Future Scanning: Esports and the Casino Industry

For years, experts in the casino industry have attempted to understand what the future of casinos and gambling will look like. As the number of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers customers, the majority of heavy spenders in the gaming industry, continue to dwindle over the coming years, many wonder what will draw younger generations in to fill their absence and spend money. The biggest focus and research has been directed at the Millennial Generation.

Millennials are not attracted to gambling in the same ways that their parents and their grandparents were and casinos are continuously trying to figure out what will bring them in and get them spending more money. There has been talk of interactive gaming, gaming that relates closely to video gaming, skill-based gaming, and more. [1]

Though electronic table games are not new to the industry, many casinos are increasing the number of these types of games on their gaming floors. These games can be less intimidating and often have lower betting minimums which may help attract younger players. The games also allow players to make multiple bets on multiple games at the same time, increasing the opportunity for revenue for the casino. [2]

New skill-based games are emerging as well. They allow players to compete against one another and challenge them based on skill level. Though not quite popular yet, as these types of games are still fairly new to the industry. [2] Millennials, in general, are not attracted to the traditional slot machine. The generation is big on online gaming and skill-based games. They prefer a much more social setting to be entertained in as opposed to sitting by themselves in front of a machine. Game makers are also looking for ways to allow players to use their cell phones to be able to see where they and other players rank in competition. [3],

For the past few years, there has been much talk and buzz about Esports. Esports are video game competitions for money. This type of gaming is expected to grow over the coming years. [2] It is an attractive concept to millennials who grew up with video games and even around competitive video gaming.

As casinos continue to try to plan for the future, gamblers may see an increase in new technology on gaming floors, including virtual reality installations and more competitive, skill-based gaming. [2] According to the CEO of MGM Resorts International, James Murren, the slot floors of today are not going to be the slot floors a decade from now. Even the look of slot machines will change, in fact, they already are changing. Many game designers are crafting machines that look more sleek, more digital or computer-like, and to resemble video games. CEO of Gamblit Gaming, an innovation gaming company, Eric Meyerhofer, the future casino floor will look more like an adult arcade. Casinos can already be seen transforming their gaming floors, taking out old gaming, adding new games and features that will hopefully attract the younger generation. Meyerhofer also predicts that gaming will become a more social atmosphere and incorporate gaming with non-gaming entertainment, instead of the traditional practice to keep them separate. [3]

In order to remain competitive and relevant, casinos must focus on attracting all generations and understand the differences in what attracts each. [3] The industry must be fluid and accepting of new technology, but also find the balance between attracting the new customers but also retaining the old customers simultaneously. The future of gaming is sure to change and shift in the coming years and decades, especially as new technology and types of gaming emerge.

[1] Barlow, K. (2018, January 04). Millennials and the Gaming Industry in 2017: New Directions Take Hold. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.casino.org/news/millennials-and-the-gaming-industry-in-2017-new-directions-take-hold

[2] Meltzer, M. (n.d.). What could the casino of the future look like? Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.travelvegas.com/blog/future-vegas-casinos/

[3] K. H. (2017, August 31). The Casino Floor of Tomorrow: Attracting Millennials to Casinos. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.casino.org/blog/the-casino-floor-of-tomorrow-attracting-millennials-to-casinos/

Building Your Team On Emotion

In his book, All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick talks a lot about the irrational customer, near the end though he discusses something a little different, yet still related to customer behavior.  He says that a major factor in delivering the right products and service to your irrational customers is hiring employees who can connect with those customers emotionally. When hiring employees it is important to have an understanding of where they stand emotionally, and just like with customers, it is important to understand their behavior and to watch and learn. He says to hire for emotion, then train for skills.

This most closely relates to hiring employees who are emotionally intelligent. Employees who are not just aware of their own emotions and behaviors but who are aware of the emotions and behaviors of others. Annie McKee’s article How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence in the Harvard Business Review confirms many of the points that Cusick makes about hiring for emotion. She suggests checking with references to learn about a candidates emotional intelligence and ask questions in the interview that require the candidate to talk about how they behave and respond emotionally. Though Cusick says to test for emotional intelligence or emotion using personality tests, McKee warns against it saying that these tests measure for personality and not emotion, which is what the focus is here. My advice is to use them in conjunction with the other suggestions at hand.

McKee ends her article with this very strong statement. “If you’re able to “see” your candidate’s EI in action, you’ll make a better hire. Or you’ll pass. Either way you’re doing yourself and your organization a big favor.”

