Tag Archives: casino host system

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

Interestingly, your work here is not yet done.  You have accomplished quite a lot if you have followed all the steps I’ve suggested, but there is still more…refining work, if you will.

As suggested in the last post, you may have noted some patterns emerging from your analysis of the team’s work.  Some hosts may have a knack for spotting and responding to changes in player behavior and others may need a gentle nudge.  Some segments in your player base may generate a stronger showing for certain kinds of promotions or events, or you may even see declines in some groups of your guests, requiring you to assess the effectiveness of parts of the program.

The next step, logically, is the constant review and course corrections that enable you to continue posting positive results from the team.  Clearly, there will be things that work against you, but if you are paying attention to the way your best players react to the best efforts of your Player Development team you will have the information you need to decide how to proceed.

Do you have a new competitor opening its doors soon?  Focus your team on Preemptive Reactivation efforts.  Do you see a normal downturn in visits and spend during the winter months?  Look at the best players from your inner market to determine whether there are opportunities to drive an extra visit from those who live close enough to safely travel to you.  Or, team up with the motorcoach staff to bring better players in by the busload. (Book fancy buses, of course!)

Begin looking at goals and objectives for the next 3 or 4 goal periods instead of one period at a time, and imagine the adjustments you may need to employ to ensure that they are in alignment with the property’s plans.  Put together a Player Development plan with input from hosts, property operations leaders, and guests.  Think about ways you can quickly turn the tide when the team’s (or the property’s) numbers don’t look so great, then come up with some concrete plans to do so when needed.

Use both successes and failures to learn how to do it better as you move forward.  After all, the gaming business is evolving at a faster rate these days than ever before, and with tighter margins and less room for error.  Understanding why your team is successful or not and having the information you need and the plans in place to maximize the results is key.

Ma Market Planning 06
Ma Market Planning 06 (Photo credit: nancydowd)

Casino Host Reporting

For just a monthly fee, your casino hosts can be sent a Daily Action Plan!

  • Daily results against casino host goals
  • Coded players who visited yesterday
  • Comp exceptions
  • Upcoming birthdays
  • Valuable players who are due back

The casino hosts can quickly place relevant phone calls to congratulate the winners, commiserate with the losers, celebrate with the birthday players, and invite back the valuable players who have not been on property.

Contact Jackie Parker at jparker@harvesttrends.com or (716) 514 6788 for a 30-minute demo.