Monthly Archives: February 2014

Effective Player Development Doesn’t HAVE To Be Expensive

Is it necessary for a host to make an offer to a player in order to generate a trip?  It is, after all, standard behavior for hosts to comp players.

The industry’s earliest Player Development efforts started this way, even before anyone used the term “player development.”  Pit bosses traded free and discounted meals for player loyalty long before slot club cards were in wide use.  As the technology grew, methods shifted and what we now recognize as modern PD was born.

RecentForActiveCasinoPlayers

In the current gaming climate, it is becoming more difficult to retain the loyalty of a player; it has become a player’s market in many regions of the US.  When every casino they’ve visited within the last six months is sending them comparable offers, players really can pick and choose where and when to visit a casino and maximize the value of that visit.  So, does that mean a host has to sweeten the deal in order to get the player to visit HIS property instead of going to a competitor?  I say emphatically, “No.”

I propose an experiment.  Do a split test for host-initiated visits in exactly the same manner you would for direct mail.  Determine which two of your hosts have lists which represent the same sort of cross-section of your database and which have similar player frequency and worth.  Give them each the same time frame and number of players to activate.  Have one host make an offer with every call; a free buffet, a night’s stay for free (if you have a hotel), a small free play amount, or something similar.  Then have the other host do nothing more than make contact and chat with the guest without making a specific offer.  (If the guest asks for something, the host should use his or her customary decision-making process to assess and respond to that request.)  Then at the end of the test period, see who was more successful and, more importantly, who was more profitable.

Ultimately, hosts need to keep in mind that their players are accustomed to receiving some pretty comprehensive offers via your direct mail and rewards programs already.  While the players will certainly not (in most cases) turn down an offer of additional freebies, your property is already spending a fair amount on them in overall reinvestment.  This fact is sometimes overlooked as players share with their favorite casino employees the details of offers made to them by competitor casinos.  They do this to gauge their worth to your property in comparison.  It’s subtle, but effective, psychological posturing.

Over the years, savvy players have learned to work the system.  Your host team should not be a point of weakness that players may exploit.  I’m sure everyone who reads this post can come up with a war story or two: the guest who booked a suite and handed it off to her newlywed daughter (who never spent a dollar on your gaming floor), the table games player who came to the invitational golf tournament and ate in your steakhouse with a comp but never played a hand of blackjack, hotel guests who stayed free for a week by combining coupons and discounts and points, you know the ones I mean.  The way to prevent that sort of player behavior is through communication.  Information flows from your hosts and your database team to understand what’s going on with your players, and the PD team leader should communicate what the hosts and database specialists should be doing to get that incremental visit from your guests.

In my experience, an “overdue” guest will make a visit to your property within two weeks of a call from his or her host, whether or not an offer has been made.  The call puts the property top of mind and the guest remembers why he or she enjoys playing there.  If there are no obstacles to the trip (health concerns, travel arrangements, financial woes, etc.) the player might even show up within a day or two of the call.  Most of the time, the host only needs to remind the player of an offer he or she already has: an upcoming show, hotel coupons for a weekend stay, a VIP event or tournament to which he guest has been invited.

What about times when an offer is warranted?  How is the host to know whether or not he should make an offer over and above what the marketing department has already provided?  Consider whether or not you’d make an exception for players like these: new members whose initial mail offers have expired, players with significant loss and low theo, overdue guests who don’t have current offers, players who have a special occasion in the near future, or those who are high-frequency mid-worth guests whose offers don’t last them through the month.  These are the sorts of players who hit up hosts for “extras.”  Consider carefully how you want them handled and maintain clear two-way communication between hosts and team leaders to keep everyone on the same page and keep costs down.

For some event ideas, check out this post.  The best benefit your players can have is the service of a good casino host.  That benefit, like so many of the others your property offers, doesn’t have to be expensive.

The Guest Experience MUST Be Paramount

I visited a local casino yesterday.  It was not the pleasant experience I’d anticipated.  This thought actually occurred to me as I was heading back to my car, “I changed into a nice outfit and did my hair & makeup for THIS?!”

Online reviews for this property are mixed, with a slight edge to more positive opinions.  I wasn’t a hotel guest, and I certainly wasn’t going to dine there once the atmosphere had so negatively affected my mood.  If I’d read them before I went there, I would still have been let down.  Perhaps my experience was more disappointing because of my years in the industry and because of my tendency to look through the lens of an executive who wants everything to be perfect.  Honestly, I went to the casino yesterday for the same reasons any guest does: to be around other people, soak up some of the fun and excitement one expects to find in a casino, and to play some slots for a little while.  Instead, I left feeling as though I chose the wrong property to visit because the employees I encountered didn’t seem to care very much about me or the other guests I saw.

First of all, the security guard at the door didn’t greet me. At all.  I’m pretty sure she gave me no more than a cursory glance to ensure I appeared old enough to be on the gaming floor.  Second, security was the department I saw represented most heavily on the gaming floor.  There wasn’t a single “suit” on the floor outside the pit. No hosts in sight, and I saw only one slot attendant and one cocktail server. Next, the only employee who spoke to me at all was the club rep who replaced my card…and she only said exactly as much as she needed to determine what I wanted and take care of my request.  My attempts at small talk were met with silence.  I even spoke directly to one employee, who did not respond at all.  The one bright spot was a slot technician who smiled at me as I approached an abandoned bank of machines.

I saw other things that concerned me about the guest experience at this casino: doors open to the back of the house, employees who appeared actively grumpy in direct guest contact, backs turned to patrons at more than one service area, and guests who looked as though they’d rather be anywhere else.  On the plus side, the place was exceptionally clean and chairs had been pushed up to the machines when they weren’t occupied.  On a previous trip, the floor was very smoke-filled and that wasn’t the case this time, but it also was a lot less busy on this winter weekday afternoon

Clearly the atmosphere in the casino I visited was not conducive to extending a visit or even enticing the player to return.  I might have stayed a while longer (and spent more money) had the place had a fun feel to it.  There was a slot tournament going on, and I might have liked to give it a try, but the people standing in line waiting to sign up looked just as grumpy as the employee who was signing them in.  Oh, and there was a HANDWRITTEN sign attached to the stanchion sign at the registration table.  Sadly, the handwritten message didn’t even make sense to me.

Folks, I guess the point I’m trying to make here is this: the guest experience has to be more important than anything (with the exception of compliance).  Period.  If you work in any service role, you have to check your baggage before you enter a guest area.  Whether there are rumors floating around that affected your mood, or if you’re just having a crappy day, that is not a thing your guests need to know.  They didn’t come to the casino to make you feel better.  They came so YOU could make THEM feel better.  A trip to the casino is supposed to be entertaining.  It is not supposed to make you wonder why you left home in the first place.  Don’t let what happened to me happen to your guests.  Please.

I promise, if it does, they will feel the same way I do: disappointed.  And they might not come back.