What Happens in Vegas: What Sin City Can Teach Us About Customer Service
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
We’ve all heard those words. (And, if we are any fun at all, we’ve said them—probably more than once.) It’s a straightforward approach to 99% of what a typical Las Vegas visitor may experience in the course of a long weekend, provided one is able to remember that 99% with any clarity. The Las Vegas experience is unlike any other—an alternative reality in which anything is possible. It is an indisputable fact that Las Vegas delivers.
That experience took on a whole new meaning for me last month when I inherited responsibility for the planning of a three-day executive retreat in Sin City. With less than three weeks to plan and arrangements left to the last possible moment, I was more than a little worried about what kind of event I was going to be able to pull off.
Those fears were laid to rest within the first two minutes of a phone call with Andria Garbiso, Convention Services Manager at ARIA Resort & Casino. Within days, she and her team had our event completely nailed down, with not a single detail missed. By the end of my first night in Las Vegas, I was so bowled over by what we’d put together that I almost felt guilty taking any credit for it. (But don’t worry—I still totally took credit for it.)
In hindsight, that I worried at all shows just how little I knew of Vegas-style customer service. Now that I’m back in the office, I realize that there are some experiences that should never be left in Vegas. Quite the opposite, in fact—and that’s why I’m committed to bringing Vegas back to work in 2013. So, I had to know—how do they do it? And more importantly, how can we do it?
To find out, I sat down with Andria and the rest of our friends at MGM Resorts International, who cheerfully agreed to take me back to school.
How would you describe the “Vegas” mindset regarding client service? How does it differ from what we see from other industries?
Anything is possible. That is our mindset. It shouldn’t just be about the product. To the consumer, it’s about the experience.”
Nobody goes to Las Vegas to rent a hotel room, a slot machine, or a poker table. What sells Las Vegas is the total experience, the way the people feel about their stay at every stage of the visit. Products are bought and sold, but excellent service—from the helpful concierge with seemingly endless resources to the limousine driver who stops to aide a lost pedestrian—is experienced. And that’s what keeps people coming back.
At ARIA, for instance, my group didn’t just get a great hotel and food. A breakfast on Friday (that we had to reschedule at midnight on Thursday), a catering staff member standing guard over said breakfast (after witnessing the theft of our food—that’s another story), an event management staff that quickly learned the names of our executives and their individual preferences regarding service—those are just a few examples of what contributed to our experience being fantastic from beginning to end.
In looking back at your last dozen interactions with service providers, or even your own interactions with customers, in how many of those has the focus been on the customer’s total experience? My instincts tell me this number is pretty low, making this lesson a valuable one.
What are the key characteristics of a successful client service program?
Every client has a different way of defining a successful program. To some, it is a smooth check-in with short lines and helpful front desk agents. For others, it’s the anticipatory service and the execution of their program as a whole. Our job is to find out what’s important to each client, and make it happen.”
Throughout the planning of our event, Andria and I spent a lot of time on the phone. In the pauses that come with these kind of conversations, we learned a lot about each other. I shared with her how much I missed my son, having spent more hours than usual away from him while planning the event. She even endured one (or five) emails equipped with pictures of him.
Days later, when I arrived in Las Vegas, checked in to the hotel, and walked into my suite, guess what I found? A framed picture of my son on the bar. I doubt that anything, even a bottle of the hotel’s most expensive champagne, would have impressed me as much as this gesture. It was simple, but personal—and an extremely touching act that definitely hit the mark.
At the end of every promotion, initiative, or launch, it’s the customer that ultimately assigns the passing or failing grade. And it’s key to remember that each client has different expectations and different things that will make them happy. What ARIA got right was finding out what’s important to us, as a company and as individuals, and tailoring the service approach accordingly.
You make things look so easy! How do you pull off what the rest of us would consider impossible, with what seems like almost no effort?
We are in the business of creating memories, and that requires a results-driven team. Though sometimes the answer to a request may truly be ‘no,’ there is always an alternative way to achieve the big picture.”
Our scheduled team-building event, a margarita-mixing contest, required the vendor to bring some food items and cooking supplies into the hotel. And because the prior coordinator hadn’t forwarded the event specifications over to Andria and her team, we were all unaware of these requirements—and that they were in violation of ARIA’s policies—until a day before the event.
This oversight could have forced us to cancel the event. But instead, Andria and her team quickly coordinated an alternate solution that provided us with a bartender, food items, and the necessary supplies we needed to move forward.
Customers don’t like to hear the word “no.” Las Vegas as a whole has figured this out, and has taken “making it happen” to a whole new level. Whether it’s securing tickets to a sold-out show, nabbing a reservation at the best restaurant, or giving couples the wedding of their dreams, Las Vegas hospitality professionals do their best to make every visit memorable.
We may not always be able to give our clients everything they want, and that’s okay. But we can offer creative suggestions that accomplish the same thing. Putting the emphasis on what we can do, rather than on lengthy explanations of what we can’t do, keeps the experience positive.
Believe it or not, we are all capable of delivering a Vegas-worthy client experience. For so many businesses, the concept of real customer service has simply fallen off of the radar, the unfortunate victim of increasingly complex business plans and constantly changing structures. And while these plans and structures are important—they’re meaningless without an eager population of customers. As my Sin City weekend reminded me, it’s time to adjust our focus and get back to the basics of meeting (and exceeding) our customers' needs.
Want to get started? Just take a look at your business and ask yourself: “What would Vegas do?”
Special thanks to Andria Garbiso and the ARIA Resort & Casino Convention Services team and MGM Resorts International for their help with this article.
Photo of Las Vegas strip courtesy of Shutterstock.
Brandy Lee is a seasoned human resources executive with practical experience in employee development and change management in a variety of industries. As the Practice Director of the HR Services Group at a progressive CPA firm in Orange County, she provides high level consulting services to the firm’s business clients. You can find out more about Brandy by connecting on LinkedIn, or visiting her blog, Real Women Unite, or her wildly funny list of “Things We Learned The Hard Way.”More from this Author