The Importance of Pace

It is important to provide a daily Pace report for each goal, so the Hosts can monitor their performance and adjust their tactics before it is too late.

To create a Pace report, we figure out three things:

(1) What is the percentage of the Goal? If the coded players for this Host have made 2,505 trips and the goal is 5,010 trips, then the Host is at 2505/5010 = 50%.

(2) What is the percentage of the quarter? If we are in Q2 then there are a total of 91 days from April 1st through June 30th. If yesterday was April 16th, the 16th day of Q2, then we are at 16/91 = 18% of the quarter.

(3) Finally, we compare the two percentages to determine if the Host is Ahead, On Goal, or Behind. If the Host already has 50% of their trips and we are only at 18% of the quarter, then the Host is most definitely Ahead! Congratulations!

Here is an example of a Pace report for Beth, a Player Development Executive, for the first day of the second quarter. Even though we have only data for the first day of the quarter, we can tell Beth that she has started well, and she is Ahead of her goal.

```You must drive 5,010 trips for the Quarter.
As of 4/1, you have generated 100 trips which is 2% of your goal. We are at 1% of the Quarter and so you are Ahead.```

We have compared the percentage of the quarter (1/91 = 1%) with the percentage of the goal (100/5010 = 2%). After the first day, 1% of the quarter has passed by, but Beth has generated 2% of the necessary trips, so she is Ahead.

Here is an example of a Pace report for Beth after the 15th day of the quarter.

`You must drive 5,010 trips for the Quarter. As of 4/15, you have generated 701 trips which is 14% of your goal. We are at 16% of the Quarter and so you are Behind.`

Unfortunately, Beth has now fallen behind, but because we are only 15 days into the quarter, she has an early warning and has time to catch up.

Management Pace Reporting

In the same vein, the manager of the PD team needs a weekly Pace report for all Hosts, so they can schedule a coaching session and find out why the Host is falling behind.

```Beth      Ahead    19%
Kenny     On Goal  16%
Kim       Behind   8%
Colleen   Behind   6%
Paul      Behind   5%

After reading this weekly Pace report, the manager of Player Development can meet with Kim, Colleen and Paul to find out why they are falling behind and dragging down the team.```

The Strategic Manager pays close attention and ensures each Host stays Ahead or On Goal from the very beginning. Otherwise it becomes too difficult to achieve the goals, and some members of the Host Team will give up and wait for the new Quarter to start over.

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Read this book, Casino Host Goals, and you will have a road-map for success as you create or improve your Player Development program, in the context of your Casino Marketing strategy. It belongs on the shelf of any Executive in Casino Management who wants to drive revenue from a strategic approach to PD. Just \$21 from Amazon.

2 Key Aspects of Goals; Effort and Results

When we first think about Host goals, we often think about measures and rules. For example, “a host must contact 60 people each week”, which is a measure, and “a host must not issue a comp for more than 15% of 30 day ADT”, which is a rule.

There is nothing wrong with measures and rules but a goal addresses the larger question of “what are we trying to achieve?

The Miriam Webster dictionary defines a goal as “the end to which effort is directed”.
What is the end that we are trying to achieve by having the host contact 60 people each week? Well, we are trying to make sure that the Host is busy. But busy doing what?

A cynical General Manager might suspect the Hosts are busy contacting the same 60 people that the Hosts always talks to, either because those players are pleasant or because they are demanding. Or the Player Development manager may fear the Hosts are busy talking to people that are already playing practically every day, instead of focusing on trying to get new players, or reactivate people that used to play a lot but seem to have fallen away.

It isn’t enough to measure activity, we need to write goals that measure the effort, and the success, of achieving a good outcome for the casino. We need to change the goal from measuring “the host is busy” to measuring “the host is busy doing the right things.”

After some thought, we create two goals. The first goal is “Contact 10 Inactive players each week” so the Hosts call people that haven’t played for 90 days but had high Theo when they were last playing regularly. (An organized Host will find time to call two Inactive players each day of the five-day week and 2×5=10). And the second goal is “Bring back 20 Inactive players this quarter” so the Host has to find ways to encourage the Inactive players to return.

Here are the two goals:

• Contact 10 Inactive players each week. (Measures Effort)
• Bring back (Reactivate) 20 Inactive players this quarter.  (Measures Result)

The first goal measures Effort; it measures whether the Host is trying to contact Inactive players. The second goal measures Results; it measures whether the Host is successful in getting those Inactive players back onto the Property.

Take another look at the Goals in place for you or your team, and see if they need a tweak?

Are they really just Measures and Rules? Or are they truly focused on rewarding Effort and Results?

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Read this book, Casino Host Goals, and you will have a road-map for success as you create or improve your Player Development program, in the context of your Casino Marketing strategy. It belongs on the shelf of any Executive in Casino Management who wants to drive revenue from a strategic approach to PD. Just \$21 from Amazon.

7 Steps For Hosts to Exceed Their Goals

No two hosts are exactly alike, and that’s a good thing. Variety among casino hosts means that any player can find a host with whom he or she can connect. It also means that each host is likely to have his or her own unique approach to working toward goal achievement.

Here is a generic approach that every host can follow to build momentum and keep the numbers growing instead of stagnating. (And if you are in Management, then you might want to introduce this approach to your team, and do some coaching.)

PRIORITIZE! Take an honest look at your goals and decide how hard they are:

• Which goals seem more like low-hanging fruit and can be achieved most readily? Set aside a couple of hours a week on these.
• Which goals will take the most work to achieve? Decide to spend a lot of time on these each week. An hour a day, every day, before you go out to meet guests?

