Commercial gaming is driven by return customers, and as a result, there are few things more important to casino owners than the customer experience. Does your casino offer strong payout schedules? Are you consistently booking popular performers in your event space? How is the service on the floor and in the hotel?

These are just a few of the questions that pit bosses, general managers and casino owners should be asking themselves every day. While online reviews and comment cards can offer a snapshot of how these services impact the customer experience, mystery shopping services can offer a more thorough understanding of what it’s like to be a guest at your casino.

What is mystery shopping?

Think of mystery shoppers as your eyes and ears from a customer’s perspective. While your staff can keep you up to date on the behind-the-scenes comings and goings of your casino, mystery shoppers will let you know what your guests are experiencing from their own first-hand experience. These covert operatives will enter your casino and set about having a grand old time. They’ll hit the gaming floor, playing the tables and machines alike, then catch a bite to eat at your onsite eateries and maybe take in a show — whatever it takes to get the full customer experience.

Mystery shoppers will then produce a detailed report outlining what they experienced at your casino. From the cleanliness of their hotel room to the professionalism of the dealer at the Texas Hold ’em table, nothing will be omitted. It’s that meticulous attention to detail that will make this experience so valuable, especially when it comes to understanding the level of service your staff is providing guests. Intangibles like rate of service can make or break a customer’s experience, and it’s important to understand how.

Faster doesn’t mean better

There’s an old saying when it comes to customer service: “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” The idea being that if something is good and fast, it’s not cheap; if it’s good and cheap, it’s not fast; and if it’s fast and cheap, it’s not good. Yet despite this idiom being embraced by much of the service industry, focusing on speed when it comes to the customer experience may cause more harm than good.

While performing an analysis of customers’ encounters at their local banks, performance-management consulting firm Gallup found that speedy service should involve both “speed” and “service.” In a survey of patrons making simple transactions, researchers found that customers that experienced exceptionally speedy service were six times more likely to feel engaged with the company. Meanwhile, customers who experienced a more personal and in-depth interaction with the bank tellers — conversations in which the teller reflected solid product knowledge and a seemingly genuine concern for their patrons’ transactions — were 9 times more likely to feel engaged.

Engagement is an important element of repeat business, and an experienced mystery shopper should be able to to give you an accurate assessment of the kind of engagement your casino inspires.

The value of good service

Excellent service that leaves your customers feeling engaged will not only lead to repeat visits, it could also help you bolster your bottom line. In the 2010 Customer Experience Impact report produced by Right Now Technologies, 85% of the consumers surveyed said they would be willing to pay up to 25% more for a service to ensure a superior customer experience. Additionally, 66% of respondents cited customer service as the most important factor in their decision to spend more money than they may have anticipated with a particular purchase.

Perhaps more telling were the responses to those companies that provided poor customer service, with 82% of respondents claiming to have stopped using a particular good or service because of a poor customer experience. Furthermore, 95% of respondents admitted to taking some form of action as a result of their negative experience and 85% of this group purposefully warned others about the troubles they faced.