Category Archives: Casino Player Development

Casino Host Basics

So you’re a casino host.  Now what?  There are tasks and goals and guests and procedures, and some of them seem to be at odds with one another.  Simply put, it’s a host’s job to balance all these things.  Your primary objective is to drive more trips or get more play from the best players at your property.  The tasks and goals and guests and procedures are all parts of the whole role, which is to build relationships with players on behalf of your property in order to secure their loyalty and limit the amount of their gaming wallet that goes to your competitors.

As a rule, the relationships you build with your players will become second nature after a time.  They may begin to feel like your actual friendships.  You’ll learn which of your players are interested in what sort of events at your casino.  You’ll figure out which ones want more comps than their play warrants (manage them carefully!) and which ones would rather just be left alone to play.  It won’t take you long to remember what brand of smokes your best players prefer, and which restaurants each of your better players frequent.  Who golfs, who owns his own business, who takes care of their grandchildren on weekends, who gets all worked up if you don’t return their call within a couple of hours…you get the idea.7K0A0523

But you have to start somewhere.  Begin with a letter to any “new” players, meaning ones you haven’t yet met face-to-face.  After a few days, give each guest a call to inquire whether they’ve received your letter and whether there is any service that you may offer to them.  Have a calendar or list of upcoming events handy so you can tell them what’s going on, and note the events in which they seem interested.  (That way, you know which ones to contact them for in the future.)  Explain the services you can provide and ensure that the guest knows how to reach you when they need you. As a host, it’s your responsibility to provide the guest a touchpoint for your casino.

A player’s host is his “inside man.”  You should be able to get him a room or dinner reservations or show tickets or registration for a tournament or other event without him having to do more than ask you to take care of it.  Afterward, relentless follow-up is required.  Always return a guest’s call as soon as humanly possible and do what you say you will do.  If you’re making reservations, call back with confirmation that the task is complete, no matter whether the reservation is for today or in three weeks.

Work within the guidelines you’ve been provided, and remember that when you break a rule for a guest, you are, in fact creating a new rule.  Players will share with one another what you’ve done for them, and others will begin to expect the same sort of consideration.  Be diplomatic, and learn to say “no” and make it sound like “yes,” using the phrase, “what I CAN do for you is…”  It’s never a good idea to create an expectation for something you cant deliver.

Learn how to read player accounts well enough to quickly determine whether a guest will still be profitable after redeeming all his or her offers before providing additional incentives.  If she redeems her room and meal coupons, downloads all her points for free play AND you give her a comp, how much of her play is left over as profit?  Let that be your guide.  As a general rule of thumb, don’t comp someone more than 10% of their average theo (or loss, if that’s a bigger dollar amount.)  When you DO provide an extra incentive to a guest, be sure they understand whether or not such an incentive may be provided again in the future.  Tell them what they need to do to get what they want.

Ask the other hosts on your team (particularly those who are more experienced) how they handle certain situations and take the best practices from among them to make your own.  Every host is different in some ways from his or her counterparts, and because of that, your own signature approach will often serve you well.  Learn from your mistakes and always ask someone you trust for help when you need it.

Remember always that your job is to get more visits or more play from the best players at your casino. The best hosts find a way to accommodate their guests without creating unrealistic expectations, learn to anticipate their guests’ needs, and accurately report on their activities so the property’s leadership understands the Player Development team’s contribution to the bottom line. The tasks and goals and guests and procedures are how you get there.

 

 

10 Tips for Casino Hosts

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

But you are a people person, and likely have casino player development in your blood, like I do.  That means you’ll come back again and again in an effort to get your guests to do the exact same.  7K0A0246

Why do we comp?

In preparation for my session at the 2014 Southern Gaming Summit, I spoke with lots of Casino Player Development experts and team leaders, and one subject keeps bubbling up to the top: host comps.  Some properties have eliminated their hosts’ ability to issue player comps, and many people wonder exactly what it is that the hosts are supposed to do in that situation.

In my blog post entitled Player Development Doesn’t HAVE to Be Expensive, I cover this topic just a bit, but here’s a point I missed: hosts are predisposed to write comps because players expect them.  We have created this expectation ourselves, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Hosts know that players expect to be comped in addition to the direct mail offers and mass promotions the casino offers. Savvy players know they’re worth more if they’re hosted, and they (like everyone else) want maximum value for their gaming dollars.

I have done the math on some pretty high-worth players and found them to be unprofitable due to the comps they demanded and received.  I have also found great players who almost never received a comp because they were satisfied with the offers they received in the mail, or they never knew they could ask for something more. (Sadly, the latter are a minority, particularly in this economy, where everyone feels compelled to wring every dime out of every possible source.)  Most players, fortunately, fall somewhere in the middle: they understand the player rewards systems at their favorite casinos and receive benefits commensurate with their play.  They receive these perks for a number of reasons, but at the core is one driving force: to secure their loyalty to a particular casino.

