The Stanislavsky Method in Customer Service

Fall often brings reminiscing, at least for me, about cooler mornings and warm weekday afternoons in a classroom.  In my high school years, I was fascinated with acting and drama, so it’s no surprise that I thought back to those classes after getting the kids onto their respective buses this morning.  Happily, I remembered learning The Stanislavksy System (or Method)…and realized that it influenced my approach to customer service. (Cool, huh!?)

For those of you who never aspired to act, the Stanislavsky Method (known more commonly these days as “Method Acting”), was a huge departure from the 19th century approach to bringing characters to life on stage. Instead of the big, broad movements and exaggerated speech that had been the norm up to the turn of the century, Constantin Stanislavsky believed that a more natural-looking performance would be more believable and just as entertaining.  At its heart, his Method stressed that the actor must first be believed, an accomplishment even more important than being heard or understood.  He must have been on to something, since his Method is being taught in acting schools around the world today.

So, you’re asking, “What the heck does all this acting stuff have to do with Customer Service?”  I’ll answer your question with a question of my own.  Have you ever had to act your way through a customer service interaction?  Have you had to pretend to care, or hold your tongue because the guest in front of you was being unreasonable, or try to keep from laughing because the situation was so absurd?  Yes?  I thought so.  The Stanislavsky Method, applied to these situations, would be immensely helpful.

Here’s how the Method works:

  1. Ask the “Magic If.”  “If I were insert name or description of person here, what would I do?  This is helpful because it allows you to step outside yourself for a moment and find a different perspective for handling the situation.  You could put yourself in the guest’s shoes, channel your boss, a mentor, or your mom to find the right point of view with which to approach the situation.  (WWJD also applies in this step, but from a slightly different perspective.)
  2. Re-think how you move and talk.  This step could make or break your interaction with an upset guest. Letting your own negative emotions show can quickly escalate an already unpleasant situation.  Take a moment to check your body language, facial control, and tone of voice.  If you look and sound annoyed or inconvenienced, the guest will pick up those vibes and react accordingly.  Make a conscious effort to project positivity, confidence, and empathy.  The rest of the steps will support this effort.
  3. Observation; be a people watcher.  Actors are always looking for a way to get into the thought processes of their characters.  One way to accomplish this is to observe real people in their natural habitat and learn about different behaviors, interactions, and personalities.  There are multiple ways this powerful tool can be of help to those who deal with customers every day.  First, even without a guest in front of you, if you are paying attention, you can spot people who are on the cusp of an issue (people looking around for help, confused facial expressions, guarded body language) and sometimes avert disaster before it develops.  Additionally, while you are interacting with someone, paying attention to how they hold themselves and respond to you and others around them can be a powerful guide to handling them more appropriately.  Plus, you can learn from the examples others have provided in their customer service conversations and adapt their more successful strategies for yourself.
  4. Ask “What’s my motivation?”  Surely you’ve heard aspiring actor characters in pop culture asking this question of an acting coach or director.  It’s a great question for actors to ask, because understanding the reasons behind someone’s actions helps an actor get more deeply into the head of the character. The same is true for customer service.  If you understand WHY the guest is angry or frustrated or laughing hysterically, it’s easier for you to resolve the situation to that guest’s satisfaction.  Without an understanding of the motivation behind a behavior, you will have difficulty convincing the guest that you really care about their issue, and you’re taking shots in the dark to hit the right solution.
  5. Emotional memory.  If you’ve ever wondered how someone can cry on cue, this Method step may be the answer.  Clearly, actors sometimes have to transmit emotions that they may not actually feel. To display the appropriate emotion (whether you’re feeling it or not), channel a time when you did feel the emotion in question. Dredge up that memory and let the replay loop in your mind’s eye. You’ll start to feel it again, and it will show up in your expression, posture, gestures, and tone.  In customer service, use a memory of being helpful, in charge and successful.  Or, if you prefer, find a memory of poor service and “wear” that to empathize with your guest, then bring him back with you to a level playing field where you can work with one another to solve the dilemma you are now facing together.

Acting and customer service don’t have a lot in common at first glance, but the Method proves that there are effective steps to find the right approach almost any situation in which you need to convince someone that you are who you claim to be.  These steps, whether put together in this order or applied one at a time as needed, will help you to become a better, more empathetic advocate for your guests.  They will appreciate the time and energy you put into it, and you will grow from the experiences.  It’s a Win/Win!  (And how often does THAT happen in the casino industry?)

