Tag Archives: casino comps

Events (& Tips!) for Casino Hosts

When you’re looking at your player list trying to come up with ways to engage your patrons and get them to make a return trip soon, planning something with a broad appeal might seem like the way to go. But in reality, many players whose patronage warrants invitations to exclusive events are looking for a little special treatment. There’s not likely to be any single event you can do which will appeal to everyone you’d like to reactivate, for example. (Think of the invitees as the individuals they really are, and you’ll quickly see why.) This means that having a variety of event types in your repertoire is a good idea. Here are few to consider.

The Friendly Competition Team up with another host at your property and decide what sort of competition you want to have. Ham it up and go with armwrestling or a video game showdown; cheese it up with a craft-making competition or an online silly selfie contest; heck, you could even do a spelling bee. Involve the whole host team or even invite others. Feeling bold? Team up with players. Whatever you decide, make it something compelling to watch. Then set the stakes for the contest. You could have the “loser” host shave his head (set the shave date in the future and maybe drive two trips). How about a parade through the casino for the winner, complete with loud music, balloons, and a handout of some kind for the guests on their route? Again, make the stakes and the spectacle worth watching. You can do prizes for patrons in attendance if you like, too.

VIP/Executive Roundtable Guests love to interact with executives when they can. High-end guests feel as though their patronage should give them a seat at the table, so why not give them one? Light hors d’ouvres, light cocktails, and round tables surrounded by comfortable seating set the stage for a dialogue that will make your players feel important and provide insights to your executives. (Especially effective if Ops Execs participate!) Just remember, make no promises and always be sincere.

Paint & Sip Appeal to the artistic and/or wine lovers on your player list and do a fun, reasonably- priced relationship-building event. The host should be painting and sipping too for the record, to share in the experience and give everyone the same opportunity for praise and encouragement. A friend of mine did one of these and felt as though this event would work again and again. Handpick small groups and keep the atmosphere mellow.

Spa Day/Massage Therapy Do you have players who own their own businesses or who are raising kids? These folks migh not take adequate time to recharge unless encouraged to do so, so provide them a good reason. If your property doesn’t already have a spa, talk with those around you and work out an equitable way to provide the service to your patrons. Setting up on property is preferable, but you could add a fun element if you have to “road trip” your guests to an off-property pampering.

Hometown/Region Celebration This could take many forms, but is based on bringing in patrons from a particular geographical area while appealing to hometown pride. Invite only those from your target area and encourage them to bring a friend if they like. Feature decorations that emphasize the unique qualities of the area, serve local favorite foods, play music about or from the region…you get the idea.

Plus, Bonus Tips! To make every event a success, there are a few things to consider throughout the process:

  • Harness the power of social media. Tweet, post, blog, stream, and share before, during, and after to maximize engagement. Tag your guests! (If you haven’t already, consider – within company rules, of course – setting up profiles for use only with guests to share directly with them… keeping your personal accounts “private”)
  • Ask for feedback. Give your guests a score card or link to an onlie survey asking what they thought or for ideas for future events to ensure you’re hitting all the high spots. I’ll bet you will get some great stuff from this!
  • Include others. Ask co-workers to team up with you, invite the chef to talk about the food, have executives stop in, and encourage patrons to invite friends when appropriate. Many years ago, we invited one of our patrons (who also owned a nursery) to do a VIP presentation on preparing your garden for winter. We got lots of brownie points for that one!
  • Build relationships. Use people’s names, show appreciation, introduce guests to one another, and share the stories that keep them laughing. This will pay dividends in the form of stronger bonds between co-workers and yourself, between guests and associates, and among the guests themselves.
  • Get creative! Anyone who’s been in or around the casino business for very long knows that we recycle a lot of the same events. (Or do a “tribute” to competitor’s successful event.) Come up with ways to keep things fresh: do a fun theme, switch up the details (think middle 25 scores win the tournament), or combine elements from more than one event.
  • Remember to have fun! Ultimately, your guests return to your property because it’s an entertainment experience. Don’t let them see you sweat if things go awry, resolve that the show must go on, and have fun with it. No matter what.

For more event ideas, see our first post on the topic. Got ideas of your own you’d like to share? Tell us all about it in the comments below or email them to Amy at ahudson@harvesttrends.com!

