World-class guest service is more than just a catchphrase at Ho-Chunk Casino, a Native American gaming, casino, hotel and convention center in Baraboo, Wis.; it's a formula for success.
As director of training and development, Randy Woodward faces a unique training challenge at the casino. "Not only is Ho-Chunk different than other businesses, it's different from other gaming industries," says Woodward. "Our financial success depends on repeat business from local customers, and that makes guest service training a top priority."
More than 10,000 guests a day try their luck at the casino, but according to Woodward, Ho-Chunk employees sometimes have a difficult job because they must deal with confrontational guests. "Gamblers are superstitious, suspicious and set in their ways," he explains. "If a guest is losing money they will often take it out on the staff."
Woodward has found a way to teach employees not to be disrespectful in return and how to be more tolerant by looking at the potential for lost income if the guest never returned.
World Class Guest Service is the casino's introduction to basic service concepts and skills and is presented to all new employees—from executives to custodians. In the training module, "What's a Guest Worth," Woodward uses a simple formula to establish the lifetime value of a guest. The calculation is done as a large group exercise with employees supplying the data. "Earlier in the training we have established that most of our guests are local, visit the casino one or more times a week and spend between $55 and $75," he says. The formula usually comes out to be $65 x 156 visits (three visits a week) x 35 years. The total: $354,900.
The goal of World Class Guest Service is to get employees thinking about what a guest is worth. "When employees realize that each guest is worth more than $350,000 they react more carefully to the rude guest," Woodward says.
Another wild card is word-of-mouth value. If a disgruntled guest doesn't return, the chances are good that his or her significant other won't return either. "This means a lost guest could cost the casino $750,000," he says. "Understanding this formula helps employees realize that a problem guest isn't such a problem after all."
Woodward says the employees' commitment to guest services helps justify the cost of training programs. "If our guest service training helps only one employee save one guest each year, then we have recouped the entire training budget for the year," he says. "Guest service training teaches new employees that they have a significant role in Ho-Chunk's success and that their attitude can cost—or save—the casino a valued guest."