Tag Archives: Harvest Trends

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.

BoB, the Casino-specific CRM solution

Over many years in Casino Player Development, I often wished my team had a tool that would tell them which of their coded players they should be in contact with next and why. Without the help of my database guy (with whom I always worked very closely), I couldn’t create a new host list, nor could I make up a list of inactives or tournament invitees and assign them to the hosts for activation. Human assistance was necessary. That left my team waiting, sometimes for many days, for access to the sliced-and-diced information they needed in order to effectively move players through our doors and dollars through to the bottom line.

But that was then. Now, Harvest Trends’ HostBoB can help player development pros identify and prioritize the players they should reach now. It works in a similar fashion to the Daily Action Plan, or DAP. The DAP is a daily player list sent to each host via e-mail, with players classified according to the property’s host goals and player specifications. With BoB, the host still sees this sorted and classified player list, but with the added benefit of interaction with his electronic player database. The host knows who to contact and why, inputs that contact and the results on the spot, and a host manager can see in real time how well the host is progressing with his goals and objectives.

Have you just spoken with four of your coded players at a blackjack table? Mobile BoB lets you quickly enter the “touch” and add any notes or tasks related to those guests. You don’t forget who you saw and have to rack your brain later to update your report to the boss, and you will remember to call one of them back in a few days to check on reservations for his next visit.

Does your property have an upcoming show that isn’t selling like hotcakes? HostBoB allows you to find worthy patrons who might enjoy that show and assign those players to the hosts so you can paper the house. Good players get free tickets, the hosts are talking with your worthy patrons, and the showroom gets filled. Everybody wins!

Are you fairly certain there are good patrons in your database whose play qualifies them for host service, but they’re not currently coded? HostMAPP will show you in just minutes how many there are, and more importantly, WHO they are. With HostBoB, you can round-robin assign them to the host team with just a few minutes of set-up.

Customized to support your property’s initiatives, HostMAPP and HostBoB take the guesswork out of player development. Together, these modules provide you with both a high-level and a granular view of your PD program. Team leaders will quickly be able to answer questions about how their hosts’ performance is affecting the bottom line. Hosts will be able to effortlessly provide their players with a seamless, personalized experience. Casinos will be able to swiftly make adjustments to changing market conditions and drive revenue by activating the right players of interest.

Harvest Trends has been working toward this ideal for some time now, and BoB will be ready for launch at the end of January 2015. Our developers have listened carefully to all our instructions to make it user-friendly and intuitive. Users have access to both desktop and mobile versions. We are so excited to show you all that BoB can do!

Contact Amy today for a sneak peek at BoB and “his” super-easy interfaces.

 

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 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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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)

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

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

Start with some basic structure questions.

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

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

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

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

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