6 Tips for a Better Plan for 2015

It’s time to wrap up your plans for 2015.  Do you, like me, leave out something that has an impact on your spending patterns or your operations and you find yourself either adjusting or going without all year?  Or, is there the possibility that your capital won’t be approved and you’ll have to spend P&L dollars on maintaining something that should have been replaced? (I’m looking at you, card embosser…)

Obviously you’re going to submit and obtain approval before getting your plan and budget’s final incarnations.  You may, however be able to mitigate some of the pain that comes from surprises in the new year.  Try these tips for better planning.

Tip 1: Take a hard look at this year

For this exercise, you’ll have to be ruthless.  It may even be a bit painful, but it is essential to a successful planning process.  From a budget perspective, it is imperative to understand where your dollars were spent well and where they were not. From a business or marketing plan perspective, you need to know where there’s room for improvement and which things are working for you today.

What did you plan that didn’t work out in 2014?  Were there things you didn’t have the funds for despite your best intentions? How could you have improved cash flow, yield, labor, data, events, etc.?  What goals or strategies did you employ that just did not give you the results you anticipated?  What processes or events or promotions met, or even better, exceeded your expectations and should be incorporated in to your plans for next year?

Take what you learn from this exercise to build a framework for the upcoming year.  Avoid being accused of insanity by proactively deciding NOT to repeat the things you did in 2014 and expecting a different result in 2015.

Tip 2: Get the interested parties together and hash things out

Sit down with the rest of your department and those departments whose budgets and plans are interdependent with yours and talk things through.  If your host team needs resources or new tools to identify or maintain contact with your players of opportunity, who better to ask about what they think?  If Food & Beverage wants to place steakhouse ads in the local newspaper, doesn’t marketing need to know that?  If Entertainment is planning a series of comedy shows, if the hotel is doing renovations, if slots is replacing a third of your machines…you see where this is going, right?  You can’t plan or budget in a vacuum and have the result be something you can actually stick to for an entire year.  Have a “big ole” meeting, have everyone put their ideas and plans on the table, and figure out how it all affects the other departments’ plans and cash flow.

Tip 2: Look at others’ plans for opportunities

Take what you’ve learned from the big meeting and determine what provides you with opportunities.  Is there going to be a big hotel refurbishment in your future?  Ask what they’re doing with items that can be re-purposed: some of the items could even be useful in a player giveaway or promotion, or you could have a big tag sale and drive revenue on a traditionally slow weekend after the renovation is done.  Is the slot department replacing under-performing machines?  What opportunities are there for events or promotions related to the arrival of the new machines?  Could you invite your best and most loyal players to cut a ribbon to open them up for play?  Surely there are lots of things in your peers’ plans that could provide you a chance to make a splash.  Learn about them now and incorporate them into your plans.

Tip 3: Dream realistically

Every department head has a wish list.  Brainstorm everything you’d like to have, see, or do; then cull the list by priority without regard to expense.  Then, rank according to priority with a note about how much it costs, so you can come up with a realistic scenario.  Obviously, not everything on a wish list is going to come to pass, so while you’re spending time with your friends from the other departments, ask about their wish lists and see if there are some synergies that can be leveraged to help the entire property.  Is IT buying any new computers next year?  Let them know about your technology wish list so they can spec your equipment for a combined order with a bigger discount.

Tip 5: Expect the unexpected

Clearly, some of the things you plan for will come to pass just as you envisioned them.  Others, however, will morph into something you hadn’t anticipated.  Spend the time now planning for contingencies and you will be better prepared for the unknown when it occurs.  Might you have to choose between two of your pet projects because the revenue projections were too high?  Sure.  Could you find yourself in need of a technology solution due to a hiring freeze or lack of qualified job applicants? Absolutely.  Is there the possibility that a competitor will launch a campaign or promotion to which you will have to adjust?  You betcha!

Any (or all) of these events will be easier to handle in the heat of the moment if you have spent some time preparing for them in advance.  Happily, there is no better time to plan than while you are already planning.  Look at some of the things you may have eliminated in your early planning process and decide whether any of them could readily be put on a back burner to be deployed in case of a major shift in your market or competitive set.

