It is no secret across the US and across many industries there are staff shortages and it is having an impact on the business, on the employees and on the customers. Prior to the pandemic, businesses have been trying to automate customer touch points. Of course, automating customer touch points are supposed to make things quick and easy and help the business with efficiencies and with staffing levels. Like with all areas in business, there is a breaking point. When does automation take away from the customer experience?
Even with automation and with staff shortages, the basics of customer service have become less and less of a priority. Interaction with staff at some businesses have made it feel like there is no customer service training or no review of customer service is done anymore.
Automation: Not A Friendly Personal Experience, Not an Easy Transaction
If you have checked into a larger hotel lately, you may find a kiosk instead of a front desk for checking in. Recently, I stayed at the Flamingo Casino Hotel in Las Vegas for a conference. Yes, I live in Las Vegas, but I decided staying on the Strip for a multiple day conference was going to be easier than driving in and out of the area (I am getting older!) Plus it would be a time to play “tourist” for a couple of days since really don’t get down to the Strip often. I made the reservation online about 2 weeks prior to the date of the conference, so I would have a reservation when I got there.
We arrived at the Flamingo at approximately 4:00PM on a Saturday afternoon. We went to the front desk to check in. There were a few people in line ahead of us. A few minutes later a few people got in line behind us. A lady at the back of the line, that seemed to have a few cocktails prior to getting in line, started to ask everyone if they were checking in and if so to move to a kiosk. I saw 10 kiosk lined up in front of the hotel front desk, but I want to talk to a hotel representative (Not ot be a snob or be a difficult customer. You learn as a Las Vegas local to ask if there are locals discounts. I also wanted to find out if there were any possible upgrades or amenities that may be available. Never know what is available until you ask). There was no one at the front desk behind the kiosk. I did find one employee in the check in area that was directing people to the next open kiosk (even though there were plenty open). I told her I had a couple of questions in regards to my reservation. She told me all of my answers could be found on the kiosk.
I proceeded to the kiosk to check in. The kiosk is supposed to scan your drivers license to retrieve your reservation. But the kiosk was having problems scanning my license. I looked to find the woman that was directing traffic to find her leaning against one of the kiosk talking to two other employees about what they were going to do that evening when they got off work. I tried to be polite and said “Excuse me, the kiosk is not reading my drivers license.” Before I could finish my sentence one of the employees told me “Just try another kiosk.” So I did. After about 5 minutes of trying to line it up just to the precise millimeter and holding my breath, the kiosk finally get my reservation pulled up. There was no option for an upgrade or even information to tell me an upgrade was not available. There was no information on the property such as restaurants, events, etc. Just my reservation and asking me for a credit card. I turned again towards the three employees who were still busy discussing their weekend plans and holding themselves up against another kiosk and asked for some assistance. One of the employees looked at me as if I had stopped her entire world for a moment. Then turned around and started talking to the other employees. After a few minutes of thinking about standing on top of the kiosk and yelling for help, which I didn’t do, I finished my check in and the kiosk spit out my room keys. I turned to the three employees again and started to ask how to get to the elevators to get to my room, but couldn’t get a word in or even eye contact as they were to in-depth on the conversation of where the drink specials were that evening. I finally found a dealer at an empty blackjack table and asked for directions. The dealer seemed happy to have someone to talk too.
Automating customer touch points may seem like saving time and a cost savings on the books, but will never be personable as human interaction. You have to have a customer service standards program, training for the employees and a plan for an ongoing review of the customer service standards. You have to have employees that are willing to interact with customers to make a customer service program a success. A little time for internal review with staff could save a lot of time resolving negative public reviews and complaints.
Remember a positive memorable experience will be told only to a few friends,
a bad experience will be told to many.
Staff Communication: A Necessity for Success
On a Monday evening, my wife and I and a few local friends decided we would go to the Stratosphere and go to level 108 for a cocktail and the view of the Strip (I used to work there, so thought it would be great to show my wife and some locals the view). We went to the ticket counter, to purchase our admission tickets to ride up to the top of the tower. To ride the elevator up the fee is $20 for non-locals and $10 for locals (always ask for a locals discount!) which is then marked up 40% for “taxes and fees.” The ticket counter is set up with a dedicated window for tickets for the tower and another window for tickets to a tribute show. I guess the ticket counter representatives have customers that go to the wrong window all the time, as they will tell you before you can get your complete question out, and with a stern voice “This window is for shows only!” “The other window if tower tickets!” Still not sure why there are not 2 terminals in each window that can accommodate both shows and tower tickets and have more than 2 windows for peak times. I could have purchased tickets online, but they don’t have an option for a locals discount online. Also the website has no information about anything being closed on the property. The website showed everything being open.
