I have never been very big on going to Vegas. The oversized everything combined with the it’s-ok-to-misbehave vibe has never really appealed to me. In the last few years, I’ve only gone to Lost Wages when it makes a convenient starting point to fly into before heading out to the Grand Canyon or Zion. On one of those trips, however, I stayed at the MGM Grand so I had some interest in an article in today’s Wall Street Journal on just what it takes to run Vegas’ biggest hotel (When 12,000 Guests Spend the Night, Sep 22). Here is a video of the reporter discussing the article.Vodpod videos no longer available.
The hotel has over 5,000 rooms and can have more than 70,000 people pass through its doors in one day. Consequently some of the numbers related to their operations are insane (see the graphic to the right). Given its size, a major challenge is to provide an intimate, personal experience.
MGM Grand employs strategies at every point, from the parking lot to check-ins to housekeeping, to make its operations feel small. “People get intimidated when they walk into a big lobby and hear about all these rooms. It is a challenge for us,” says Scott Sibella, president and chief operating officer of MGM Grand. … “The challenge is to cater to everybody without alienating anybody,” says Mr. Sibella.
So how do you do that? One aspect is providing clear standards for operating departments, which provides clear guidance on what management views as “good” service.
Most MGM Grand departments have service goals; executives are judged, in part, on how well their employees meet the goals, says Timothy M. Kelly, vice president of hotel operations. Room service is supposed to arrive within 30 minutes of an order. Maintenance calls need to be answered in 15 minutes. A car needs to be retrieved by a valet in eight minutes. The 370 housekeepers on duty on busy days aim to clean each room in 30 minutes.
Obviously, some of these standards (e.g., 30 minutes to make up a room) are as much about costs and labor productivity as anything else. But many directly affect the customer experience (e.g., 15 minutes for a maintenance call) and show that the hotel values the customer’s time and cares about any inconvenience. Indeed, a number of these standards could impose some very hard scheduling problems for the hotel. Room service has to be a nightmare since you will have convention goers who might be up relatively early while still catering to those who stay up late partying.
Other changes the hotel has made directly relate to structure of processes. Take check in.
For years, hotel guests stood in two long, snaking lines to check in. Now, on busy days, there are 36 small lines, one in front of each front-desk worker. Guests “are third, not 23rd,” says Shawna Cabrera, front desk manager. “There’s the perception that they’re going to get through quickly.”
Basic queuing theory, of course, favors a big serpentine line with every available agent on the reception desk pulling from the same queue. As this shows, perception may trump pure efficiency.