Like it or not all Casinos have customers that complain and our ability to deal with them can have one of 2 outcomes. The first one is (hopefully) the one every Casino manager dreams of which is when the dispute is resolved quickly and the post incident customer experience is greater than it was before the incident ever happened. As a direct result of such euphoric satisfaction the customer becomes loyal to your casino and their repeat visits are frequent and overflowing with anticipated excitement. Even better still, the very same customer shares their joy all over social media and all of a sudden new customers flock to your casino and you all live happily ever after.
The second outcome is not as picturesque as this is the option your Casino manager loses sleep about and starts doing strange things like bumping into walls, crying in his office with the lights off and laughing out loud for no reason. This second outcome is when the customer becomes angry because the staff are clueless, no one is accepting responsibility, empathy is anemic and management is nowhere to be seen. This is the outcome where phrases such as, “come back tomorrow” and “that’s not my job” are uttered in the shadows. This kind of outcome can cause you to lose a good customer on a permanent basis and the social media backlash can see you losing even more. Just as important is the fact that poor dispute management skills can also damage your casinos reputation.
Obviously the first outcome is the ideal option for all Casinos and the one that will hopefully keep you GM from walking into walls. With competition being so fierce your “loyal customers” will leave you at the drop of a hat and the main reason for this isn’t because the bill acceptor rejected a few bills or because the cash out ticket didn’t print out correctly. The main reason people will leave you is because of poor customer service and the way you made them feel.
Before moving into the fundamentals of successful complaint management let’s consider some common, and sometimes humorous, slot customer complaints such as
- The slot machine never pays, I want my money back
- I inserted a 50 dollar ticket in this machines and when I returned from the buffet it was gone
- I should have won more in the bonus feature that I played 20 minutes ago
- The hold button isn’t working and I hit a royal flush
- I never received a free drink so now I demand a free t-shirt
- I didn’t accumulate points on my players card and now I want $2000 in free play
- It’s New Year’s eve and I want my room closer to the Casino floor
As you can see complaints come in all shapes and forms but there are also many myths and stories surrounding how disputes have been (and in some cases still are) handled by both the customer and the operator. Some of these myths may have a grain of truth in them but please be aware that the following are definitely NOT the correct way to handle a customer dispute.
- Losing customer takes out a gun, helps himself to all the high denomination chips from the dealer’s tray and threatens to kill everyone and their families unless he gets his cash. Next day the customer is found floating in a river
- A navy admiral loses his and his crews money in a famous casino and demands his money back. When the casino refuses to cover all his losses the admiral calmly explains that if you don’t pay my warship will open fire on your casino
- A slots player loses, smashes up the slot machine, gropes the slot attendant, runs behind the bar and steals a bottle of top shelf whisky for the road.
- Customer accuses the casino of unfair play – Security is called, the customer is taken out back, beat up and any money he has left on him is gladly accepted by security for the inconvenience
- Attendant states they will be back in 5 minutes with the boss, never to be seen again!
- Another free drink is seen as the answer to all customer complaints
It costs more to attract new customers to you property than it does to retain the ones you already have so learning how to recover from a flawed experience is essential and has a hidden value that can result in even greater value for the customer. Dealing with customer complaints is no one’s favourite part of the job but we must learn its art, master it, practice it and embrace it. Below are some points that will help you use your newly learned skills to consistently exceed your customers’ expectations even when they are seeing red and dreaming of you paying for their next vacation.
- Stay calm and don’t take it personally. Shouting at an angry customer will only make it worse
- Listen and understand what the customer is telling you, repeat if necessary and make sure the customer acknowledges the facts.
- Show empathy as this will give the customer some comfort and show that you genuinely care.
- Make sure you follow company procedures and that the facts are verified by the appropriate member of staff such as a slot technician, the surveillance team and, or a shift supervisor.
- Apologise but never blame anyone
- Find out what the customer wants (if it is not already obvious) and reassure them that the complaint will be handled correctly and in a timely manner.
- Take charge of the situation by offering an immediate solution wherever possible. If no immediate solution is available make sure you keep the customer informed and give them an estimated time line for dispute resolution.
- Thanks the customer
- Follow up when necessary
All slot techs should know the value and meaning of preventive maintenance and its positive contribution as part of a proactive best practices approach to avoiding disputes before they even happen. A casino should use customer complaints as an opportunity to integrate complaints management with their business improvement strategy. Below is a list of some of the proven methods that will minimize disputes and keep the boss, your staff and your customers from breaking things unnecessarily.
- Slot machine preventive maintenance
- Mystery shoppers
- Customer surveys such as market Matrix
- External consultants.
- Social media monitoring and response strategy
- Achieving operational consistency through ongoing customer service and best practices training
- Making sure that the customers know which communications channels are available for them to voice their opinion
Obviously there are times where no member of casino staff should have to tolerate a customer’s abusive behaviour as we are all human beings and should be treated with respect, compassion, honesty and integrity. When a customer gets abusive the first thing a staff member should do is back away from the situation and call their supervisor and security as they are better prepared to handle these kinds of situations and will keep employees out of harm’s way. Below is a list of some of the abusive behaviours that should never be tolerated in a casino:
- Sexist comments
- Racist comments
- Abusive language
- Table pounding
- Offensive Gestures
- Throwing things
Successful complaint handling may not be as glamorous as Casino marketing but it creates the future value of the customer, strengthens the message of your brand and, when effectively integrated with your business improvement strategy, can make the complaints go away before they even happen. You don’t need any unnecessary problems, your customers don’t need any unnecessary problems and I’m sure that having the ability to stomp them out before they start breathing fire will prevent your boss from inexplicably bumping into walls and other inanimate objects.
Having an effective complaints management strategy in place is not a priority? Do you prefer outcome number 2 when handling a dispute? Do you prefer to take the angry customer out the back like in the good old days? Hopefully your answer to all three questions is a big no, but if it isn’t, your competition will thank you for many years to come.