Guest Experience vs. Customer Service

This is the first of a three part series exploring the guest experience in casino resorts.  The first installment will focus on creating and delivering an exceptional guest experience; the next installment will discuss creating memorable experiences for guests; and, the final installment will cover guest experience technology concepts.

Today, casinos and gambling are as common as the local convenience store – commercial casinos, tribal gaming, online, lottery, sports, and racing present a myriad of options for gamers today, all at their fingertips or within a short drive.  In fact, gaming is so ubiquitous, that much of the mystique surrounding casinos has dissipated to the point there has been a polar reversal of gaming and non-gaming profit centers: non-gaming revenue surpassed gaming revenue years ago in Las Vegas and the trend is rapidly spreading to other jurisdictions.  Since then, there has been a fundamental shift in marketing from casino gaming to restaurants, entertainment, retail, and nightlife.  As casinos around the country begin to match each other in quality of restaurants, entertainment, etc., they soon run out of ways to differentiate themselves.  That is when they try to use customer service to set themselves apart from the competition.  But as more and more casinos focus on improving customer service, it quickly loses its edge as a differentiator.

This is the time we now look to create an exceptional guest experience instead of just great customer service.  First, let’s start by defining guest experience. According to Harvard Business Review, it can be defined as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.”  This can include everything from a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of a company, product or service, through the purchase and use of that company’s products or services.  Together, these all add up to the critical moments—what we call touchpoints—that create an organization’s overall guest experience.

But how is guest experience different from customer service?  WhiteSand has partnered with Strativity, a leading guest experience strategy company working with Fortune 500 companies around the world.  Together, we are delivering casino resort guest experience strategy and tactical solutions to provide our clients with the tools necessary to differentiate themselves in today’s highly competitive market.

According to a recent Strativity/Harvard Business Review study “Making Customer Centric Strategies Take Hold,” 84% of companies believe that having a clear customer centric vision is very important to their business success….however less than two-thirds of companies report actually having this clear vision!

Companies have a tendency to grow into organizations of many ‘silos’ – each of which might work well within its own realm, but frequently misses opportunities to excel within the context of the organization’s broader overarching goals.  Companies which are truly Customer Centric know this….and they work tirelessly to prevent these silos from taking hold.  Here are the top three things they do:

  1. Recognize your A-Team, but engage your whole operation – just because someone has a passion for guest experience, doesn’t mean they know how to operationalize it, or, even if they do, that they will be able achieve meaningful results in isolation. Successful guest experience centric organizations recognize and utilize available skill sets across their operation, encourage teaming and bring in new people as necessary as needs are identified.  Remember though, everyone has a role in delivering exceptional guest experience.
  2. Plan, Execute, Learn, Adjust, Repeat! – ‘Common Sense’ is not the same as having a ‘plan’.  Guest experience centric organizations develop long-term, detailed plans which they execute against, track and learn from in order to continuously improve execution.
  3. Keep silos from re-forming: Departments within organizations have a natural tendency to focus on the day-to-day things that define their function.  Cross functional mandates like guest experience will suffer without constant nurturing – successful organizations achieve this by having Champions in each department to create a groundswell of change and keep guest experience in focus day-to-day.


Developing an exceptional guest experience is much more than just creating service level standards and training programs.  Guest experience programs include many things both tangible and intangible, and how they impact the guest’s senses.  In addition to the way guests are treated, everything they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is part of the experience.  Think about your favorite restaurant: what makes it your favorite?  Think beyond how you are treated – think about the décor, the lighting, the selection and volume of the music, the innovativeness of the food – all components of your experience.

Working together with Strativity, we create a program with four key components to create an exceptional guest experience:

  • Discover – Journey Maps, Day-in-the-Life, Guest Experience 360
  • Design – Guest Experience Plan and Materials, Align the Organization
  • Deploy – Education Events and Corresponding Materials
  • Sustain – Tools for Managers to keep the Focus on Exceptional Guest Experience


WhiteSand incorporates many different tangible and intangible aspects into our customized programs to create an exceptional guest experience program.  Together with Stravity, we can demonstrate measurable results of increased revenues and greater market share, providing you with a distinct competitive advantage.  For more information, contact Jim Nickerson at 609-501-3374 or