Training table dealers in Macau... A human interest article
With Macau’s handover to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1999, the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) government has reiterated that the tourism and gaming industry is Macau’s major development strategy. Between 2002 and 2006, the MSAR government awarded six gaming licenses. These licenses have led to casinos in Macau competing in a fierce and expanding environment. Given the central role of frontline employees in casinos, their training would definitely be beneficial to the improvement of their service encounters.
Based upon the semi-structured interviews with some experienced frontline employees at casinos in Macao, the author managed to get the viewpoint of these employees regarding the areas on which casinos can focus in order to improve the overall service quality. The findings are primarily categorized into the following areas:
1. The need for familiarization with the actual work environment.
Many interviewees expressed that the casino environment was markedly different from that of the training center they had experienced before. Although they had learned about and were familiar with the rules of games and basic procedures in the center, quite a number of them were initially very frightened because gamblers were not fellow students using play money, but real people with real cash. Some of them “smoked like chimneys” while others tried to distract the dealer to make him or her err so they would benefit from mistakes. In one instance, a new dealer was so frightened that she had asked her relatives and friends to sit around her gaming table to preclude other gamblers in the first shift of her dealing job.
According to their observations, these frontline employees have observed that customers from mainland China are rough in words and manners, whereas people from Hong Kong like to raise complaints. Mainlanders muttered obscenities when losing, and wouldn’t think about complaining to casino staff. On the other hand, gamblers from Hong Kong always like to complain to superiors whenever they feel dissatisfied. Moreover, they have also noticed big differences in cultural practices of customers. For instance, if a Western gambler spills tea on a gaming table, he or she would usually ask a worker for tissues to clean up the mess themselves. If such things happened to gamblers from mainland China, they would give no reaction and assume that dealers would clean it up.
2. The need for adopting tactics to deal with customers.
Frontline employees face the challenge of achieving a balance between patrons’ dominance and efficient task completion. Some interviewees stressed the importance of adopting tactics to deal with customers, like stopping patrons’ violent acts in the bud to prevent them from worsening, as it is no use talking to emotionally turbulent customers and reporting to superiors according to the formal procedures in such a situation. On the other hand, given that customers are not allowed to sleep on gaming tables, if some customers have lost all their money and sleep there, it is easy for customers to raise complaints as dealers wake them up, according to the rules. A better tactic is to ask customers whether they want some coffee or ginseng tea to cheer them up, then ask them not to sleep on the table.
3. The need for conversation with managers on customer relationship skills.
Participants reported that their conversations with managers on customer relationship skills were always beneficial. They consider managers to be very experienced and acknowledge they can learn a lot from them in a number of ways including work and life. Since managers have been exposed to a number of different environments, they know a great deal more than ordinary frontline employee, and this can certainly help them. It can widen their vision, and they will not be restricted by their typical work environment and regular customer base. Moreover, as frontline employees tend to see things from their own perspectives, managers can help in hinting at dealers to slow down their motion, so as to make things clear when managers smell something “hot” from losing customers.
Some participants have indicated that the robust demand for casino staff has led to the rapid promotion of some frontline employees to the managerial level.
4. The need for more social interaction skills.
Most interviewees expressed that training could assist in orienting frontline employees to the work environment. Some participants admitted that when patrons scold them or are rude and impolite, it is easy for them to feel annoyed and have an unhappy facial expression, especially when frontline employees are inexperienced or in a bad mood. Some participants indicated that many events happen in a casino each day, and they can experience only a fraction of them, so they are eager to attend training courses in which they can learn about other events in order to improve their social interaction skills. In fact, this can also help the property to upgrade the staff’s consistency in dealing with various issues.
5) The need for improving current training courses.
Some respondents attached limited value to formal training due to the importance of practical experience and the gap between reality and training instructions. One participant gave the following example:
“If a customer spoils [sic] a glass of milk on the gaming table while the game is in progress, the program instructor would teach to wait until the dealer finishes the game [to clean it]. In reality, if the dealer finishes the game, the liquid may spread quite far and wet the customer and the floor. I think dealers of course need to focus on the table game while the supervisor can use tissue paper to wipe the mess up.”
A practical aspect for casino management to consider is the balance among formal training, practical application of training and frontline employees’ feedback concerning “new experiences,” so this might fit into improved new formal training.
6. The need for more practical and workable tactics to deal with customers.
Some participants indicated that their superiors had repeatedly reminded them to have good attitudes and treat customers politely, but superiors have not told them or given them instructions on how to do it. In fact, one interviewee indicated that when he was young, he only knew to mechanically answer “yes” or “no” according to the gaming rules, and he mostly learned from trial and error and experience. In fact, another interviewee said that some new young dealers felt so emotionally distressed that they tore off their work badge and resigned at the gaming table. Following this, these participants hope that properties will offer some practical and workable tactics to help them better deal with customers.
As customers are unwilling to compromise on the quality of service they receive, casinos need to rely more on well-trained employees for the provision of quality service. With the phenomenal growth of the casinos in Macau, frontline employees are expected to act after limited formal training. Given that many participants indicated that they learned from trial and error and experience, the effectiveness of training for the improvement of service quality to entice customers to a property definitely requires some practical tactics along with encouragement and support from casino management.
Enjoyable piece... it jibes with many of my own experiences playing cards.
I was particularly struck by the mention of players that would try to distract dealers into making mistakes.
In my early days as a card-counter, I pretty much conducted myself as my usual honest self... pointing out mistakes to the dealers no matter who benefitted from them.
Over time, my perspective changed.
Mostly, it was because casinos, and the pit bosses that represent them, are a pretty ruthless bunch. They'll feed players alcohol and enjoy their resulting sloppy play right up to the point where they feel that a commission agent might nail them before backing such a player off. And speaking of backoffs, I've personally been backed off and/or 86'd upwards of 6 to 8 dozen times over my 15 years of advantage play... not to mention other counter measures I've experienced.
In the end, I've decided that blackjack is war, and I'm certainly not there for my health... I'm there for the CASH... just like the Casino is.
So, when I've got me a raw dealer flinging cards at me, I'm going to distract him/her with plenty of #$%$-chat. I also like to bet odd-ball amounts on bet ramps so that calculating the time-and-a-half payout on a natural (blackjack) is particularly difficult for them...
... especially with me asking them out-of-the-blue questions while they're standing there trying to figure it out.
Nice piece, blitz... and if you ever run across a dealer that can't add who's flinging cards within 20 miles of 'ol spokanimal...