That brings us to another pertinent question: does comping buy a player’s loyalty?  Steve Browne said years ago in a training session for Wheeling Island that players are promiscuous.  He’s not wrong.  I’ve spoken with players who were treated quite well by a host at one of my properties who were made the proverbial “offer they couldn’t refuse” because a competitor had an idea of the player’s worth…and they went for it.  Whispering sweet nothings to me and the hosts the whole time, telling me how satisfied they were with our ability to compensate them for their play, they told me later about their visit to my competitor’s casino.  Breathless with the brand new-ness of the property, describing with delight the free steakhouse dinner or entertainment or VIP lounge, they wrap up their description of my competitor by telling me how little money they spent there so they could spend some with me.

The reason hosts are expected to issue comps are numerous: to compensate a player who lost a fair amount of money, to get a return visit from a “lost” player, to supplement mail offers the player isn’t likely to use, to mark a special occasion in the player’s life (anniversary, birthday, etc.), or to placate a high roller whose service expectations weren’t met.  Ultimately, the goal of a comp is to get a player to return to your property.  All of the reasons listed above have that goal in common.  The host, with the comp, is asking the player, “Please come back!”

But what if the host can’t issue a comp? My friends at properties who have forbidden comps tell me they’ve had to helplessly watch players walk out the door simply because the host couldn’t provide them with dinner. What is a host in this situation to do?

The answer is simple: Do Your Best. Don’t break the rules; don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t grouse about your inability to write a comp for a soft drink. Tell the patron how to get what he wants, let him know what you CAN do for him, and let the chips fall where they may. Be helpful, genuine, professional, and available to the guest. You are still an ambassador for your property.

Happily, the words, “Please come back” are almost as effective on most people as the buffet comp would have been.

If you are a host who CAN comp, thank your lucky stars, make the best business decisions possible, and never take for granted the tools you have been given to take care of your patrons.

Player Development Job Descriptions

Back when I got my first director’s job, I was asked to review and revise the job descriptions for everyone in my areas of responsibility.  I thought at first that the task would be easy: read through the documents sent to me, make sure they reflected what the team was supposed to do, change what didn’t make sense, then send them back to HR.  Done!
As it turns out, some of them were a little more difficult to quantify.  To save you the trouble, I’ve compiled here a list of the most basic and important responsibilities in Player Development.  I left them generic, so you can use them anywhere.  Many of them could be used for other roles, too.  Feel free to copy, paste, add, revise, or none of the above.

Summary of Responsibilities

The main responsibility of a Player Development professional, regardless of title, is to develop and maintain effective working relationships with a casino property’s very best players and provide services to them to build player loyalty and increase the number of visits or amount played (or both) from among those guests.  In order to do this, a PD pro must also develop and maintain strong working relationships with key allies throughout the property and in the community to ensure players have the experience they expect while gaming and to generate leads for new business.

A Player Development Manager is, in addition, expected to set and monitor achievement of goals and measurable metrics for the team in alignment with the property’s business objectives.  Providing information relevant to the operation in a 360 degree direction is part of the manager’s role, so analysis and report preparation is imperative.  A manager is also a resource for guests whose issues must be escalated for satisfactory resolution and hosts who are having trouble finding their own way to goal achievement.

Here are the basic job functions in for everyone in Player Development (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • Establish and maintain positive customer relationships with players who meet property criteria (and with those identified to have the potential to reach that level of play)
  • Maintain contact with coded players as appropriate to generate return visits and provide exemplary service.
  • Interact with players in person on property, as well as via telephone, e-mail, text message, and written correspondence
  • Learn about and tailor services to guests’ preferences, likes and dislikes
  • Resolve player issues, whether real or perceived, to the guest’s satisfaction
  • Strive to achieve goals and metrics/objectives provided
  • Find the right balance in every situation between the guest’s desires and the property’s rules, regulations and guidelines  (Amy’s note: There is always a way.)
  • Invite players to events, tournaments, shows, etc.,  according to their interests
  • Make hotel, show, dining and other reservations and communicate same to guest
  • Issue complimentaries or other offers to guests as play and property guidelines warrant
  • Host special events, player parties, property promotions and other activities as needed
  • Provide information to team and property leadership related to guest feedback, suggestions, concerns or issues
  • Maintain confidentiality of information about both customers and property; share carefully
  • Represent the property as a role model of customer service and professionalism
  • Participate in brainstorming and planning sessions for Player Development program
  • Network among coded players to build relationships among the best customers and to generate leads for new high-worth players
  • Prepare and submit reports on activities as directed, complete and on time