Tip 5: Get buy-in from the stakeholders

This is a 360-degree exercise, but totally worth the time and energy you invest in it.  Once you’ve got a first draft submitted, ensuring that your plans are in alignment with those of your boss, the department, the property and your employees will go a long way to assuring that those plans  and strategies are successful in the end.  Have a meeting with your team(s) and share the vision with them.  Ask them for ideas or suggestions to streamline their daily tasks or processes.  (It’s a good idea to do this periodically even when you AREN’T planning for the year ahead, by the way.)

This brings the process full circle and provides you with an opportunity to verify that your plans and budgets are on the right track to help you and the property achieve all you hope to in the year ahead.

 

Did we leave out an indispensable step you can’t plan without?  Please share for the edification of all our readers.

The Data Fact Gap

There are numerous resources available to help marketers distill their mountains of data into actionable KPIs. Which of these resources is right for you?

Casinos, Brands, and More

I’ve been working with a client for a few months now. They work in a field that is a little off my usual path: predictive analytics. It’s been a great experience as I’ve gotten the opportunity to strengthen my database marketing muscle. Like most muscles in your body, you never know how much they can bear if you don’t use them.

The following is a recent blog post for their website.

As professionals, we all know that technology has changed the way we do business. Whether you find the increased dependence on new technology as good or bad often depends on how effectively the tools are used. Over the years, this problem has been illustrated in many ways by Stics and a variety of other experts.

Fact Gap Graph


This particular Fact Gap illustration was first attributed to the Gartner Group. It will help us describe how data…

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Casino Marketing Vendors to Treasure

Since joining the team at Harvest Trends, I have discovered that there is, sadly, no need for me to keep in regular contact with some of the vendors and their reps who made my life easier over the years.  This point was made clearer to me as I walked through the expo hall at the Southern Gaming Summit in May and the Casino Marketing Conference in 2014.  Even though I am no longer a customer to some of these folks, I was pleased to see some familiar faces at the booths.

Many of these people were instrumental to the success of some pretty big VIP events and player loyalty programs for which I was responsible, as their companies went above and beyond to ensure that everything went as smoothly as possible for my team, my guests, and me.  They don’t know I’m writing this about them.  They didn’t ask for this, nor did they have any input into this post.  They are, simply put, people and businesses who provided me great products and/or services and will, I’m sure, do the same for you.  The business name for each is also a link to the company’s website.  They’ll open in a new browser tab, should you have interest in any of them.IMG_1113

All-Star Incentive Marketing

All Star provides a wide variety of gift and giveaway items to its clients.  From high-end handbags to 4″ tall live plants, if they don’t have it already, I’m sure they can find it for you at a reasonable price. (…and if they don’t find it at a reasonable price, they will tell you what it will cost and offer alternatives!) At my last property, we did a couple of highly successful events with All Star at the ready.  They assisted us with a “choose-your-gift” event for our top rewards club tiers that exceeded all expectations.  How?  The initial list of items was quite impressive: good value for our spend and high perceived value for our guests (like Vera Bradley, Sunbeam, and Bluetooth). Then, once the selections were complete and event plans had been finalized, our sales rep came to the property to assist with the order-taking.   The guests got to touch samples of the items available, ask questions about them (Tim was really great with this part!), then choose which one they wanted to order for pick up (second trip!) on a pre-determined date.   I don’t know if this is something he does for all his clients, but Tim’s presence had a calming and reassuring effect on my nerves. He was super professional and super polite. I wouldn’t hesitate to do the exact same event with him again.

In addition to this fantastic giveaway, All Star came to us with some innovative ideas for point redemption programs, VIP and “regular” player giveaways, and everyday promotions and events. They were always honest with us about what we could expect in terms of price and delivery, supported their products without fail, and were responsive to our requests for more information or ideas. They even sent some of their executives to our property to meet with our marketing team in order to establish a stronger working relationship with us. It’s that kind of customer service that makes me recommend this company.

Integrity Events

Integrity Events helped me book entertainers for my showroom and New Year’s Eve event for a couple of years.  From corporate events and private parties with energetic cover-performing groups to big arenas with nationally known entertainers, these folks can help you find the right act(s) for your event or venue, and they can even help you with production services if you need them.  Lori was our contact, and she was fantastic.