Casino Marketing and Technology

Harvest Trends recently debuted a new CRM product, built specifically for casino hosts and their team leaders, at the first combined Casino Marketing & Technology Conference in Las Vegas. While we were there, we met lots of great folks and heard some very informative sessions on the challenges faced by casino marketers and how those challenges can be overcome. As a result, the conference, which provided the perfect blend of marketing & technology information to casino operators from around the world, introduced us to (and reminded us of) some things that will enable casino marketers to be more competitive in an increasingly connected and customer-oriented marketplace.

Steve Browne and Dennis Conrad of Raving Service and Raving Consulting, respectively, were each the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award during the conference. During their acceptance speeches, they both repeated their oft-stated opinion that casino marketers are behind the curve when it comes to utilizing technology to effectively communicate with and market to their patrons. (After the conference, Amy spoke with a high-end blackjack player who confirmed that these gentlemen were correct. Not only do casino patrons often receive offers that don’t apply to their preferred activities, but the offers are sometimes seen as insulting or inconsiderate of the effort the patron would have to expend to take advantage of the offer, even when they are interested in them.)

The next day, Tim Huckaby (CEO of Actus Interactive, who is also an executive with Microsoft and several other prestigious technology companies) told attendees of the final afternoon keynote how technology, hardware, and associated software have continued to become more affordable and how they can improve engagement and interactivity between patrons and the brands they like. This means that affordable solutions to many problems encountered by casino marketers are readily available…but as an industry, we tend to stick to the tried-and-true, even if it’s not working as well anymore. Tim’s keynote indicated that it’s no longer prohibitively expensive to utilize the latest tools and integrated services to draw in new patrons and continue to keep them interested using a combination of technology and service.

Featured image

Long story short, there are a number of technology companies who are positioned to partner with casino marketers to enable them to meet customer expectations and drive more bottom-line revenue for their property. The gaming vertical is virtually crowded with vendors who can simplify the processes necessary to provide a more customized experience to casino patrons. It really is as simple as finding the right partner to help with your mail segmentation (and testing programs), modify your messages to make them more amenable to variable data points, identify your players of interest and opportunity, manage your communications with them, and track the effects of your efforts so you can refine them as you go.  To make it even more advantageous, you could choose only the services you need to keep costs in line. Bringing on a technology partner doesn’t mean you’ll have to invest a ton of money in software or hardware, nor does it require a long-term commitment in some cases.

If you found a partner who could enable you to do almost anything your heart desires, what would you do? What A/B testing would you conduct? How many segments (and by what data points) would you divvy up your mail file into if there were no limits? What changes would you make to your rewards program or club tiers or player development function?

When you have the right technology partner, virtually anything is possible. Do some online research, talk with your counterparts or folks with similar titles at other properties, go to a conference, do whatever feels right to you; but start looking around to discover what resources are available to help you do what you do even better!

Ask Harvest Trends how we can help you accomplish more and spend less, driving more bottom line revenue and patron satisfaction. It’s what we do.

Critical Components of Casino Player Development

Is your host team doing everything it should be to secure (as best they can) the loyalty of your patrons? There is quite possibly something more that can be done to ensure the continued visitation of your Players of Interest.

My experience, as well as the thoughts of many experts in the industry, have led me to believe that lots of hosts spend too much time on retaining players who have already demonstrated their loyalty to your casino. Many of your high frequency patrons know folks in every department and come in with treats and trinkets for lots of your associates. While they certainly need to be able to depend on your property’s premiere customer service team from time to time, it’s important to ensure that these players don’t take up too much of the of the host team’s time. Why? Because your property’s premiere customer service team should also be (1) finding out why good players have not visited recently and (2) getting new members of worth to return. In fact, there is probably more opportunity for increased revenue from the acquisition and reactivation functions your host team performs.

While competitors right-size, my money’s on spending time building relationships with your players of interest on an ongoing basis. Certainly every employee should be doing this whenever possible, this is a task perfectly aligned with what a PD team is supposed to do. These components of a successful Casino Player Development program are critical to its continued success. Ensuring that you hit all these points and hold your hosts accountable for them should result in continued profitability from your PD team.

Identification
Identifying these particular “players of interest” to your property is the fist step. Taking a somewhat granular look at your database will help you identify the new and at-risk players in your database who present the most opportunity for you in terms of long-term loyalty to your operation. It’s not difficult if you have the right tools and someone to ask the right questions. Where do our most profitable customers live? From where are our most promising new club members coming? When do the players of interest come to the casino? How often? Are there times when they don’t visit? Or do they sometimes come in and play less (or better yet, more)? Are there fight zones with competitors where profitable players are equidistant to you and another property? Are any of those patrons at risk of defection? What can you do to keep them from visiting the other casino? If they decide to stray, how will you get them back?

