Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"...It Was The Worst of Times." - Failing Grades in Customer Service

In an attempt to help a individual who runs one of the largest gambling empires around the world, I got in touch with him to bring something to his attention. But, what I got instead was a "gut punch"-type reaction at me, as well as humiliation and not much in the way of resolution or recovery in the area of customer service!
"Phew", Now that I have that out and on the floor for discussion and/or debate, I want to back up and give everyone the chance to see why I won't be staying at Harrah's in San Diego County, but also what and why my one time "favorite" company to gamble with, is on my "No Bueno" list - (Kinda like call blocking... I refuse to do business with people who treat others in a negative or nasty manor, with no intent to provide "recover" for the customer).
If you don't already know, I like to run up to the casinos in the county from time to time, Harrah's being (at one time) my favorite place to go to locally.
Ever since I was a kid, my family would stop in Reno on our way back from visiting our relatives in other parts of the country. Reno wasn't exactly the most direct route back to San Diego, but there was always something magical about the city, and It was an enjoyable part of our trips.
One of the places that we frequented was their auto museum there, and we'd spend hours looking at all of the cars that belonged to this famous person or that one. But mostly it was the vehicles that would draw me in. The lines, the design features, the color scheme or sometimes that slight hint of mildew or moth balls would be prevalent when we'd visit. But to say the very least, Harrah's in Reno was a family tradition.
Harrah's back then, was located in Reno and Lake Tahoe. Today, the "Harrah's" name is in almost every corner of the country, providing gaming and amusement to adults in those venues, and I have continued the family tradition until now.
Not long ago, I was made aware of a problem within the management circle at Harrah's in San Diego County. I know several people that work there, and they are always kind and polite whenever my wife and I go on a "stay-cation" over a 3-day weekend, and I'd like to say that they're all really good folks as I've gotten to know each of them throughout the years.
About 3-months ago, talk amongst the rank-'n-file staff with regard to a problem that was beginning to brew there involving the facility's marketing director. Under normal circumstances, I would ignore this sort of talk, but in the casino industry, entertainment and customer experience tend to dictate your bottomline, and if your doing well, then your customers are happy and wouldn't think of going elsewhere. That's when the work you pay for in long hours pays off, when your clients and customers can't say enough good things about what you do.
The talk was ongoing, and it finally reached a point that I felt maybe someone in the management circle should be made aware, so that whatever the staff was really grumbling about could be confronted and addressed. So, I sent a message to a c-level executive I know at Caesar's Entertainment and advised him of the situation, figuring that he, being a level headed gent, would stop in and take a look and address it with the management at the San Diego operation.
What occurred next, I didn't even expect or anticipate. 
The next day, the email response was both dismissive of the issues I raised, and had a condescending tone to it. Now, I figured that maybe I was out of line or just didn't approach the matter well at all, and decided to let the whole thing go thinking, "Maybe I rubbed them wrong and they don't want me poking my nose somewhere I probably shouldn't be". So, I let this dog lie and moved on.
Three days later, my wife and I decided to go out and gamble, and Harrah's was one of those locations that we stopped at that evening. My wife had been saving some money to take me out so that I could play "craps", so when she got home from work... surprise!.. we went to the casino.
Under normal circumstances, I get "mailers" from the casinos I frequent, and I usually get free play or food credits at Harrah's, and many of the other casinos. They use these to draw you back, or as a "perk" for visiting their casino and it makes you feel better after a stinging loss. However, today was going to be an earthshaking day, and I didn't even see it coming at me. 
When we arrived, my wife went straight to her favorite slot machine, whereas I went to the "Total Rewards" window and handed the girl there my "perks". She scanned the barcodes on each one, and I watched this woman's smile turn from  brilliant, warm and friendly, to a look of shock and dismay. She looked up at me and told me that there may be something wrong, and that she needed her supervisor.
What happen next was amazing, but also tragic, petty and sad. 
The supervisor came to the desk, she apologized to me and said that all of my offers had been rescinded, and that I would have to speak to the facility's marketing director if I want them reinstated.
I was stunned, and humiliated to say the very least.
Now, the "perks," aren't a big deal, but what was a big deal was the seemingly retaliatory and child-like way that this occurred. Rather than stay there one more second feeling as if I had just flagellated in church on a Sunday morning during a prayer, I gathered my wife and left, vowing never to return.
I spend a considerable amount of time talking and teaching the "Disney" way of addressing customer service within the healthcare industry. As a marketing consultant, I have found this process and the transformation of the culture within a corporation to be exciting, inspiring and a sure-fire "best practices" way to turn an unprofitable business into a profitable one, for service-related businesses like healthcare or ambulance provider service.
As I've pointed out in previous stories, both marketing and customer service are two components of an well-run company. As parents and as consumers, we tend to gravitate toward those businesses that provide superior customer service. Additionally, marketing augments your customer service program, and customer services is where we have or "branding" components for business that involve client/customer loyalty, fostering repeat business.
The Author Fred Lee, is quoted as saying: 
 ''There is a profound difference between selling and marketing. Selling is trying to get people to want what you have. Marketing is trying to have what people want. When you have what people want, it makes selling unnecessary." 
Therefore, when a situation comes up where your business is dropping off, look to marketing and ask for their vision, campaign outlines, and how they're executing their marketing campaigns per their approved marketing plan. Do this while asking yourself if you still "have  what people want"?   -  Apparently you don't, if you're losing business.
The other area of your operation you should look at would be the "customer service" that you're providing. Is it still working for your company? Maybe it needs to be reviewed, revised, or re-worked. If they're not trying at all to "recover", following a bad incident with a customer, then your program is an embarrassing failure, and if you don't address this one item, then you should likely be terminated from your job.
I use to tell my former bosses that it wasn't a problem convincing people to try his service, but it was up to them to keep the new clients and make them brand loyal.
 What I mean by this statement is that "marketing" and "customer service" are related. The one augments the positive results of the other. Great marketing is often the result of great service to your customers. The wheels are in motion, and the marketer's dream begins to come true with the "word-of-mouth" boost about what your company does, and the quality of care, service, or product you're providing is the fuel needed to keep the wheels-in-motion.
While my story (although tragic) is true, it also stands out as a example of what not to do! Someone within the leadership (on a local level I must assume) of the organization made whatever I had said to become personal, and lashed out against me in a petty way, but it was enough for me to say that I won't return to this or any other of Harrah's operations, or Caesar's Entertainment's properties. I got their message LOUD & CLEAR, and it has been made clear via more than one conversation with their management, that my presence isn't wanted nor desired their. 
In closing, I'd like to afford my readers one last piece of sage advice. When dealing with customer complaints or problems, always remember to take the opportunity to "recover" in some way with the dis-satisfied customer. You need to try to make your customer feel better about a situation or bad experience. Not attempting  to recover from the situation, is an opportunity missed, and will create a caveat of bad publicity or press. It's far more expensive then helping a customer understand, your position. However in my situation, all they've done now is to indelibly embed this escapade in my mind. Something you never want a client to do.