Customer comments Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2009

When the Casino Queen moved locations in 2007, it quickly became apparent to General Manager Tom Monaghan that some customers weren’t happy with the new space. And so, a $2.1 million entertainment venue will soon open to feed customer satisfaction.

But getting from Point A to Point B isn’t quite that easy. Step one and step two — realizing there’s a problem and talking with customers to understand its root — boil down to communication. And multiple forms at that.

To really communicate and understand your customers’ needs, you have to reach out to them in multiple ways, Monaghan says. Casino Queen, which brought in revenue of $160 million in 2008, uses three forms of focus groups and reaches customers through mail and strategically placed feedback boxes.

Listening is just the beginning, though. The most important aspect is the follow up, Monaghan says.

Smart Business spoke with Monaghan about how to effectively communicate with customers.

Make sure you’re gathering information from a range of customers. (The best way to communicate is) by being engaged with them. We do focus groups on an ongoing basis.

You get a group of people together, (let’s say about) 30, and you let them express their thoughts, their concerns verbally in the sense that you have controlled questions: What are your likes; what are your dislikes?

But you limit it to a smaller amount of questions that pertain to the company overall, and you give them the opportunity to speak.

When I’m doing it, if I’m doing it myself, I usually have somebody with me that’s recording their response.

A lot of the times you will secure the groups within your best players for their input because obviously they’re the most important to you.

That’s one format. The other way we’ve approached it here is by using an outside firm, (which) was randomly selecting groups of people off the floor in larger amounts, as much as 50, and direct questions would be answered and asked. The way they did this, it was a lot easier to compile the information. You would give them grading of excellent, poor, good, and they would only respond to the question in that format. There was not a verbal update, and … this was a computerized version so all the grading on the property or the product was instantaneous.

Maintain strong one-on-one communication with customers. One of the most important things is when you’re on your floor, you’re engaged with your customers, you’re talking to your customers.

When we talk about me being on the floor, indirectly that is a focus group because you’re listening to your guests on a one-on-one basis. I don’t necessarily solicit them with a list of questions; it’s usually just a, ‘Hi, how are you? How is everything going? Are they treating you right?’ And the guests will immediately take that opportunity to either (say) everything is fine, or if there’s some other things on their mind, they’ll share it with me.

You can call it whatever you want, you can call it quality time, sometimes it’s just as simple as your recognition to them as a regular customer. It’s really not that they’re giving you information a lot of times; a lot of times it’s just that you’re recognizing them.

Provide options for feedback. In our direct mail pieces that go out to our rated players, there is a direct e-mail address to me that is inclusive of it. So if you’re one of our players and you get the direct mail piece and you either want to compliment about something that went on or you have a complaint about something that went on, they have a direct contact to me.

It works very well for me in the sense that if there is some customer dissatisfaction, and I don’t care if it involves multiple departments, I can follow up on it immediately. And usually it’s less than a 24-hour time frame, I’m getting back to my guests letting them know what I found out about the problem, how we’re correcting the problem and resolving any issues they may have.

Follow up. Communication is the key but, more importantly, the follow up. So if someone expresses they had a wonderful experience, you have to be sure you go back and thank the employees that were named in part of making that experience great, or if there’s a problem, you find out what created the problem, communicate back with the guest and inform them of the changes that will take place in the future that will prevent it from happening to them again.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s the employees and/or the customers, the communication part of it is a lot of times people make many suggestions, but for one reason or another, it’s something that you can’t accomplish, you can’t just let it go. You have to explain to the employee and or the guest. Like all of this input that we got on the showroom, if for some reason, financially, we were unable to do it, it’s my responsibility to explain to them why, but that it’s not something we’re going to give up on, and we’ll proceed with it if we can.

And so there’s always follow-up. We have direct mail pieces that go out monthly. So anything new that’s going on, on the property, it can be updated to the guests monthly besides internal signage.

A good example (of follow up) is when we start construction on this new room, as the construction walls go up before the demo starts, our marketing team will wrap the outside of the drywall so our guests will know what this new room is going to look like from an exterior elevation as well as a blueprint or footprint of what the room will look like internally. It’s kind of like you asked for it, you got it, here it is.

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