You’ve hired the candidate with great emotional intelligence, now what?  You must equip the employee with the necessary skills to do the job well, and you must engage the employee so that they want to do well, help fulfill the brand promise, help the company succeed, and hep to make customers happy. Engaged employees who have the tools that they need to succeed, work harder, more efficiently, better, and stick around longer. They also help to increase customer retention. They are your front-line, the face of your company, the people that your irrational customers will be dealing with.

Employees are not expendable, they are assets if you understand how to hire well, equip them, take the time to understand them, and engage them. Your bottom line depends on it.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

McKee, A. (2016, February 05). How to Hire for Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2016/02/how-to-hire-for-emotional-intelligence

Customer Support and the Bottom Line

 

Part of my job calls for me to…well, make phone calls. I call my clients, return their phones calls, play a bit of phone tag here and there, and leave voicemails.

One of the benefits of my clients having my direct number is that they can connect directly to a person that knows them and can help them quickly without them having to maneuver through our call center first. Now, don’t get me wrong, my company has a great call center experience; short menu options, a real person versus automation, and you can talk to someone who knows about the location as they are sitting right inside of the business that you are trying to call. The folks in our call center are kind, genuine, and real. Not to mention, they are available 24/7. All call centers are not groomed to this level though.

Call centers or customer service lines are known for being terrible in this day and age. I can’t tell you the number of times I have called a company needing to talk to someone and never actually figure out how to get past the twelve levels of automation. Or just how many times, I’ve been in the queue for forty-five minutes. I’m not kidding, recently I was put on hold for an hour, then had to call back and was put on hold for another hour and a half. So many times I finally get to talk to someone but they are emotionless, scripted, and sometimes no help at all. It is such a relief when I call a company and quickly get a real, friendly, caring, and helpful person.

Why is this important? A customer service agent may be the only person your customer gets to talk to, or maybe they don’t get to talk to anyone because everything is automated. That’s no good. If the agent they do talk to is disengaged or not genuine, what could that say about our company? If the automated system is convoluted, confusing, and extensive when all the customer wants to do is speak to someone, how is that frustrated customer going to feel about your company? It’s going to leave a terrible taste in their mouth.

The problem is, if a customer calls for support or assistance and they have a bad experience then we have failed in creating a positive emotional experience. That can really hurt the bottom line. William Cusick, in his book, All Customers Are Irrational, talks about call centers and customer support. He discusses how many companies only see them as an expense rather than understanding that call centers are an important part of the customer experience thus having an effect on customer emotion and therefore customer behavior (and spending).

How much does it affect the bottom line? According to Shauna Geraghty’s blog, 7 Ways Customer Support Affects Your Bottom Line, 90% of customers who are dissatisfied with your company’s customer support service will not return and will not tell you about it. She says that 78% of customers have decided to not make a purchase they were intending on making because of a bad customer support experience and that it takes 12 good experiences to make up for one bad experience. She also points out that bad customer support experiences can hurt your reputation as word on these types of experiences travel fast and far.

Good customer support can help retain and attract new customers. Customers are also willing to spend more when they are happy with service, which is why it is important to look at your call center or customer support as an investment or asset rather than a disposable expense.

Your customers should get the great customer service they expect whether they are in your store, online, or on the phone. Your bottom line depends on it.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Geraghty, S. (2018, January 29). 7 Ways Customer Support Affects Your Bottom Line. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.talkdesk.com/blog/7-ways-customer-support-affects-your-bottom-line

Customers Follow Their Heart

In his book All Customer are Irrational, William Cusick discusses the fact that no matter how much we analyze, run through the facts, or weigh the pros and cons, when we are faced with big decisions it often can come down to following our heart or our gut. Intuition.

What does that have to do with our customers? Well if we do it, don’t you think our customers do as well? It’s not a bad thing and understanding this is important so that we can, as Cusick puts it, “sell the emotion.”

I’m in the business of relationship building. I enjoy it though, I like people. Nothing makes for a better day at work for me than having great conversations with my clients. Without their conversation things can be kind of quiet and dry. I sell experiences, much like someone who tries to sell you a fantastic cruise vacation or a trip to Disney World. I also, sell the emotion. I want my clients to trust me, to like me, and most of all know that I am there to help make their experiences great. I want them to know that I enjoy helping them. If my guests like me, if they don’t mind picking up the phone to talk to me, if they love to talk to me in person, then they are more likely come visit the company that I work for. I’ll of course do my best to make their trip enjoyable and then they’re more likely to have fun while they’re visiting and much more likely to come back. I could tell them all about the amazing restaurants we have or a special event going on, which I do of course, but if they don’t trust me or don’t like me, it might make it a bit harder for them to say, “sure I’ll come visit”. I know this is true, maybe not every single time, some people will come anyhow, but I know for a fact that some people come because I make it easier for them to and because they like me.

