Robinson & Associates
Robinson & Associates, Inc., (R&A) is a stellar case study of more than two decades of success, and the foundation of these achievements. Lydia Baird brings the values of her childhood and Mexican heritage to R&A’s philosophy and day-to-day operations. She brings the entrepreneurial spirit she learned from her father and values such as a strong work ethic and a commitment to dedication and excellence.
Lydia works hand in hand with her husband and R&A co-founder, Marty Baird. The results speak for themselves – R&A has been a successful customer service consulting firm in a number of markets since 1992, including financial services and nutritional supplement retailing. But its most recognized achievement has been the casino industry. It’s in casino and gaming that R&A has had the most impact, rolled out innovative services and literally changed lives. Along the way, Lydia has directed R&A through her exceptional ability to connect with people, her love of fun and her capacity to treat clients like family.
R&A became involved with casinos by chance. The company was located in Scottsdale, Arizona, when in 1994 the general manager of Apache Gold Casino Resort heard Marty give a presentation for an economic development group. That led to the casino asking if Lydia and Marty would be interested in providing customer service training for casino employees. The wife-and-husband team said yes.
“Working with casinos was completely by accident,” Lydia says. “It was so random, but gaming really was the door to our future.”
There were challenges from the very beginning. Seventy-five percent of the employees at Apache Gold had never held a job before they worked at the casino. And then there was the Apache culture that went counter to many of the elements of creating an outstanding guest experience. “Eye contact was a threat,” Lydia says. “There was no smiling because that was like flirting. They talked in low tones so the listener had to lean in, giving control to the person speaking.”Of course, R&A overcame the challenges and this became the launching pad for its successful casino consulting operations.
In the more than 20 years R&A has worked with casinos, it has consulted with gaming properties worldwide, including Europe, Canada and South America, a remarkable achievement for a minority-owned enterprise. R&A has provided its customer service expertise to everything from small, local casinos to some of the largest in the world. Lydia also helped lead R&A into a long relationship with numerous tribal casinos in the United States.
International clients include Regency Casino Mont Parnes in Greece (one of Europe’s largest casinos) and Majestic Casino in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The Casino Mont Parnes consulting was done in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers SA, the Greek firm of worldwide PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “This was a real honor to be selected by PwC as the customer service experts for this project,” Lydia shared.
In the U.S., R&A consults with Table Mountain Casino, The Point Casino, Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, Casino Arizona, Cache Creek Casino Resort, Gila River Casino, Wind Creek Casino Resort, Coushatta Casino Resort, Casino Magic and Casino Miami, among others.
R&A has done well in the casino industry because Lydia and Marty have a passion for helping others succeed. This comes from another of Lydia’s values that she draws from her heritage – the reward of hard work. Lydia and Marty have devoted their careers to that endeavor. When the Bairds began carving out a niche in the gaming industry, their theory – which holds true to this day – was that marketing can get guests to visit a casino but that they may not return if their gaming experience is unsatisfactory. Over time, this vision for improved casino performance led Lydia and Marty to bring entirely new concepts to the gaming industry, including guest advocacy, real-time customer feedback, and reputation measurement and improvement.
The Bairds’ approach to helping clients succeed has evolved over the years. For example, they became aware of the concept of accelerated learning and incorporated that teaching technique into R&A’s employee training sessions. Accelerated learning is participant centered, highly interactive and fun. Research shows that people learn more and improve retention of their new knowledge if they enjoy the learning process.
In 2003, Marty drew upon his customer service expertise and authored a book titled “Gaming Guest Service from A to Z.” The “A to Z” book uses the alphabet to help gaming executives, managers and employees understand the importance of outstanding guest service and how to provide it. A second edition of the book was published in 2013.As the company grew and they worked with more and more casinos, Lydia and Marty searched for an answer to a question they were repeatedly asked – what is a casino’s return on investment in customer service training and other internal improvement programs? It was a legitimate question and they found the answer in 2005 in research published in Harvard Business Review. The research shows there is no correlation between customer and employee satisfaction and the success of a business. The key is creation of customer and employee advocates, whose contribution to the bottom line can be measured. Later that year, R&A’s business model embraced advocacy and introduced Advocate Index™. In 2006, R&A announced its Advocate Development System™.
In 2012, R&A introduced Simply Share+, a real-time customer feedback platform that makes it fast and easy for customers to share their experience directly with the casino as it is happening. All customers do is see a Simply Share+ placard, table tent or point-of-purchase sign, scan it with their smartphone and share their feedback instantly.
Another innovation for the casino industry – PRE Learning (Prepare, Retain, Engage) – was introduced in 2015 to help casinos get more out of any kind of training. Under PRE Learning, the order in which learning occurs is changed. With traditional learning, students arrive for class and listen to a lecture, as if they know nothing about the topic. With PRE Learning training, participants do exercises before the training even starts. This reduces training time, saves money and increases retention.
But Lydia and Marty began changing lives when they announced their Train the Trainer (TTT) service in mid-2012. Through TTT, R&A takes a handful of casino employees and trains them to train the rest of the staff in creating a culture of outstanding customer service. But participants in TTT quickly learn that this program is far more complex and demanding than it sounds. Lydia calls it “the toughest week casino employees will ever love.” TTT is five days of intense, highly interactive, participant-centered sessions that challenge and push participants to their limits, in the process changing their professional and personal lives forever. They emerge from the program with confidence and leadership abilities they never knew they had. Their first task is to roll out a customer service improvement program custom designed for their casino to meets its specific needs.
Here’s how Paula L., external communications specialist at Coushatta Casino Resort, explained her TTT experience. “The Train the Trainer facilitator course was unforgettable, to say the least – a paradigm shift that completely changed my perception of the entire process of learning … Train the Trainer is a motivational earthquake that rocks the foundations of rote teaching methods and launches the ‘group learning experience’ to a higher plane, sending it skyward like a hot rocket. Acquiring new information can be dull or dynamic. Marty Baird personifies dynamic. What your facilitators will learn here is better than money in the bank for your customer service front line.”
Lydia’s role as CFO and Director of Business Development lead her to being the voice, Marty is the public face of R&A. His expertise in the gaming industry is in great demand. In addition to conducting R&A training sessions, Marty is a presenter at such key gaming conferences as Global Gaming Expo and the National Indian Gaming Association’s Trade Show and Convention. He also has given presentations for the European Casino Summit, the Casino Management Association and the Canadian Gaming Summit.
Marty has written byline columns for many prominent gaming industry publications worldwide. In the U.S., he has been published in Gaming & Leisure, International Gaming & Wagering Business, Casino Journal, Casino Enterprise Management, Global Gaming Business, Native American Casino, Indian Gaming Magazine and Gaming Products & Services. Internationally, Marty has written for Casino Review, Casino Life, Gaming for Africa, Journal des Casinos, Inside Asian Gaming, InterGaming and Urbino.net.