A couple of recent e-mails from casino hosts gently pointed out that many of my blog posts are aimed squarely at those who lead casino player development teams and that there wasn’t a lot of content for those who actually ARE casino hosts. With this post, I am addressing casino hosts directly in order to help them streamline their efforts to drive more visits from their property’s most profitable players. The following guidelines may be applied as needed in order to help hosts accomplish more during a shift.
- Understand who your customers are and what they want. This sounds pretty simple, but is , in fact, as complex as each of the players themselves. Think for a moment about the things you hear over and over again in conversations with your players. These are common themes, and it’s likely that your players have discussed their feelings about your program with one another as well. Are they getting more free play from your competitors? Since there’s not much you can do about that, remind them that you provide them extra “value” for their visits by making it easier for them to make room or dinner reservations. Do they tell you that they don’t like your promotions? Get specifics and pass them along to the pertinent associates in your marketing department in order to provide those folks the direction they need to make those promotions more appealing, which makes them more profitable when better players participate. Talk with the [layers and share what you ‘ve learned in order to keep your casino ahead of the curve.
- Know how to say “no” and make it sound like “yes.” This concept suggests that you can share with them what they need to do in order to get what they want. Rather than shut them down as soon as they ask for something not warranted by their play, tell them how much they’ll have to play in order to earn the thing they want. Remember to look at spouse play or other mitigating factors (how frequently they customarily visit, whether they likely visit competitor properties, recent illnesses or bad weather, etc.) in your calculations. Then tell them how many points or trips or comps they will have to earn (or make) to qualify. Put the ball back in the player’s court, so to speak, and then the “no” doesn’t have to be spoken. Empower the guest to earn what’s necessary to have their wish fulfilled.
- Understand how your property’s direct mail program works. This single accomplishment will enable you to more profitably manage your player list. If the guest has hotel coupons that haven’t yet been redeemed, offer to make the reservation for them using the coupon. (If your property requires that the actual coupon be surrendered upon check-in, remind the guest to bring it to the hotel desk.) When the guest asks for a steakhouse reservation, look at their offers and determine whether they want this meal in addition to what their coupons provide and decide if the comp is warranted on top of the other offers they might redeem during the trip. If they’ve got an offer for 2 (two) show tickets and they want 4 (four) seats for an upcoming show, look at recent play to see if the add-on is warranted. (Maybe they had a big loss since the offers mailer…or maybe they didn’t.) Understanding your mail program helps you better address player concerns when their offers change, too. And you’ll get that question a lot.
- Make breaking (or bending) a rule a last resort. Once you’ve broken a rule to accommodate a guest’s wishes, you’ve actually established a new rule. The guest will likely come to expect a similar accommodation in the future unless you tactfully communicate to him that this is a one-time only situation. As other players hear about the special favor you’ve done (and they will!), some of them are likely to ask you for similar consideration due to their own extenuating circumstances. It can be a slippery slope, so it’s probably best to avoid the trip down the hill.
- Pass along player comments to your team leader. Whether you know it or not, your team leader is probably going to follow up on the information you share. Often, managers and directors are so busy with the day-to-day tasks of their own jobs, as well as the occasional firefight, that they don’t get to talk with guests and learn what is important or vexing to them. In your role as a host, players will often share their frustrations or delights with you. Close the feedback loop by sharing this information with your boss in order to ensure the guests concerns are at least within his awareness.
- Always maintain confidentiality. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget who is around you when you are speaking with co-workers or even other guests. If you are going to be talking about specific player patterns or proprietary company information, always ensure you are in an area away from guests as well as employees who do not have access to the information you are sharing. Never reveal things like ADT ranges or levels, customer losses, company policies and procedures, or sensitive information like room numbers or addresses. When speaking with a customer directly, use generalizations or anecdotes to share pertinent information without going into specifics…unless you are talking about that guest’s own play patterns. Even then, only use points or another metric which the customer can plainly see for himself to make your point.
- Never let ’em see you sweat! Even when you’re running around the casino like a madman on a Saturday night, take your time to walk through the gaming areas, keeping in mind that the guests may take a cue from your behavior. Walk with a purpose, but like you own the place. Even when you’re on your way to a firefight, take advantage of opportunities to briefly “touch” players you know and make a mental note to get back to them when you have a moment. Be calm and plan your next move instead of being buffeted by the tides of a busy casino floor. Better yet, plan your day ahead of time. Build in a buffer to accommodate the unexpected, and you’ll accomplish more.
- Don’t come out of the gate with an offer. When you approach those players on the gaming floor, or when you reach one by phone, don’t automatically offer free play or a buffet comp. Player development is about relationships, and it isn’t your job to be Santa Claus. Talk with the guest. Learn why he visits your property instead of a competitor’s. Find out why he doesn’t like the buffet or never brings his wife with him. Make a connection instead of an offer. When you do this via telemarketing, you’ll often find that the overdue or inactive guest will make a visit to your property within a couple of weeks even if you didn’t sweeten the deal with something extra in the way of perks. Just having you as their host will often keep your property top of mind, so touching base will sometimes generate a visit on its own.
- Share your ideas. One of the best hosts I’ve ever known is also once of the most creative people I’ve met in my lifetime. She is great at decorating, throwing parties, and generating ideas for casino promotions that drive revenue. Fortunately, she is also a “sharer.” She’s put together game shows, suite parties with hors d’ouvres and an open bar, slot tournaments, and countless other engaging events for her coded players. She included other hosts in these events when they were interested, and they worked together to make the events memorable. At the suite parties, they even set up a photo “booth” and took pictures with their players. Those photos were featured at future events to show those who’d missed the parties just how much fun they’d had. The hosts who opted out of participating in these events generally didn’t drive as much revenue in the same time period, and all of these great ideas were profitable. Brainstorm with the creative minds at your property and provide your coded players another reason to come have fun at your casino.
- Never forget who you work for and who provides the dollars in your paycheck. These entities are not one and the same. You work for the casino, but the players provide the dollars in your paycheck. It can create a balancing act for you, because sometimes what the player wants is at odds with what the company says you can provide. Making sound business decisions is the hallmark of a good casino host. Therefore, you must always balance the guest’s needs with the company’s success. Paying a player to patronize your casino is never a good idea, because you haven’t actually secured their loyalty…and that’s ultimately what your job really is.
Being a good casino host takes a lot of varied skills. You have to be a god communicator, both written and verbal. You have to quickly weigh circumstances and crunch numbers to make decisions, the results of which your players will take personally. You have to develop real working relationships with people around the casino to help you meet your guests’ needs in addition to the relationships you’ll need to build with the guests themselves. You have to be ever mindful of the policies, procedures, regulatory concerns, ethical considerations and other guidelines by which you have to conduct your business. While thinking like an entrepreneur, to manage your book of business, you have to abide by the rules your casino has for reinvesting in its players. Often, you’ll have to do this on the fly without access to all the tools available to you, do it in addition to other tasks, or do it with so much data you can’t wade through it all. It’s not a job for the faint of heart.