This is that, proof is in the pudding kind of situation. So how can you build trust and make your customers love you? Brian Honigman, a Digital Marketing Executive at Marc Ecko, has a few tips.

Treat your customers the right way, be honest with them and genuine. Build an authentic and honest relationship, treat them like people, not like numbers or cash. Be respectful to your customers. Listen to what your customers have to say, actually listen. Offer customer support beyond their purchase or experience. Honigman says offering specials is great too. Treat your customers like valued partners and make sure you communicate with them, continue the conversation, do not ignore them. Build trust by being open about changes whether those changes are good ones or bad ones. Be transparent and be accountable. Do not break promises (especially your brand promise). Strive to find solutions to issues and make customers happy in the end. Last but not least, be thankful and appreciative.

Make your customers fall in love and they are sure to return.

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Honigman, B. (n.d.). 10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/true-love-with-customers/

Dishonesty: The Customer Satisfaction Survey

We’ve all done it, I’m sure at some point or another. Taken a survey about a company and just nonchalantly clicked through the different questions or clicked on a scale somewhere just to get the survey completed. Maybe there was an incentive, perhaps a chance to win something. Or maybe you were offered a survey but ignored it, or did not complete it.

Surveys are not perfect, people lie on them. People answer nicely because they just want to complete the survey to “enter for a chance to win”. People complete it quickly for a discount or a free drink. People sometimes just will not fill them out.

I work for a company and in an industry where surveys are sent to our guests. I get responses from my personal clients on a regular basis. Sometimes I know for a fact that a customer is saying an experience went one way even though it did not. I also know that once, a lady marked us really low, when I called to find out why, she did not even mean to! Her survey said that she had a terrible time, but in reality, she had experienced a wonderful trip. I am also not so naïve to think that when I get perfect surveys back that at least some of them are just a quick click through of positive answers as the client is being instinctively kind. Plus, I often think about the many clients who do not answer the survey at all, whether they had a great time or one with some service breakdowns.

So if surveys are not an accurate reflection of how your company is doing then how are you supposed to find out how your company is doing in the eyes of your customers? In his book All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick says that you can find the answer by looking at the numbers, as they do not lie. Are you retaining customers? Are customers buying from you? Are they buying from you as often as they used to buy from you? Are they spending more than usual and more often? You need to be tracking and measuring. You need measurable objectives, you need numbers that reflect customer behavior. You must be sure to watch and listen to your customers. You must see the experience from their point of view as often as possible.

You need to understand customer behavior not their arbitrary or dishonest answers or lack thereof on a satisfaction survey. Cusick encourages us to watch how customers behave and to replace satisfaction questions with behavioral questions such as, “How often do you visit our website on average in a month?” or “On average, how long do you wait in line for service in our store?” as opposed to “How satisfied are you with our service?”

By really digging to truly understand how and why your customers behave the way they do, you can find areas of improvement. It’s much better to understand the truth than to have the false belief that your customers are satisfied when they are anything but!

 

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

Delivering On Your Brand Promise

 

“The brand promise is about company intention (as opposed to results, which is how the ultimate brand is measured through market research). It’s really the distillation of what makes you distinctive as a company, and what expectations you are creating for your customers.”-William Cusick

In his book All Customers Are Irrational, William Cusick uses the company Volvo as an example of a company with a clear brand promise that they are wholeheartedly committed to delivering on. He says that Volvo can be described using just a single word. That word? Safety. If you really think for a moment, I am sure you can think of other brands that can be described using just one word or in very few words. Those brands have worked hard to earn and keep the trust of their customers by delivering on their promise time after time.

Your brand promise is the promise that your company or business is making to customers. It’s the experience that your company aims to provide customers. It’s the ambience of your brand, or as Cusick says it is, brand essence.

Cusick says that all companies should have one and should also avoid overpromising. Companies should also be sure that those within their organization understand the brand promise, are on the same page, and can align it with their day-to-day actions, interactions with customers, and all parts of the operation. From the sales associates to the CEO, there should be an understanding of the brand promise as well as the drive to deliver on that promise, each and every single day. Customers should be able to trust that your organization will come through on the promise, helping to build loyalty and trust. If your brand promises to never test on animals, then customers should know without a doubt that your brand does not test on animals. If your brand promises to be responsive to customer concerns, then social media, the customer service center, and associates in the store should be just that, responsive to customer concerns. Promise to be environmentally friendly? Then no dumping waste into waterways. Promise to be ethical? Then no warehouses with harsh conditions and be sure to demonstrate equality within your company.