The lady at the tower window was friendly. Told her we were going to Level 108 for cocktails. She told us they had remodeled Level 108 and told us to enjoy our time at Level 108. We approached the elevator to take us up and the lady attending the elevator told us a big group had just gone up on those elevators, but that we could go around and take the elevators around the corner. As we approached the elevators on the other side a gentleman stopped us and said “You can’t be back here!” “You can’t use these elevators!” “These elevators are for VIP!” I explained to him, we were directed back there by the lady at the other elevators. He said, “I don’t care!” “She is wrong!” “You need to go back to the other elevators!” All the time while raising his voice he was pointing over our heads to go back. I guess he was loud enough that the lady from the other elevator came around the corner and told him that she had directed us to those elevators because of a large crowd taking her elevators. They began a little exchange of their disagreement on which elevators are to be used in front of us. The lady attendant apologized to us and got us on the original elevators and told us to have a good time at Level 108. We got the on the elevator, doors shut and the elevator attendant asked us what floor. We told him we were going to Level 108 for a cocktail and the view. As we were ascending, he said, “Oh, Level 108 is closed for a private event.” “I found out, because I just took a large group up there for the event.” “But if you get off and catch the next elevator down, I am sure they will give you a refund, since you are coming right back down.” He dropped us off at Level 109 because of the large group on Level 108. We got back on the next elevator and came back down. The lady at the bottom elevator asked why we were back so quick. I told her Level 108 was closed for an event. She apologized as she was not aware there was an event that evening. We went to the ticket counter and the same lady was working the ticket window. She told us the ticket window was closed. I told her I wanted a refund since we didn’t stay up there because of a private event. She was nice and apologized as well and she was not aware there was an event that evening and proceeded to refund our tickets. We saw others behind us coming from different elevators asking for refunds as well because of Level 108 being closed.
While we were still at the Stratosphere, we decided to get something light to eat but with a little variety. We were not trying to be too picky, so we thought PT’s sounded light yet have some variety for a us a group. We got behind a few standing in line waiting to get seated. We waited for a few minutes, then realized no one in front of us was getting seated and we could see inside the restaurant there plenty of open tables. The lady at the front counter was working on the register, pushing a lot of buttons and feeding paper back and forth through the machine. It seemed as though she didn’t want to look over and see the line that was forming at the door. Finally a gentleman at the front of the line went over to the counter and was talking to the lady. He came back and told his group that the restaurant was closed for a private event, which then told the group behind them, which told the group behind them and so on. We noticed there were no signs or anything saying it was closed. The lady told the gentleman they didn’t have a sign saying it was closed. Finally after an hour of frustration only to ride an elevator up and down plus the time to get there and back we finally decided to leave.
COMMUNICATION! COMMUNICATION! COMMUNICATION! One of the key pieces of the puzzle to success. We have pre-shift meetings for each department before every shift with everyone that is in that department on that shift. Some employees hate spending the extra 10 to 15 minutes before every shift in a meeting. But they are informed. We also have badge cards with information on what is happening on property so that every employee can find the current info on that card in their badge holder.
With today’s technology, we also have created employee facing mobile apps so that messages can be sent out to every employee and content can be changed quickly on the app to keep all employees informed.
We all know things in a casino, hotel and / or resort can change quickly. Such as having a private event come in and take over a restaurant or lounge or an area of the property. Get the word out to the staff!!! Bring it up in a pre-shift meetings. Put notices up in key areas such as ticket counters / information booths. Make sure the information on areas being closed or changes in hours gets out to customer touch points i.e. website(s), social media, signage on property, etc. Having a sign printed in-house or outsourced only takes a few minutes. That few minutes could save hours of tackling negative reviews and negative comments and trying to bring those customers back to the property and possibly the customers they are telling about their experience.
AGAIN – a positive memorable experience will be told only to a few friends,
a bad experience will be told to many.