Lori made it possible for me to book a couple of big-name artists I wouldn’t have been able to afford without her assistance.  How?  She knows her stuff and saw opportunities that I would have never known existed. She presented me with deals and options and straightforward advice that made my job so much easier than I could have ever imagined.  Her advice and suggestions were spot on, she never lost her patience with the decision-making process (that often took longer than I wanted it to) at the property level, and she did everything she could to provide us with the best entertainment value possible.

Entertainment is what Integrity Events does, and just like the name implies, they give you the honesty, respect, and service you deserve.  No matter what sort of event you’re planning, if it’s big enough to need live entertainment, Integrity Events is a great resource for finding the right act.

Pixus

As part of a cross-training exercise at my last casino property, I was responsible for traditional marketing for a few months (instead of “casino” marketing).  I had to oversee direct mail, advertising, promotions and events (again), property signage and messaging, and I took on an increased role in analysis and planning during that time.  Pixus was instrumental in my success during the training period, and about five years later, the property is still using my biggest Pixus purchase: a 6’x6′ magnetic game board.

I had contacted them initially to inquire about some signs we’d ordered from them.  Because I wasn’t their primary contact at the property, I wasn’t receiving notifications from their shipping folks.  While I was on the phone with Edna, she asked if there was anything else we needed, and she connected me with a sales rep (whose name I don’t recall) who sent me information on a handful of products they thought we might find useful.  As a result of this, I had some PhotoFab pumpkin pies made to alert buffet guests to a giveaway that was coming up, they produced a giant banner for my front entrance because our in-house large-format printer was down, and the magnetic game board they suggested has been in regular rotation since we bought it several years ago.

No matter what you need printed (even if you’re in a big hurry), no matter how big or small, and no matter what medium you choose, Pixus can get it done to your satisfaction.  They impressed me more than once.

Specialty House of Creation 

When I arrived at my last property, I learned that they usually purchased bungee cords approximately a quarter of a million at a time from this company.  They traveled, literally, on a slow boat from China, and they were the best ones I’d seen at the price point they’d negotiated.  (The slot machine bungee was my favorite.)  One of our shipments was subject to a customs delay, and the folks at SHC alerted us right away…with a solution!  Instead of just e-mailing their contact to tell her the bungees were going to arrive several weeks later than anticipated, they followed up with a call to ask how long our on-hand supply would last.  When we did the math and realized we’d run out of bungee stock before the delayed shipment arrived, Specialty House’s team suggested several alternatives which were readily available to imprint and ship, and at prices that didn’t make our finance team shout at us.

Once in 7 years we ordered bungees from another supplier instead of from SHC.  That was all it took to convince me.  The shipment we received was of inferior quality and the company we bought them from was apparently disinclined to even apologize for what we felt was a poor substitute for our usual product and follow-up service.

SHC carries a wide variety of promotional items, from keychains to t-shirts and everything in between.  If you can put a logo on it, they have it– or they can get it.  They’ve been supplying casinos with stuff for years…and everyone there is so much fun to talk with, you’ll feel like you’ve been their customer for years after only a few minutes.

Micro Gaming Technologies

At my last property, when we decided to stop handing out paper entries (and move into the 21st century with our promotions), MGT was the vendor we chose to provide us with automated drawing software.  While I wasn’t intimately involved with the selection process or the installation, I was mightily impressed with the finished product. My teams and I had to use MGT when we conducted drawings and announced promotional winners, and it was a very user-friendly and transparent experience.  The guests, who had some reservations about the change to electronic drawing drums, quickly came to appreciate the convenience and clearly random selection process for determining drawing winners.  Having the winners’ names appear on screens throughout the property eased our ongoing problem with communicating this important information to folks who were in the buffet line or who had visited the racetrack, and the associates in finance and analysis really liked the fact that we could quickly report on the number of participants and provide information related to the promotions in a much more timely manner than we’d been able to do before.

When we had issues of any kind, Bill and/or Wright were only a phone call away and were able to quickly resolve the problem in most cases.  They trained our staff thoroughly, provided ongoing support that gave us confidence in the product, and updates were always handled professionally with our fantastic IT team.  This kind of experience with a technology vendor can be difficult to find, but MGT delivers good service for a great product.