According to Chris Cancialosi, contributor at Forbes.com, a misalignment between your brand promise and what is actually being offered up by your company can be frustrating for customers as well as for employees. Your brand should strive to be consistent and reliable in order to earn the trust of all parties involved. His advice is for organizations to have a firm and clear understanding of what the brand promise is. Include others in the discussion, not just leadership but everyone. Acknowledge when change needs to happen. Finally, ask for help from the experts.

My takeaway advice? Follow through on your brands promises. Trust is a hard thing to gain and of course, a much harder thing to get back once it is lost. Customers who trust your brand, buy from your brand!

 

Cancialosi, C. (2015, March 09). The Secret To Faithfully Delivering On Your Brand Promise. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriscancialosi/2015/03/09/the-secret-to-faithfully-delivering-on-your-brand-promise/2/#5a2dd926393e

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.

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It’s Cheaper to Keep Her

It’s cheaper to keep her…your customer that is.

Customer retention, is the rate at which a company successfully keeps the customers around that they have worked so hard to obtain. Churn rate, is the rate at which customers stop utilizing  a service or a company.

You’ve seen it time and time again I am sure. Large companies pumping large amounts of money into fancy advertising and customer acquisition campaigns, but when you call customer service you get a rude customer service agent, sit on hold for 73 minutes, and then you hang up knowing less than you did when you called and your problem is left unresolved. It’s certainly happened to me more times that I would like to admit. Although…I more times than not would like to admit, and I typically do, as most dissatisfied and mistreated customers would. I tell my husband, my best friends, my coworkers, my parents, and my neighbor’s dogs. Then, I swear to the heavens that I will utilize the company or service either never again, or much less if I do not have much of another option.

If a company loses my patronage and the patronage of many others like me then eventually they will feel the hurt in their bottom line. There’s an easy fix to losing  a few measly customers though, right? Lose a couple of customers, replace them with new customers. Wrong. Inefficient. Costly. According to William Cusick, author of “All Customers Are Irrational”, the cost of obtaining new customers is much more costlier than the cost of just keeping the customers that you already have. The proof is in the pudding, or rather the numbers. Cusick says that just 2% of resources dedicated to customer retention can decrease customer acquisition expenses by 10%. That’s a pretty noticeable return on investment. And, that makes more sense, if you take care of customers and treat them like you want them to stick around, then chances are that you won’t have to replace those customers anytime soon, or at least not as often as you would if you treat customers like you could not care less. Sounds easy enough, but the numbers are even more convincing as they tell a very detailed story about customer behavior and customer retention. Here are some more of those statistics from Get Feedback:

67% of customers list a bad customer experience as their reason for leaving a company

95% of customers share their bad experiences with others

50% of customers say that they would use a company more often after a positive customer experience

58% of customers say they will never use a company ever again after a bad experience

78% of customers have ended a buying experience because of bad customer service

59% of customers would try a different or new brand after having a bad customer service experience

58% say that they would spend more just to receive better customer service

67% of customer churn or loss of customers could be avoided if customer’s issues were resolved during their first interaction with a company

11% of customer churn or loss of customers could be avoided if companies simply reached out to the customer first

It is estimated that by the year 2020, the customer experience will outrank price and product and the key brand differentiator, in other words people will choose a better experience over a better product or even a more competitive price!

What really pays off? Customers that you are able to turn into loyal customers are 5x as likely to purchase from your company again, 5x as likely to forgive a mistake or mishap, 4x as likely to tell others about your company, and 7x more likely to try a new offer with your company.

You can relax just a little, churn is also sort of natural. Half of customers leave every five years.

Have no fear though, Get Feedback also has some great advice on how to reduce customer churn outside of the natural come and go that occurs.

Ask for feedback, set and measure customer expectations, add value with products and services, and cultivate customer relationships. All in all, the main takeaway here is to build those customer relationships and create positive experiences. Customers have choices in the companies that they use. They want an experience, and a good one, they want the company that they choose to show them that they made the right choice, that they are respected and appreciated as a customer, and that their patronage is wanted.

Get Feedback is a blog that featured an article with a list of customer churn/customer satisfaction statistics gathered from experts and analysts.

Boeckelman, C. (2017, April 21). 40 Customer Retention Statistics You Need to Know | GetFeedback Blog. Retrieved February 02, 2018, from https://www.getfeedback.com/blog/40-stats-churn-customer-satisfaction/

Cusick, W. J. (2009). All customers are irrational: understanding what they think, what they feel, and what keeps them coming back. New York: AMACOM.