One of the most complicated issues in a gaming floor is the handling of personal conflicts. In this exclusive article, our new Expert, Steve Karoul (Euro-Asia Consulting), advises, step by step, what a manager should do to address customers’ complaints and give them a satisfactory resolution in order to keep them loyal to the property.
By Steve Karoul, President and CEO, Euro-Asia Consulting*
How do you diffuse tension when a player becomes upset or angry? It sounds like a simple question, but the answer can often be quite intricate. It also does not matter whether he/she is a table game player or a slot customer. Conflict is conflict. I used to have an office located on the casino floor at Foxwoods Casino. We averaged 30,000 to 70,000 customers per day coming through our doors. Therefore, I had a lot of “opportunity” to deal with upset customers. I say “opportunity” because this allows us a chance to save or salvage an upset player that may go away angry and visit our competition on his/her next trip. Often times, this is a ‘face to face’ experience, but sometimes it is over the telephone. Nevertheless, an angry upset player is usually going to be confrontational and come at you with an “us versus them” attitude. Therefore, if you recognize this upfront and are prepared for it, you still have a chance of salvaging the customer.
STEPS TO DEAL WITH AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM
Initially, we should review the problem. Normally, I always like to listen to the player first and give them a reasonable opportunity to vent their frustration or anger. I usually start with a simple phrase such as “Let’s review the problem.” Then, I sit back and ‘listen’ very carefully, giving the customer ample opportunity to vent or describe exactly what he/she perceives the issues to be. By asking the player to review the problem, you are actually forcing them to think, not just vent. This by itself can often help smooth things considerably. In addition, by listening carefully you are also letting the customer know that you genuinely care and are interested in hearing their version of what happened. This also allows you some valuable time while listening to hopefully figure out a reasonable solution to their problem.
Second, if the complaint is via telephone, you have two options. First, if the problem is straight forward, you can resolve it by telephone quickly. However, if it is not so straight forward and the player is very upset and yelling or venting at you over the telephone, I normally suggest that we get together and meet face to face to discuss the problem. This again gives you some valuable cooling down time versus trying to rationalize with an angry upset customer over the telephone. Your conversation has a much better chance of being far more controlled and productive once you get together similar to the situation in number one above.
Sometimes, the confrontation between an angry upset player and yourself may remind you of two rams butting heads but going nowhere. It can happen especially if the player is unreasonable with their demands. Unfortunately, many players that lose money in the casino honestly think that they should be entitled to more than what they actually receive. If the customer is a valuable one and you want to try to save the player, you may need to call in a third party. This will probably be another casino executive. Have them listen to the upset customer, but make sure that your informal arbiter knows that he/she should approach the situation as objectively as possible, which may cue both you and your upset customer to do the same. Normally, a reasonable solution can be found. If not, be prepared to lose the customer at least for the short term.
After you carefully listen to the upset customer, it is very important that you re-affirm your desire to work out a satisfactory solution to the problem. In addition, you can now work toward actually trying to identify what went wrong and begin to take reasonable steps to correct the problem, so that other players will not endure the same.
Then, it’s time to reflect on how you think you should solve this. I caution you to be very careful in selecting this strategy due to the fact that casino customers who lose money may in fact believe that they are entitled to unreasonable claims or wishes. If you even think that you know what the customer wants and you feel that it is unreasonable, do not use this approach. However, if a resolution to the problem isn’t immediately obvious, you can buy some time by tossing the issue into the player’s lap which may help them to better understand that you really are trying to help them and, in turn, they may suggest a reasonable solution. Conversely, I have found that many players often suggest unreasonable solutions, but, at least, I then know what their expectations are. You then need more time to discuss options. I have personally found that if I recognize them and their problem, but also explain that I do not own the casino and, therefore, what they are asking of me is not within my authority, we can then towards a more reasonable solution to satisfy them. Remember, rewards have to fit in with the ‘lifetime value’ of the player.
An essential consideration is to prepare actions in order to avoid this from happening again. This is usually the final touch for completely diffusing the conflict. Once more, this demonstrates to the customer that you really do care not only about their recommendations or ideas, but that you demonstrate an ongoing commitment to customer care. So you discreetly worked toward a reasonable solution to the problem and also want to try to make sure that the same problem does not occur again. If the player offers ideas or suggestions that seem reasonable and cost effective, then you should intend to implement them as soon as possible.
No matter how upset the player is or which approach you decide to take in order to resolve the conflict, always try to be as “inclusive” as possible in every solution that you offer. For one thing, this will immediately diffuse the “us versus them” landmine present in most conflict. It will also let the customer know that you consider a common understanding to be an important outcome of the discussion. If you can achieve this, you can most likely resolve the conflict and salvage the customer.
*Steve Karoul is President and CEO, Euro-Asia Consulting, with over 40 years of hands-on experience in the industry. An innovator and a recognized authority in the areas of International Casino Marketing and Casino Junket Operations, he has also conducted casino related business in 100+ different countries around the world. This leading casino marketing consultant has lived in South Africa, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Bangkok and the Philippines.