A vast majority of businesses today compete primarily on Customer Experience (CX). However, the reality is that for gaming companies and clubs, efforts to achieve improvement in customer experience have consistently been bottlenecked, if not outright thwarted, resulting in inconsistencies and misalignment in CX delivery. Ambiguity and inactivity represent two of the most notable culprits for a mediocre customer experience.
At a time when the customers have unprecedented choices in a contracting marketplace, it is incumbent on gaming services providers, both land-based and cloud-based, to compete on the primacy of customer experience (CX). While most CEOs and GMs in our industry claim to provide an excellent experience to their guests, very few do. The reason why many CX efforts fail to yield results is lack of comprehensiveness in efforts due to siloed thinking and incomplete understanding of CX itself. Forrester Research summarize the situation succinctly when they write, “Customer experience (CX) strategies that lack critical details lead to inconsistent execution and wasted effort. To improve, firms need a strategy that clearly (1) defines the intended experience; (2) directs employees’ activities and decision-making; and (3) guides funding decisions and project prioritization.”
Customer experience, quite simply, comprises of “the customer’s cognitive, emotional, sensory, and behavioral responses to any interactions she has with a service provider.” In order to devise an optimal experience for guests, simultaneous attention to seven interrelated components is needed.
These components, encapsulated in the acronym VICTORS, are
(1) Voice of Customer;
(2) Incentives to employees;
(3) Culture of the organization;
(4) Touchpoints along the customer journey;
(5) Organization structure, especially existence of silos;
6) Relationships with employees and customers; and (
7) Strategy devised to build and maintain competitive advantage.
Figure 1 depicts the VICTORS framework.
Voice of Customer (VoC): VoC initiatives gather and analyze data on customers’ motivations, expectations, preferences and aversions associated with the experience your organization provides them. It is amazing how many businesses forget that customers are the ultimate arbiters of what they experience, not the provider. As bare minimum, gaming businesses should carry out annual assessment of customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Regular focus groups with key customers are also strongly recommended. Customer satisfaction levels and Net Promoter Scores need to be benchmarked so that trends in these metrics can be uncovered. Also, wherever possible, feedback from customers should be speedily actioned so that there is real enhancement in CX.
Incentives: Study after study has established that customers’ interactions with employees are the single-most important determinant of customer experience. Oftentimes, businesses conduct focus groups or customer satisfaction studies but fail to reward those employees who get favorable mention in focus groups or surveys. Also, people working behind the scenes are seldom acknowledged or incentivized. One way to ensure congruence between employee rewards and CX is to link employee bonuses to CX metrics. The choice of incentives provided to employees also matters. In most societies, workers value those rewards that enhance their work-life balance a lot more than pure financial incentives. The GAP stores in the United States, for instance, saw a huge increase in the sales of those stores where employees were given stable and predictable shift work.
Culture: Tony Hsieh, the late founder of Zappos, a company known for its legendary customer service asserts that “Your culture is your brand.” In fact, all attempts at CX enhancement will amount to naught if the organizational culture if not aligned to brand values or is devoid of customer-centricity. Culture is the soil in which various organizational norms, decisions, and behaviors take root. Only a foundation of truly customer-centric and market-oriented culture will ensure that efforts toward CX enhancement will lead to tangible results. As with any transformation, the journey toward a culture of customer-centricity should start with proper measurement and candid acknowledgement of the existing culture.
Touchpoints: A touchpoint is any interaction between the organization and the customer. Customer touchpoints can take the form of person to person, technology to person, technology to technology, and so on. One sure-fire way to understand the customer experience, from the customer’s perspective, is to map out the customer journey incorporating each major touchpoint. Also known as a service blueprint, this insightful document visually depicts where and how each customer segment interacts with your business. Developing a service blueprint is an indispensable part of CX enhancement. It provides consensus on current and desired CX, demonstrates the impact of each employee on the overall guest experience, enables fixing of fail-points that detract from CX, and facilitates the creation of (touch) points of differentiation.
Organization: The key hurdle when it comes to CX is organizational silos. A compelling customer experience is the result of seamless cooperation among many different departments such as gaming and marketing, F&B and gaming, housekeeping and operations, and so on. Organizational silos create serious bottlenecks in workflow across departments or divisions. Once functional stovepipes are carved across silos, the organization needs to create structures and roles that facilitate a gratifying experience for customers. Some roles effective in delivering the desired customer experience are CX ambassadors who communicate the importance of CX to employees at all levels and a CX core team comprising of subject matter experts and process experts dedicated to the execution of CX strategy.
Relationships: The kind and level of relationships your brand has with employees as well as customers will significantly impact the quality of customer experience. Internal marketing, i.e. using marketing tools and techniques to create engaged, enthusiastic, and energized employees, plays a key role in establishing employee relationships that are conducive to a great customer experience. All employee interactions should be rooted in a clearly thought out and well-articulated employee value proposition (EVP). When it comes to customers, the focus should be on creating a positive emotional connection with them. Fully connected customers are 52% more valuable than those who are merely highly satisfied.
Strategy: In his Harvard Business Review article, “Demystifying Strategy: The What, Who, How, and Why,” Michael Watkins defines business strategy as “set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making.” A good strategy provides a clear roadmap for setting priorities and making decisions. The first step in your customer experience strategy is to have a clear customer-focused vision that you can effectively communicate within your organization. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that will serve as guiding principles for everyone in the organization. For example, Zappos, a company mentioned earlier, has adopted the principles of delivering “wow” experience, humility, and embracing change as its key guiding principles. Furthermore, in setting CX strategy, it is important to clearly articulate your measurable CX objectives, and then to link CX metrics to financial metrics such as market share, operating margins, and ROI.
Conclusion: In this era of the consumer, businesses—big and small—will live or die based on the kind of experience they provide their customers. While most gaming businesses are wanting to provide a good experience to their customers, they are often at a loss to comprehend all that goes into the designing and management of CX. The VICTORS framework has uncovered seven key areas that collectively provide the wherewithal of a valued customer experience. Delivering CX is always a work-in-progress and all components of VICTORS need to be constantly assessed and finetuned for delivering a consistently superior customer experience.