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2 May 2015
By Martin R Baird
Mystery shoppers provide casinos with a snapshot of what real guests experience at the property. But there can be pitfalls if the shopping is not properly organized and utilized.
Mystery shopping is a valuable service. Casino marketing departments often use mystery shoppers to gain insight into how guests feel about the property’s customer service. Casino human resources teams use mystery shoppers as part of incentive programs. Casinos also use mystery shopper data for personnel reviews, promotions and even bonuses.
And there is a side benefit. If employees know that the property is shopped regularly, it creates a halo effect on service. Employees smile more because there’s always the possibility they’re being shopped.
Casinos use shoppers for all kinds of reasons, but there are eight shopping mistakes that could do real harm.
1. All Shoppers Are Not Created Equal.
There is plenty of online advertising in which mystery shopping companies offer to hire shoppers. Companies even place billboard ads near casinos where customers can see them. In other words, some shopping firms will select almost anyone to do the shop. The casino could end up with shoppers who don’t know the difference between a full house and a straight. Would you want someone who has answered an online or billboard ad deciding how well your casino delivers its guest service? Be careful which company you hire.
2. How Are the Shoppers Trained?
Some mystery shopping services contract with a person in the morning and have them shopping a casino by the end of the day. Shoppers need to be educated about what they are looking for and how they are to rate experiences. Good mystery shopping companies invest time and money to train and develop the shoppers. Ask about training before you select a company.
3. What Are Shoppers Shopping For?
Casinos should have specific service standards that they want reviewed. There are now TV shows about mystery shoppers and I guarantee that the shoppers are looking for specific service problems. They know exactly what to look for before they walk through the door.
4. Many casino mystery shopping programs fail because they lack these very specific standards. Casinos don’t want shoppers just sharing opinions. For example, when a casino has a so-called standard for “big friendly smiles,” the shopping results are subjective. That makes service almost impossible to measure and very difficult to improve. The real value comes when shoppers report results based on how well a casino employee delivered on specific standards.
5. Price Matters.
It’s not difficult to find complaints on the Internet from mystery shoppers who did the work but were not paid. Any casino should question the validity of the data generated by a shopper who doesn’t get paid for the work performed. Just how good a job will these shoppers do evaluating customer service? Why would a casino even use unpaid shoppers?
Some mystery shopping companies pay shoppers little or nothing because the firm provides gambling money and pays for meals. The information that shoppers collect is valuable, so they should be paid for the work they do. When a casino tries to cut costs on mystery shopping, it is only hurting itself. Understanding the service that guests actually receive is highly valuable for long-term success.
6. Employees Are Set Up to Fail.
It makes no sense to roll out a mystery-shopping campaign to evaluate customer service and not train employees on how they are expected to perform. That’s setting them up to fail. Casinos should want their employees to do well when shoppers are on the premises. Positive shopping results show that the training creates good service and all that good news makes employees proud of their work. One more thing – customer service training should be FUN. After all, casinos are part of the entertainment business. It shocks me when casinos offer dull training and then tell employees to go out and make it fun.
7. Using Data the Wrong Way.
Shopping data is best used in conjunction with a system for observation and improvement. The mistake some casinos make is that they use the shopping results as an excuse to punish employees. That creates anxiety, not improvement. Management should use the data as an indicator and then observe for themselves to see if there’s a troubling pattern that needs correction with training or better supervision.
8. Pride Gets In the Way.
There are times when casino executives let their pride get in the way of improvement. When managers insert their egos into the mix, they try to invalidate the data to make themselves feel better. Mystery shopping results are not right or wrong. Shops are not conducted to make people or a department look good or bad. They simply involve observation.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Martin R Baird
Martin R Baird