Casinos, like Target, should ‘do different’

Apr 3, 2018 3:10 AM

“Do different.”

Those are two words that have recently become among my favorites because they can provide a path for a large number of U.S. businesses, including casino/resort/hospitality companies as they attempt to retain and expand their customer base.

I don’t believe any company has adopted “do different” as an official slogan. Apple has used “Think Different” in the past. I believe I first heard the phrase in an interview with a hockey player whose primary language is French rather than English. His interview in English, of course, was about goal scoring not business, but the meaning transcends sports.

The current economic environment requires more than lip service and a catchy slogan with little real meaning. Real marketing must be backed up with action and employee/employer commitment rather than words.

The giant retailer Target, at a time when shopping malls are struggling and shoppers stay at home and buy over the internet, is now trying to “do different” with a significant strategic shift in which it will make big investments in its work force.

Target CEO Brian Cornell, speaking at a keynote session at the recent ShopTalk gathering in Las Vegas, says his company is changing.

“We’re investing a lot in hours, staffing, training and development and creating experts within our stores,” he said. “Because we know as we listen to our guests in certain categories, they want someone there who is an expert. When they shop Target for beauty, they want a beauty expert that they’re coming to. In apparel, they want someone who [will help them] put the whole outfit together. When they’re in a department like food and beverage, they want a food and beverage expert to interact with, let alone when they’re shopping for technology.”

Cornell says Target is investing in expertise in core departments in which the customer seeks and expects a meaningful interaction with a knowledgeable employee.

Count this observer as one of those who has long believed a savvy casino/resort operator would do well to follow Target’s example. Group dice and poker lessons are not as prevalent as they used to be and seem sort of antiquated in today’s modern world. Perhaps the slot floor, the “21” pit, the poker room, race and sportsbook and other gambling areas should have “salesmen and saleswomen” more readily available to answer questions for would-be and current players.

I fondly recall my late mother, who knew next to nothing about video poker and whose vision problems made it hard for her to see the difference between clubs and spades, asking me which hand was better, a flush or a straight? Because I was funding her play, even though it was just a nickel a hand, I was exasperated. I told a casino executive friend about our conversation and he amusingly told me, “We need more players like her.”

Gambling can be lots of fun, even if you lose some money that’s within your budget. However, it’s that slight trepidation to ask a question on the part of novices that can halt them right in their tracks. No one wants to look ignorant or ask a dumb question. However, when it comes to gambling there’s really no such thing as a dumb question so I wish casino personnel would do more to encourage them.

If Nevada-style sports wagering becomes the new “national pastime” as many predict if the Supreme Court throws out the current law banning it in the other 49 states, expect those newly minted sportsbooks that provide the best customer experience to come out on top.

A friendly casino staff that’s more actively attempting to answer guests’ questions seems to me to be a more worthwhile approach as a means of getting return visits, even after a player has lost. Generally, players know lessons sometimes cost money and winning can be more likely when losing some cash has drummed home the many lessons taught by losing.

It’s been pointed out that Target’s plan to train thousands of sales associates to assist customers rather than actually make sales will be very expensive, but, if successful, would produce significant rewards.

Cornell says although products and information are available online, many customers still enjoy a “human touch.” Sure, there’s lots of information about casino games online in addition to the games themselves, but many players prefer to get their gambling questions answered in person and enjoy the good fellowship at a dice or card table.

Increased personalized customer service can be equally effective in the casino world as well as the retail world.