If you are a Player Development Manager (or other team leader) you are also responsible for:

  • Setting SMART (with a stretch!) goals and metrics for each host and for the team
  • Monitoring pace toward goal achievement
  • Analysis of coded and potential high-worth player data
  • Assigning/coding players to hosts
  • Coaching staff as needed
  • Regular and consistent communication with all direct reports
  • Preparing and submitting activity and departmental reports as assigned
  • Attending meetings as a representative of the Player Development team
  • Participating in brainstorming and planning sessions for marketing
  • Implementing programs, events, promotions, etc. for the Player Development team
  • Providing assistance for marketing events as required
  • Resolving player issues, real or perceived, when host is unable to do so
  • Setting an example of excellent customer service

Tell me what you think.  Did I miss something?

Coaching a Host to Success

Coaching a Host to Success is a unique 1:1 coaching program that helps the Manager to coach a host to success. Do you have some hosts that beat their goals and others that under-perform? This program takes you through the detailed steps of addressing and improving casino host performance with practical management experience and based on detailed metrics that you just don’t have the time to prepare. In addition to improving host performance, you will learn new tips and techniques to enhance your own effectiveness as a manager.

HostGoals

Sign up for this 1:1 Coaching program for managers of Casino Hosts. The program is delivered by phone and/or Skype. The charge is an hourly rate and the program follows this structure but is adjusted to your specific needs:

Assess (8-12 hours)

  • Send host goal achievement and summary of disciplinary history, if any
  • Include summary of hosts’ interactions with guests and co-workers
  • Meet with consultant and begin to talk about strengths and shortcomings

Recommend (16-20 hours)

  • Determine action to take with host and draft plan agreement
  • Sit down with host and discuss plan, ask host for input
  • Finalize document and get signatures; communicate 360 degrees

Implement (16-20 hours)

  • Use agreement as guide; set 6 (min) weekly one-on-ones with host
  • Print host pace for goal and discuss with host weekly; ask for ideas
  • Write notes and sign at end of weekly meeting to document discussions and progress

Monitor (3-6 hours)

  • Determine at end of agreement period whether new agreement is needed or if host has made sufficient improvement
  • Draft new agreement and repeat Recommend and Implement steps -OR-
  • Finalize original agreement, compile all follow-ups, sign and file

Contact Amy Hudson at 304.218.1265 or ahudson@harvesttrends.com for a confidential discussion without obligation. Or learn more about Amy’s style and experience via her blog at http://casinoplayerdevelopment.wordpress.com

How do I set up and track Casino Host goals? (Part 1 of 5)

Maybe you just got a promotion.  Or, the market around you has changed and you need to respond to that.  You got a new boss, or you’re starting a brand-new host team, or you got a job at a new property, or something like that.  Anyway, you have found yourself sitting in front of the computer trying to assemble Casino Host goals for the Player Development team.  And you’re not sure where to start.  Please read on.

Start with some basic structure questions.

  • Will the amount of the bonus to be paid out be salary-based or will there be a set amount which can be earned?
  • Will you add a team bonus or simply pay individual hosts based on their own achievements?
  • Will there be bonuses paid for partial achievement?
  • Will you pay a super-bonus for far exceeding the goals?
  • Will goals be based solely on the revenue the team generates, or will you include some strategic objectives for the team to achieve?
  • If you include them, will the metrics-based goals be paid out even if the host doesn’t reach his or her revenue target?
  • Upon what will you base the revenue targets?
  • What metrics will you choose for the strategic objectives and how will you set those target numbers?

Once you have made some decisions around these questions, you’re ready to do some analysis in order to answer the specifics.

Yes, you’ll need to crunch some numbers in order to set the goals.  At a minimum, you need to understand the following:

  • How much cumulative revenue the players coded to each host generated in a period that looks like your bonus period. (Whether you use gross theo, net theo, actual or some combination thereof is up to you.)           -OR-
  • An average revenue amount and number of trips for all the host team’s coded players.
  • How much your property expects its revenue numbers to change from the quarter you analysed to the quarter you’re setting the bonus for.  For example, in Q1 2014, Sandy Palace Casino expects to see 3.5% growth over Q1 2013.  (You should assume the hosted players will be subject to the same anticipated increase in worth, all things being equal.)
  • How many new players your hosts will add to their list over the course of the quarter and what they are expected to be worth.
  • What sort of player attrition the property has experienced lately (say, quarter over quarter).
  • The number of players in your database who deserve but do not currently enjoy host attention and their worth.
  • Whether any additional threats to the cream of your database exist in your market and what revenue might be lost if that threat comes to fruition.

Have you got all that?  Good.  Now, let’s build some goals for a bonus program.