Planning
Once you know who you’re going after, decide on your plan. There will certainly be mail components and, if you’re really on your game, some form of digital marketing as well. But we’re talking about critical components of PD here. Ensuring that the hosts know who they need to reach out to and with what offer(s), if any, is the most critical component at this stage. The players of interest have been identified, and now the hosts have to do their stuff. Phone calls and handwritten notes and greeting cards and gift baskets delivered to hotel rooms, reservations at spas and golf tee times, steakhouse dinner parties and special gifts are all examples of critical components the hosts may bring to sweeten the deal to bring back even reluctant players of promising worth. Sometimes you have to be armed as though for battle, particularly in increasingly crowded regional gaming markets.

Acquisition
As a baseline, new players need to make 3 trips in order for a casino to recoup its reinvestment and turn that new player into a profitable one. Ideally, the patron will return twice more within 30 days. While an aggressive new player incentive and generous mail offers combine to increase the odds that a new patron will return, for those who play to a higher level there is nothing as effective as a personal “touch” from a casino host to provide an incentive to come back right away. In this capacity, the host becomes the new player’s “touchpoint,” or his “inside man,” so to speak. When the host offers to make a reservation or some other consideration for the player, he feels important and is more likely to return to the casino whose host made him feel this way. A personal connection is certainly a host’s strength, and this connection begins the journey by which a player can find his “home” casino. The patron may well return sooner than he might have if he’d only received a mailer.

Reactivation
For players who have gone quiet and haven’t returned in a while, a host may be the most effective method for getting that return trip. While a robust mail program targeted at reactivation can have a great response rate, having the hosts call the top levels of guests in that mailing can certainly provide a profitable boost to the results. Some of the players who receive your Where have you been? mailer will appreciate the opportunity to tell someone why they haven’t returned, as many of them are just looking for a reason to feel valued enough by your property to come back. A host can deliver the personalized experience that these players (rightly) feel they deserve. I’ve seen players who remember a host (“Oh, Bobby! Hi!”) return within two weeks of a “personal” call…at a rate of about 30%. (The host I’m referencing marveled at how effective simply calling and asking how people were doing really was in getting them to make a visit to see him.)

Retention
While I believe that many hosts spend too much time in this role, it’s still a vital part of the work they do to ensure your property has patrons coming through the doors with regularity. Divided equally, a host should spend roughly 30% of his or her time in contact with familiar faces, guests you know you’ll see on a predictable basis, and recognizing when those patrons are off their visitation and/or play pattern. As always, balance is key…and retention is a function that is necessary to maintain your expected levels of activity and revenue from these dependable patrons.

Analysis
Sometimes you’ll have to change direction, as markets change and people move on for one reason or another. New challenges will always be ahead, so having the ability to spot trends and apply the principles of preemptive reactivation, particularly when paired up with a robust view of your database, all combine to provide you with the ability to find a new path almost as quickly as your favorite GPS app. See what happens, keep identifying patrons who deserve host attention for whatever reason, and look for ways to stay ahead of the game using analytics.

Tracking
It’s important that you have a clear view of your host team’s productivity. When you assign new or inactive patrons to your hosts for contact, you may want to include a qualifier for the hosts to achieve before they can “claim” the patrons in question. Perhaps you will set a threshold for theo and a number of return visits so the hosts can have the players coded and see the benefits (extra theo toward my goal!) of bringing those players back. See who they’re contacting, what the conversion rate is, and how much they’re adding to your overall reinvestment in the way of comps and other freebies. Review this information at least once a week. Daily is better. Use your tracking data to keep each individual host on track throughout the goal period.

Measurement
Now that you’ve honed your identification and targeting skills, it’s time to see how well your plans have worked. The tools you use to locate your players of interest should be of use in determining your success rate as well. How many new players in which areas did we convert to our monthly mail program? Are they visiting us with regularity, and is there a pattern in the play that indicates we may be able to get more of their gaming wallet? What offers move them? Which ones do they ignore? Will something else work?

And repeat. If you’re not sure you have the resources to pull off the identification, analysis or measurement components, let us know. Harvest Trends is continuously refining its tools for casino marketers…we may have just what you need.

Did I forget anything? Are there critical components in your PD program that we didn’t list here? Please sound off in the comments below.

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.

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.