Casinos need to remember they are in the people business

Casinos need to remember they are in the people business

December 27, 2016 3:00 AM


My wife used to work for Barnes & Noble in its heyday. She says she remembers how much she enjoyed working for them when it was run by book people. She left when the bean counters took over.

Of course, many factors led to Barnes & Noble’s steady decline, but no matter what business you’re in the focus must always be on the customer. When it becomes all about numbers, a company loses its soul.

Casinos are no different. Sometimes it seems they forget they are in the people business. A perfect example is an experience I had recently with one of the largest gaming corporations in the world.

I called to make a room reservation for a stay in Las Vegas. Every time I call, the customer service representative who is in a foreign country always tells me the same thing, “We can’t find your rewards number. Are you sure you have one?” I reply, “I have been your customer for 30 years! Why do you keep losing me?”

When they finally find my number, they proceed to bombard me with a list of outrageous charges before I even tell them I’ll take the room. They tell me I owe $15 for calling them on the phone and not using their website; they call it a booking fee.

So I tell them, “You want a booking fee, a resort fee and now a parking fee before I have even said yes?”

And that’s not all. Then they want me to listen to a time share pitch for a “free” pair of show tickets. Now I’m really irked. Before I even step on their property, I have been treated like a fool, not a VIP.

A smart gambler once told me it’s hard to take people’s money from them, but if you’re patient, they will give it to you. Another aspect of running a successful organization besides outstanding customer service is having great leaders at the top. The late Jerry Buss is a perfect example.

One night he passed by my table in a restaurant. I said, “Jerry, I am going to take my family to the NBA All-Star weekend.” Jerry said I could be his guest; just go to VIP services and he would leave me some tickets. He asked how many will be going. I said four and thank you.

That Saturday I got a call from his office that said the tickets were in will call. I was amazed not by the gift, but how he followed through on what he said he would do.

This reinforced my idea that great managers pay attention to others not themselves.

It shows that as successful as people like Buss are, they are other-focused, not self-centered, and that generous nature will be reflected in the organizations they run. They know people and see through those that are phony and reward those employees going the extra mile to make their company great.

I really worry that our gaming industry is losing its visionaries and is out of touch with its customer base. As I said earlier, the casino business is all about people – the leaders, employees and customers.

A cautionary tale about the future of gaming is the story of PokerStars. It’s just another example of not understanding people. PokerStars’ decision to move away from the loyal customers who brought them to the dance by saying pros are not welcome is just misguided.

To all the customers I have the pleasure of meeting over the last 30 years, have a great 2017!

Twitter: @thechipburner