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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

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Effective Player Development Doesn’t HAVE To Be Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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