How technology can make or break a relationship by Christine Motta Faria

How technology can make or break a relationship or … as Steven Stills said, “Love the one you’re with.”  

Okay, I admit it, I resisted the iPhone for as long as I could, until I dropped my flip phone in the Truckee River by my house one too many times.

You might ask, why would anyone oppose a veritable mini-computer that is small enough to fit in a jean pocket?

Let me be clear — it’s not the tool itself that I didn’t like the idea of, it is how I have observed users to be much more engaged with their “flat machines” than with each other. It scared me, I didn’t want to become “one of those people.” You know you’ve seen it … people at restaurants, sitting next to each other, deeply engrossed in their phones instead of their companions.

See, I’ve got a HUGE issue with crappy listeners to begin with. I can count easily how many people make me feel like there is no other place in the world they would rather be at that moment than chatting with me. And that’s a powerful tool or “charm,” whatever you want to call it . You know, the people who look you in the eye, repeat what you are saying, to make sure they understand. They are the people who are not forming a response in their head before I’m done speaking.

Remember the saying, “Can we all get along?” from Rodney King in 1992? I’m afraid the fallout from smartphones will be, “Can we all just talk to each other?”

It’s not just smartphones. So much of technology takes us degrees away from eye contact, from hearing concern in someone’s voice, from confrontation.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, not only with discovering my new phone, but here at Raving Consulting where I work; casinos hire us to translate all that data that all their  systems pull, into something actionable, something manageable. We write about it all the time in our marketing and newsletters. (As a matter of fact, our Direct Mail partner Michael Hemphill is explaining Near Field Communication [NFC] and Augmented Reality in our most recent Flash! Report).

But have you ever considered that technology can hinder or even break a relationship?
Stepping outside the casino biz for a second, I swore that I would never, ever buy a Dell computer again because of how painful it was to get through to a “real” person via phone for a problem I had, and when I finally got through, the agent couldn’t talk to me without a script. That experience BROKE my relationship with them. On the other hand, depending on my mood or the time at hand, I will pick up the phone to call Southwest Airlines, instead of using their website … their “real” people are just as efficient as their website. It isn’t an either/or.

Now, let’s talk about how this applies to your casino right now (this applies for anyone in the guest service industry) . Let me ask you three questions:
1.    Do you believe that a casino/hotel guest will have a better experience interacting with a machine rather than your staff because you can’t guarantee your staff will respond quickly or consistently enough?
2.    Are you investing more into technology and less into training?
3.    Would you say that you and your staff personally interact with your guests less or more than five years ago? (Or did TITO and other technology mean that you eliminated staff instead of reassigning them to other and new high-touch positions to save money?).

Need some examples? Okay, here goes, and these are all real, recent experiences at casinos:

•    You have got a pretty user-friendly website. Folks can log on to their personal accounts, but how hard is it to find your phone number to talk to a REAL person? Does the CONTACT link only give an email address or form? And does your 800 number work for out of U.S. guests? Do you bury your phone number to push folks into email communication or to “text live with an agent”?

•    Okay, so finally someone can locate a phone number and you’ve set up an automated answering system to get your customer to the right person, the right department quicker, so they don’t have to explain their situation numerous times. How many buttons do folks have to push before they can get to a real person? How many buttons do they have to push to realize that a real person is not available because they are calling during non-business hours? Can they just punch “0” at any time because they are frustrated or confused? When’s the last time you called your general number?

•    You have added even more self-service kiosks to your floor so folks can redeem their offers and coupons directly, instead of going to the players club or the cage. What personal interactions are your guests missing by not having to talk to a real representative of your casino? Why wouldn’t they want to go to your players club? Is there always a line? Do you not have your best people at your players club?

•    Speaking of your players club, you’ve invested in all this groovy technology, flat screens, your hosts are using iPads, but new guests STILL can’t find your players club booth! Do you need better electronic signage, or do you just need a human greeter?

•    When new guests go to join your players club it takes awhile, as you ask for a lot of information, preferences, etc. So, why did you just waste paper on a fancy invitation to White Snake when that customer told you what the music they enjoy is? Why’d you ask in the first place? Boy, you sure care about them, don’t you?

•    When new guests go to join your players club, you make it really quick by only asking for a driver’s license number and an email address. Terrific. But you never send (or not promptly, anyway) the new player anything to thank them for their visit. But they did get an impersonal newsletter a month later. Is that a way to begin a relationship? With spam?

•    As a casino executive, are you spending more and more time developing “systems,” justifying the cost of new technology in meetings, rather than spending quality time out on the floor with customers and being a role model for your staff?

Systems and that data they gather are only powerful tools if they’re used to PERSONALLY INTERACT with your customers. It’s all about relevancy. Not about the frequency of communication.

You can fight me on this, but the best use of technology is NOT KNOWING with the touch of a key how many people are on your floor at that very moment and what their average ADT is; it IS KNOWING who is on your floor, cheating if you have to by looking at their information, and then going over to them and engaging them. Putting a hand on their shoulder. Asking them about their day. Surprising them with twenty bucks or a comp meal because they just lost $1,000.

And if you are like me and don’t have a casino full of guests … let’s talk about that phone of yours. Do you put it on vibrate and ignore it when you are talking to your very best customer, your very best employee, your very best friend, your WIFE?

I bet you would turn off that phone if you were falling in love with someone, remember those first dates? (And if you say “no,” you are a creep and deserve to be single).

Yeah, so love the one you’re with. At least respect the one you’re with. Love your customers, respect your customers, and look at your technology from their point of view.
I challenge each and every one of you for the next week to ENGAGE the old-fashioned way. Pick up the phone instead of texting or emailing. Turn that phone off. Answer the phone in your office and really surprise someone. Really — I bet that your week will be richer.


Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

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