River Spirit continues setting standards and reaping the rewards despite challenges
TULSA, Oklahoma– Despite the temporary closure of River Spirit due to flood that lasted four weeks in early summer, the River Spirit Casino Resort has continued to “break the mold” in the customer service, company culture and community leadership categories.
“We were just in Oklahoma magazine where we were named one of the
2019 best companies to work for in the state of Oklahoma,” CEO of Muscogee (Creek) Casinos Pat Crofts said. “About three or four weeks ago, we received our AAA Four Diamond Award.”
In the customer service category, River Spirit has raised the bar since the resort opened, as evidenced by its secure hold on the American Automobile Association (AAA) Four Diamond Rating. Since opening, the resort has earned its the third AAA Four Diamond Award since the resort has opened.
The AAA four-diamond rating is bestowed on select few travel destination properties in North America.
Crofts said there is a lot more to getting a four-diamond than a comfortable room.
“They score on the facility, amenities, how nice it’s furnished, customer service and overall atmosphere,” Crofts said. “We’ve got to have certain things like business centers and things like that besides a nice room.”
Trained, unannounced evaluators, much like a secret shopper, who looks for luxury, rank the properties style, amenities and customer service.
That rating was maintained even when Mother Nature unleashed massive amounts of floodwaters on Oklahoma.
It was during those weeks of flooding that the rest of the world got a glimpse of one of the major contributing factors to excellent customer service.
As the resort was closed two full payroll cycles, the employees never missed a paycheck.
“We talked about it, it was not the employee’s fault,” Crofts said. “We have a lot of employees that don’t have the means to go without a paycheck.”
“Without knowing how long we were going to be closed, we decided to pay employees as long as we were closed.”
It was an unparalleled investment in people behind making extraordinary customer service possible. It may have also played a significant role in the resort being chosen as one of the best companies to work for by Oklahoma Magazine.
CEO Pat Crofts said it went a long way towards employee retention, and it was the type of thing that doesn’t happen in conventional gaming.
“We made that decision; we went to the Gaming Operations Authority Board and told them what we were going to do,” Crofts said. “We got their blessing, we talked to the National Council, and the Nation was standing by ready.”
“If we got to a point…if we needed to get an appropriation council was standing ready to do that.”
Fortunately, it did not come that. The cash reserves were able to see the business through.
Crofts said it was such a good decision that brought in additional business when the casino did open back up.
“I’ve worked at a lot of casinos in my career, a lot of them… owned by publicly traded companies,” Crofts said. “It’s all about what they give back to their shareholders.”
“In tribal gaming, we don’t do that…100% of our net income is distributed to the Nation, so it’s not going to go out of state.”
“It’s going to be used by the Nation for the benefit of all the Nation citizens,” Crofts said.
Crofts likes the long term business planning in tribal gaming.
“We employ over 2200 employees, and it’s a big business,” Crofts said.
While the flooding was a setback, he said the tribe’s gaming is back on course. There are even some renovation plans for the Muskogee and Okemah casinos. Plans for a second tower at the River Spirit Casino Resort might have been put on hold because of the flood but the plans are by no means discarded.