My family and I went on a five-day Disney cruise and it was an enlightening adventure that offered important casino customer service lessons for all gaming properties.
As a 20-year customer service consultant who helps casinos measure, manage and improve their guest experience, I wanted to do more than have fun. I wanted to see what kind of service and cruise experiences the Disney team offered.
Consistency Is Invaluable
The first service experience occurred while pre-boarding the ship. Part of the “service” was provided by non-Disney staff – government employees who checked luggage, examined passports and handled international travel regulations. I knew these were not Disney people, but they had an effect on my view of the Disney experience.
For casinos with multiple locations and enterprises, it’s important to remember that when guests visit any part of your world, to them it’s all part of the casino. So if guests have only an average experience while dining in the restaurant, they will tell family and friends that service at the “casino” is just OK. If they call to make reservations at the hotel and the phone rings more than three times, they tell people that the casino’s service is slow.
A consistent customer experience everywhere is critical.
Treat Guests Like Rock Stars
As passengers boarded the ship, each family was announced and applauded by crew members lining the entryway. At that moment, my family and I felt like rock stars. We heard our names and smiling people acknowledged us. Very nice!
What can casinos do to recognize their guests? How can they make them feel special on a regular basis? A few simple yet effective ideas that come to mind include warm smiles, common courtesy and anticipating guests’ needs before they ask. Our rock star experience felt real and memorable and that is a critical part of the experience casinos should create. When a casino creates those moments, guests can’t wait to tell family and friends about the amazing experience they had and how special they felt.
Service Standards Create Magical Moments
I know Disney has service standards. I don’t know what they are, but my guess is that one requires each crew member to create a “magical moment” for passengers. We had a great trip, but we only had a couple of the crew who crafted something really special for us.
However, the crew did a great job of consistently saying hello and good morning, regardless of the passenger’s native tongue. The crew understood that they must acknowledge all guests they encountered. Some greetings were less warm than others, but I didn’t pass a crew member who didn’t adhere to that standard.
That kind of acknowledgement – combined with other standards such as responding to guests’ requests immediately and asking questions when communicating with guests about a problem – is an important element of casino customer service. Our cruise was proof that standards do create Disney magic and the same can happen on the casino floor. Getting a thousand employees to acknowledge every guest is no simple task, but it must be done. Disney is spot on with that standard.
Finally, standards must be very specific. If they can’t be demonstrated and measured, it’s almost impossible to train employees on how to transform them into new behaviors.
It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are
Now a lesson about the importance of providing stellar service no matter who you are at the casino, even if you hold a lower-paid position. One crew member in particular did an outstanding job of creating Disney magic for us. It wasn’t a friendly bartender or our restaurant server. It wasn’t the social director. It was our room steward, Melky, an Indonesian. Melky’s English was moderately broken, but he was amazingly warm and caring. Each evening, crew members folded towels into animal shapes and we could sense the care Melky put into this task. He always said hello and used our names. He had a wonderfully warm smile that made us feel welcome and at home.
Many of Melky’s responsibilities were routine. Likewise, casinos tend to operate at a “transactional” level. From checking into the hotel and cashing out chips at the cage, it’s all a transaction. That should be invisible to guests. All employees, from the general manager on down, should cover it up with an astounding overall experience.
Service Gap Analysis
Disney cruises would benefit from a service gap analysis. Disney should take a non-biased look at where service exceeds internal delivery standards and where it falls short. Two areas begging for improvement on our trip were interaction with the medical staff and the pre-excursion experience.
All casinos have gaps between the service they expect to deliver and what they actually provide. A gap analysis gives them actionable data for making improvements.
Martin R. Baird is chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a world leader in casino guest experience measurement, management and improvement.
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