Two casinos, one lesson

A business trip earlier this year to Las Vegas served to jog my memory of the importance of capitalizing on every opportunity to exceed expectations in addition to proper staff training across the board.

For most, staying in Las Vegas means some casino gaming. I am not an avid gambler, so an annual trip seems to suffice in getting this urge satiated. Hoping that fortunes would improve outside of the casino of my residential hotel, I ventured next door to see if a change of venue would offer a more positive turn.

I played a card game that gives the house a modest advantage of about 8% on the odds. Undaunted, I sat down at a table and handed over a few hundred dollars for some chips. The rules of this game are not overly complex. You place an ante on the table, and if you like your hand you can match or triple the ante with a bet. Those who elect not to bet can fold and leave the ante with the house.

It was early in the morning, and this casino was rather slow with its coffee service. After several passed hands, I was dealt what appeared to my eyes to be a pair of queens — a good hand worthy of a bet, which I did. After the play, it was revealed by the dealer that I also had a flush, a hand that would clearly be a triple-bet opportunity.

The dealer said she had to see what her crew chief would say. She wanted to allow me to triple my bet after the fact. In effect, I would be allowed to bet an additional $30 and gain $30 from the house. This had happened to me once before at another casino where I made a similar mistake. I guess the coffee had yet to kick in, or I am just not good at looking at cards.

The crew chief looked at the cards and refused to let me up the bet after the fact. The dealer apologized and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t make the rules here. I would gladly have allowed you to up your bet, but the crew chief is a real tight ass, and he just doesn’t understand the business we’re in — to make guests happy.”

I paused for a moment after this miniscule mishap because here was a frontline staffer who understood what service was all about. I say “miniscule” because this wasn’t really a slight against me — the crew chief was simply following the rules. However, it was an opportunity lost. Here was a strikingly clear chance for the casino to exceed my preset expectations and prove they genuinely cared about my well-being.

See, the multimillion (maybe billion)-dollar corporation that owned the casino would not even be able to find $30 in a rounding error on its tax returns let alone an extra $30 loss to some confused, two-bit gambler (me). Hence, the crew chief’s decision couldn’t really be measured as a strong financial contribution to the bottom line.

His decision was wrong on two counts. First, he did not support the line staffer’s recommendation, rejecting the request in front of both her and the guest. This can be quite demoralizing, but it may also ensure that this employee never even attempts to make decisions on her own because she doesn’t feel empowered to do so. Second, the crew chief made a decision that was not in favor of the guest — an opportunity lost to make me, the guest, a tad bit happier. By not exceeding my expectations, there was nothing in this casino that stood out as exceptional and nothing to cement a return visit.

I am not going to write a nasty review for the press, nor will I chastise this individual. Like most consumers, I simply won’t shop (that is, gamble) there again. There are simply too many other options for me to explore on The Strip, so why would I spend my time with a provider that don’t treat me as anything special?

These small exchanges can easily shift from opportunities lost to opportunities gained, bolstering both return visits and positive word of mouth. Think about how your frontline staffers relate to their managers. Consider your training programs and your approach to delegation of responsibility. Empowerment is a powerful tool when you motivate line staff to act in the guest’s best interest.

Remember, you are not in the business of selling rooms or selling food or selling spa packages or putting chips into a casino’s gigantic coffers. No matter your individual task, you are there to make guests happy, and any small interaction that lends itself to that purpose will pay out tenfold in the long term.