Friday, December 11, 2009


Sun, Foxwoods top gaming industry in customer satisfaction
For The Norwich Bulletin
Posted Dec 03, 2009 @ 11:40 PM

Eastern Connecticut’s casinos and their hotels lead the nation’s gaming industry in customer satisfaction, a ranking that puts them in a strong position to capture additional entertainment dollars when the economy rebounds.

According to a recent Market Metrix Casino Market Study, hotels at Foxwoods, MGM Grand at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun offer a consistently upscale experience and received higher satisfaction than casinos in Mississippi, Atlantic City, N.J. and Nevada.

“The results of the survey don’t really surprise me. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are both positioned as upscale properties in the national gaming market,” said Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis for UMass-Dartmouth. “Importantly, the survey results suggest that as the economy begins to improve next year, gaming revenues should also start to recover, because casino customers are fundamentally satisfied with the products and services offered by Connecticut’s casinos.”

Foxwoods and Mohegan topped the study even as casinos are struggling. Of upscale casinos surveyed, Mohegan Sun ranked second in overall customer satisfaction, behind Wynn Las Vegas.

Nationwide, casino revenue slipped 7 percent in 2009, with Atlantic City and Las Vegas markets experiencing even bigger declines. Customer satisfaction with casinos across the country also is down in 2009 by 75 percent because of broad cuts in staff and service.

Yet, based on the study, Connecticut’s casinos still are leaving customers satisfied.

“We faced the economic downturn focused on maintaining service levels,” said Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Sun. “That meant not laying people off, because we needed a full complement of staff for guests.”

The Market Metrix Casino Market Study rated customer satisfaction with the casino experience based on five key measures: ambiance, friendliness of staff; helpfulness of staff, variety of gaming options and value of casino promotions.

The study found casino ambiance is critical to customer satisfaction. Casinos with the highest ambiance scores also reported higher scores in the measure of feeling “excited” and “elegant.” Service scores were also higher at these properties, especially the measures of friendliness and helpfulness of casino staff.

Others findings included:

n Customers think they are getting a better value now.

n The casino customer profile is wealthier, older.

n Planned trips and nights per year are not down — spending is.

n Customers are more price sensitive and switch more easily based on price.
n More people are reading reviews before booking casino accommodations.
n Loyalty programs are more important in casino selection.

n Employee ‘can-do attitude’ is down, a key driver of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“What we are seeing in the entire industry, is we still have a large number of people visiting the casino, but a significant reduction in spending,” Etess said.

Value is key in this environment.

“No doubt as revenues are harder to come by, every gaming is more competitive. The result is more incentives and more bargains,” he said.

In the past, consumers would look at reviews for hotels before making a selection, but rarely for casino hotels, said study co-author Jonathan Barsky, co-founder of the San Rafael, Calif.-based Market Metrix said. “That’s changed now.”

But demand from younger patrons is shrinking faster than the overall averages, Barsky said. The average casino guest is 53; in 2008 it was 51.

Etess said that finding isn’t surprising. The baby boomer bubble is getting older, he said.
“We have a nightclub as part of our appeal to a younger audience. Everybody is looking to create amenities to add more people. They’re the meat of our customers. They have more disposable income,” he said.

New customer demographics and behaviors require new strategies, Barsky said. While dropping rates will attract people to take advantage of deals, understanding consumer behavior and offering guests what they want, while attracting the right customer mix, will be imperative, he said.

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