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Is Your Valet Service Driving Guests Away?

Martin R. Baird

The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression is very true. And it couldn’t be more true than with a casino’s valet parking service. That’s where, for many guests, the first impression occurs.
Let’s put this into perspective. We all know that when most people arrive at a casino, they’re filled with that eternal hope that this will be the big one, the long-awaited day they hit the jackpot and never have to work again. One pull of the slot lever and it’s all over. They’re excited.
That could very well be the mind-set when your guests drive up. They want valet service in the worst way. All that stands between them and glory is that little ticket for their car. It doesn’t matter if they’re driving an old Oldsmobile with dents and a window missing or the newest Mercedes coupe, they want service. They want to be greeted with a pleasant smile and a warm welcome. They also want the service to be fast.
That moment was your property’s opportunity to make an all-important first impression. How did you do?
Was your valet staff dressed properly? Did they look like someone a guest would entrust with their $67,000 SUV? Or did they look like its “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” all over again once they get the keys? How did the staff greet the guest – like a soon-to-be millionaire or like they’re doing the guest a favor? Did they flash that smile and offer a warm welcome, or was it more of a mumble with a hand out for a tip? Did they use the guest’s name or make a flattering comment about the car?
Here’s the key question. Did your valet staff make such a positive impression that the guest had a better “feeling” about the casino? It’s true that valet service affects how people feel when they walk in the door. If you want your guests to step into the casino with miles of smiles, valet service can make a huge contribution to the cause. Valet employees are the ambassadors of the casino at all times.
There’s a little incentive that helps encourage this kind of service. It’s called money. The simple things I’ve outlined above could generate a nice boost in the valet staff’s tips. A compliment about a guest’s nice vehicle, that car or truck they’re so proud of, could mean a couple more dollars in the valet’s pocket. Not that service is just about getting tips, but if you want your valet employees to improve service, the easiest way is through increased tips. If it puts money in their pocket, they will do it.
My wife and her sister stayed at a posh Arizona resort recently. This place brags about its abundance of swimming pools and acres of gardens. It’s a nice resort that every employee there should be proud of, and the room rates reflect it.
When they were ready to go home, they were out front with their bags and a cab was waiting to take them off the property. The valets and bellman all stood in a circle talking, not one of them offering to help with the luggage or open the cab door. Knowing my wife, they would have received a good tip for this easy-to-provide service, and it would have given her one more positive memory of the property.
Let’s fast-forward to your guest who used valet service and walked onto the gaming floor ready to take the casino to the cleaner. Well, the hope of hitting the jackpot has worn off and there’s a dose of reality in the air. No big win. Back to work in the morning. They need their car, and they’re almost out of money.
Earlier, I talked about how people want to get into the casino fast. The same is true when it’s time to leave. It’s a sad feeling to hang around outside knowing you didn’t win. You’re going home in the same Oldsmobile and you aren’t rich beyond belief.
It’s impression time again. People remember more than a first impression. They remember the last one, too. My wife will vouch for that. Those final minutes before climbing into their car can ring in your guest’s head for hours afterward. Their mind replays the person who didn’t smile at them. They think about the empty cans they had to step over when they entered their car. They lament about being ignored by the group of valets standing in a circle talking.
Not every guest that comes to a casino goes home with more money in their pocket. That is a fact of the industry. But they should go home with a positive impression of the casino and the staff, based on the experiences they had with valet.
Does your valet department get the time, guest service training and attention it deserves? True, it isn’t the part of the business that makes most of the money. I have yet to be in a senior management meeting when the CEO or GM said, “How did valet do last night?”
But if they believe in customer satisfaction and the importance of first and last impressions, that is exactly what they should ask. Valets are “touching” your guests in a very important way. After all, look at people’s love affairs with their cars!
Many casinos provide valet service the old-fashioned way – hire as many “kids” with driver’s licenses as you can and just grind through them. It’s no big deal if they don’t show up for work. They’re easily replaced. If they do show up, that’s “good enough” for many properties. At least they offer free valet. What more could a guest want?
If your valet employees don’t provide exceptional service to each and every guest, you could, in fact, be driving customers away. Investing some time and training in your valet department can pay huge dividends.
Martin R. Baird is author of “Gaming Guest Service from A to Z,” a book that uses the alphabet to help gaming executives, managers and employees understand the importance of outstanding guest service and how to provide it. He can be reached at mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com.

Article Abstract from May, 2008




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