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Who are some of your favorite vendors for casino marketing products and services?  Tell us all about them in the comments section.

How a good host handles a “bad” guest.

Someone found this blog by searching the phrase, “how to reason with a casino host for comps.” As I’m sure you can imagine, I was pretty taken aback by this phrase. Having spent years in the industry, and having handed out millions of dollars in comps, it was clear to me that the player who Googled this has no idea how or why hosts issue comps in the first place. Like most casino guests, he thinks it’s all about him.

The first thing I wanted to tell this casino patron is that reasoning with a host isn’t the way to get a comp. Comps are based on play. Then it occurred to me that he’s undoubtedly heard this phrase before and is looking for advice on how to wheedle or cajole to get comps unwarranted by his play.

More importantly, what should a host (or any other player development pro) tell a guest who is trying to “reason” with him for a comp? The first thing you should do is establish the fact that the guest’s play should be the main consideration for any discretionary comps you may issue. In my years in the industry, I’ve heard so many of their reasons for believing they deserve a comp that this became my mantra.  “We issue comps based on play.” Repeat it. Say it in different ways if you need to.  “Your play doesn’t support the comp you’ve requested.” “Have you played yet?” Always bring it back to the play.

Next, tell the guest how much he or she needs to play in order to warrant the comp they’re asking you to give them. As Raving Service’s Steve Browne says, “You’re not negotiating the comp. You’re negotiating the guest’s play.” If your property has a blind discretionary comp system, equate the theo to points based on the guest’s past play history and give him a point threshold which will bring him to a level that will earn the comp he wants. That way, the burden is shifted to him.

Then, monitor and issue only what the play warrants.  If he needs to earn 1000 points to get the free room, he has to earn 1000 points to get the free room.  Don’t give it to him for 900, offer a discounted rate instead.  Stand by your word.

Sure, it’s tough to withstand the barrage of reasons the guest will throw at you in order to wear you down and get what he wants. But know this: if it works, he’ll do it again and again.

“It’s your anniversary? Great! Here’s ‘the tier benefit for that occasion’.”  (Alternatively, here’s a greeting card with an offer for your next visit. Or maybe a free dessert.)

“You had a tough day at the slots? I’m so sorry the machines weren’t being very forgiving today. Can I make you a dinner reservation (or walk you to the head of the buffet line) so you can take a meal break?”

“The cocktail server didn’t make it to you in a timely manner? Would you like a bottle of water? I’ll be happy to bring it to you right here.”

As always, be polite. As usual, you should follow the rules and guidelines when issuing comps for any reason.Should you make the decision to issue a comp despite my suggestions to the contrary, be crystal clear with the guest when you explain things. Before you hand over the voucher, make eye contact and say something to let him know exactly why you decided to issue the comp and that you want him to know how much you value his business.Let him know you appreciate his loyalty and clarify whether or not you are likely to issue similar comps in the future. Make sure he understands that you are making a rare exception for him because you are his host.

The bottom line is this: if the comp is warranted by play, then comp away.  But when something other than play becomes the issue, a comp is probably not the best solution. Use your creativity to come up with an alternative that is appropriate to the reasons the guest has presented when asking you to give them a comp Handling such requests using this rule of thumb will prevent you from creating unreasonable expectations. And just as you always should, use your best judgment.

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

Casino CRM: What’s on your wish list?

Not long ago, I (triumphantly!) found a document for which I’d been searching.  During my years in Casino Player Development, I’d searched for a contact management system that did everything a host team would need it to do in order to best manage the casino’s high rollers.  I’d written my wish list to address the perspectives of the hosts, the player development team leader and the property.

I’m sharing my wish list here because Harvest Trends is THISCLOSE to completing development work on our first version of the CRM we’ve built specifically for Casino Player Development.  I searched for this product for more than a decade, as I’ve shared in this blog post and this one, too.  What features for Casino CRM are on YOUR wish list?

