WORLEY, Idaho – Yvette Lozeau figures that customer service should start with a friendly voice on the phone.
In a trend picking up speed in the gaming industry, the Coeur d’Alene Casino will scrap its automated phone system next month. Callers will be greeted by a real person.
The switch is an extension of the personal welcome the tribe-run casino wants guests to receive, said Lozeau, manager of the casino’s new call center. “We want to treat everyone like family and friends.”
“You’re really talking about the basic rules of hospitality,” adds Bob Bostwick, casino spokesman. “They’ll get a greeting from someone who’s glad to hear from them.”
In the 1990s, corporations embraced automated phone service as a cost-cutting measure. Now, the trend is coming full circle, said Sean Agnew, a Chicago business consultant.
In an effort to ace competitors at customer service, companies are beginning to re-hire phone receptionists. Phone contacts are a critical first impression, Agnew said. They reveal corporate personalities.
“The rule about having only one chance to make a first impression rings true,” he said. “You can create a great lasting impression … and pre-empt a lot of questions and problems.”
Agnew is seeing the switch back to phone receptionists in the industries he consults for – entertainment, telecommunications and software.
At the Coeur d’Alene Casino, managers took their cue from Vegas. The casino, run by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, follows trends in the nation’s largest gambling center.
“There’s a transition to more of the live voice,” said Bill Spencer, the casino’s director of customer service.
The casino, located about 25 miles south of Coeur d’Alene, includes 100,000-square-feet of gaming space, 202 hotel rooms, a concert venue and golf course. Several thousand people call the casino’s toll-free number each day. They get an automated recording, offering a menu of nine extensions to different departments, or the option to dial 0 for an operator.
Beginning Sept. 20, those calls will be answered by a group of 10 to 12 people at an on-site call center, which will operate 24 hours a day. Call center workers can book rooms at the casino’s resort hotel, answer general inquiries and questions about the casino’s VIP rewards program, or sell tickets to concerts and other special events.
The workers will earn $8 an hour, plus benefits that include health care.
By increasing customer loyalty, casino managers expect to recoup the call center’s costs over time.
“We know there are a certain percentage of customers who will hang up if they don’t get a real person,” Lozeau said.
The call center also frees up desk clerks, she said. By having all the incoming calls going to one place, desk clerks can devote their full attention to helping guests.
In addition, callers will be able to buy concert tickets and book hotel rooms by talking to a single person, Lozeau said. Before, they had to be transferred to different departments. By next spring, callers will be able to book tee-times at the casino’s Circling Raven Golf Course in the same call, she said.
Guests remember those kinds of details, said Agnew. First impressions influence whether they’ll recommend a business or resort to their friends.
“If the initial contact wasn’t stellar, they’ll be more critical,” he said. “If it was good, people will give you more leeway if something goes wrong later.”
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