perception of player value. The foundation of player value is that all quality standards, procedures, policies and measures should be PLAYER-driven, and should help employees direct the organization to deliver superior value to its players. Then and only then is everyone a winner—even the losers! In order to stay competitive, the gaming industry must strive to build a culture of exceptional player value and service. Knowing how to keep existing and future players happy is pivotal to long term success. It is by far the most cost-effective means of building player loyalty and increasing profits.



William “Billy-O” Orilio is CEO of ORILIO & ASSOCIATES, INC., Hospitality Consultants, NV PI License #1192, a San Diego based hospitality consulting company, which has specialized in “Mystery Shopping” and “Quality Business Assessments” for the past 28 years. He has been the publisher of “HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY REPORT” for 12 years, has taught Restaurant and Hotel Management at San Diego Mesa College for 20 years and Casino Management at San Diego State University for the past 3 years. 
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Contact:

William “Billy-O” Orilio
 800-711-7776
www.OrilioGaming.com
BillyO@OAHospitality.com

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Also See: Top 10 Group Events October 2006 - North America & Selected Markets / Knowland Group / November 2006
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