From a host’s perspective, the CRM should:

  • Allow quick data entry and quick review of past contacts both by player and by user
  • Provide a detailed player snapshot, including things like player worth and visit history, interests, bookings, preferences, and associations with other players
  • NOT restrict hosts from viewing one another’s players to enable them to tag-team problem resolution and bookings
  • Be flexible enough to reflect changes in programs, lists, and offers
  • Provide views to progress in terms of bookings, goal achievement, player frequency, faders, inactives, new players, etc. based on individual host and/or player parameters
  • Generate a “tickle” when a player needs to be contacted for any reason, to include birthdays, anniversaries, frequency drops, tagged events, and user-set parameters (e.g.: “call back with confirmation”, “call in XX days”, “send a Get Well card”)
  • Notify the host when certain events occur with coded players
  • Be flexible in use on the floor, in the office, or on a mobile device
  • Be quick to load, update, and accept input

From a management perspective, the CRM should:

  • Be easy to use to boost user adoption and acceptance
  • Provide insights related to host contacts and the effects of those contacts on player activity
  • Allow identification of “Players of Interest”  to include faders, inactives, new players of worth, and others as defined by the property
  • Include a dashboard or daily flash to show individual and team progress to goal (pace), achievement of assigned tasks, contacts, and success in responses to tickles and other notifications
  • Generate Top 20 (or 50 or 100) lists for Players of Interest based on property parameters
  • Allow for the assigment of tasks and follow-ups on the same
  • Automatically update and e-mail standard reports and updates to specific parties each day, week, month or quarter

From a property perspective, the CRM should:

  • NOT require extensive resources to keep running smoothly
  • Inspire confidence in its ability to provide timely and accurate direction and information
  • Be readily adopted by any and all users
  • Come with reliable training and support

Now, Player Development pros, tell me what I missed.  Comment with features or elements that I didn’t include on MY wish list…things that are on YOURS.

HT ipad

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.

Is your Player Development team on target?

There is so much player data available in casinos today that very few operators are able to fully utilize it.  It’s a fact of life that analysis paralysis overcomes us all at some point, but that same information can make us better marketers.  And knowing which players to contact in order to achieve a particular goal will make your casino hosts better at player activation, retention and acquisition.

Reviewing host goals and determining whether they are the right ones often requires a deep dive into an analysis of your database.  Before you can adjust what the host’s targets should be, you have to know which of your players should be coded to a host (and how existing host lists need to be adjusted), how much play you can expect from the player in question, and whether your hosts need more or different tools in order to drive that play. Use your review to determine what tasks must be done to achieve the goals and when, then compare that with what the hosts are doing each day. Perhaps an exercise in time management will provide everyone with a better understanding of the activities that make up your hosts’ shifts.  If they’re spending very much time on tasks that aren’t directly related to driving more visits or play from your very best players (defined however your property defines the very best), something needs to change.

Along the way to finalizing any adjustments you decide to make to the hosts’ goals, it’s important to take a moment to plan how you will measure them.  You’ll want to be able to share updates as the goal period progresses.  Ideally, everyone on the team should know where they stand daily in terms of achieving both theoretical and performance targets. If your database team can’t manage daily updates, then at least have a process in place to get weekly reports on the relevant metrics to keep the team on pace.  It really stinks to think you’re doing alright and then barely miss the target, particularly if you or your team are bonused for achieving (or exceeding) goals. Use benchmarking through the entire goal period to determine whether each host is on pace for each of the elements of his goals.  Compare the time elapsed or remaining in the goal period to the amount of progress made toward reaching the goals.  If you’re eight weeks into a quarterly goal period, your hosts should have achieved about 67% of the theoretical, trips, increased activity levels, frequency, new members, reactivations, bookings, contacts, etc. that you asked them to at the beginning of the quarter.   If you’re at week eight, you should have a good idea who’s going to make it and who’s not, and you should have a pretty solid lead on why.

Regular updates (again, ideally daily) will quickly guide you to the areas where progress is lagging behind.  If this information can be provided directly to a host who will be motivated to respond accordingly, then get it to him and let him loose!  In other cases, however, the team leader is going to have to sit down with someone who’s not making the grade and determine a course of action to get both the host and his numbers back in line.  (Harvest Trends’ one-to-one coaching series offers some assistance, should that be necessary.)

If it turns out that your host team isn’t on target to achieve their goals, don’t despair.  Take a good look at the situation and figure out how to turn it around.  Use the tools at your disposal to make the necessary changes to get your team back on track.  Guide your Player Development pros daily to keep them on the path to success.  You can do it.  They can do it.  Harvest Trends can help.