Get started now on the hardest goals! A 12-week Quarter may seem like a long time but it will disappear in no time.

PLAN! Come up with an approach to each goal. This is where each Host will bring their unique ideas based on their experience and personality.

• Is a Goal to increase Theo from Active Players by 10% over last Quarter? Perhaps you decide (1) target the highest-ADT patrons who are off pace for their usual trip pattern, and (2) target the people who were new last Quarter and could probably play-up now they know the property.
• Is a Goal to re-activate 5 valuable Inactive players who haven’t played for six month? Maybe start by working the ones who live closest to the property? Maybe ask Direct Mail for the list of offers sent to Inactive guests and use that as the hook. Place a call and say “Hey, I’d hate for you to miss this Freeplay that you were sent. Let’s get you in to this Event next week and you can play on the House”.

If you are new to this approach, then ask your Manager and more experienced peers for some suggestions.

CLASSIFY! You’re going to be more successful if you focus on the right players at the right time. That’s easier to do if you know which of your players is the right one to call for each Goal. How do you do this?

• Break player lists down into smaller groups so you can work more methodically.
• Choose a set of criteria which matches your priorities. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe you should work on “Players within 50 miles” or “Guests who haven’t been here in 31+ days” or “Ones I haven’t met yet.”
• If you don’t have a Host system, then put all the names into MS Excel and start to track when you last spoke to them. You can start by asking Database for a list of your players and their City/State, and when they last played.
• If you find you don’t know much about a particular bunch of patrons, put them in the category of ‘Don’t Know’ and start making calls to ask questions and fill in the blanks about those players.

DISCIPLINE! Create a plan and stick to as best you can. Perhaps this is your plan when you first come on shift: (1) Make a list of 5 Inactive players to call right now. (2) Make a list of 10 Active players to call during the shift. (3) Carry this list around with you and make phone-calls between dealing with guests, or while you are standing around waiting for the Entertainer to show up. Be prepared and then you can maximize your time.

MEASURE! Understanding progress is key to keeping yourself on track. If what you’re doing isn’t working, wouldn’t you rather know early on so you have time to change tactics before the goal period ends?

• Break your quarterly goal up into 12 weeks. If you have to re-activate 24 Inactive guests then you need 24/12 = 2 guests per week, coming back and playing. If you need to grow Theo by 240,000 per quarter then it needs to grow by 240,000/12 = 20,000 per week.
• Database might agree to pull a weekly or monthly list for you that shows who played and their Theo this quarter. If this is hard to get for yourself then give a specific example to the PD Manager of what would help the team, and ask them to approach Database.
• Some systems can tell you on a Daily basis whether your patrons played enough to keep your numbers on pace or whether an additional push might be necessary to achieve the goal for increasing Theo etc.

With this knowledge, you can make adjustments to call patterns, prospecting plans, or events bookings to bring the numbers back in line.

REFLECT! Whether a particular goal period was successful or not, you should take some time at the end of the Quarter, to think about what worked and what didn’t,

This is the time when all the variables need to be assessed:

• Was weather a factor? Then maybe do a snow day special that gives patrons a premium for coming in within 7 days of the crappy weather.
• Did a high number of valuable guests just not play? Maybe a personalized handwritten letter with a special offer is the way to go.
• Are you having trouble getting prospects coded? Perhaps it’s time to rethink how you choose prospects…or it’s time to talk to your team leader about how to qualify them for becoming coded players.

DON’T GIVE UP!!! Be honest with yourself about what you did and didn’t do well. Improve your plans, your lists, and your approach. Talk to others on your team and to Management. Perhaps reach out to someone you know at a different, non-competitor, property and brainstorm with them about different approaches for different groups of players and goals.

Remember that there is rarely a single factor that dictates success or failure. Once you have a plan, it is daily persistence that works. Good luck!

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This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a solution that helps you with everything discussed here. Or contact Paul Cutler at pcutler@harvesttrends.com or call 561.860.2621  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.

Why do casinos need player development?

I’ll bet your property sends out a lot of mail. Tons of it.  Right? I remember when I was on the seed list at my last property, and it seemed like I got a LOT of mail…and that was just the stuff from my own property!  The mailers I got from checking out the competition weren’t as numerous, since I wasn’t a high roller, but I got a pretty fair number of those, too.

There is a lot of e-mail communication, too. I get something at least once a month, even from properties I haven’t visited in some time. So I know casinos are reaching out and doing database marketing; in fact, I believe casinos do this better than many other businesses today. There’s certainly room for improvement, particularly in terms of “if this, then that” marketing, but that’s another blog post…

Casinos do a lot of things to bring players through their doors.  They post giant luxury cars onto multiple billboards, radio ads let patrons know who is going to be in the showroom soon (and more billboards sport the same message), postcards alert tier card holders there’s a continuity gift program for the upcoming holiday, and reservations agents are scheduled overtime to book the hotel once the coupons arrive in mailboxes market-wide. There’s clearly a lot going on to provide incentives for players to visit a particular casino.

Events are held, show tickets are handed out, food is served, prizes are awarded, and guests show up. So, why do casinos need player development?

Casinos need a true-to-life player development department because it can generate revenue the programs and activities above don’t get for them.  Sure, a player who has had a “pretty alright” experience at your property in the past may come in if you dangle the right prize or giveaway or food coupons at them. But to get the right ones to come in more often, there’s nothing like the personal touch.

A host can make it easier and more inviting for a player to return to a particular property than any other service you can offer.  A host can simply provide the final push a patron needs to commit to the trip your coupons got them to consider.  A host can find out whether a particular guest enjoys tournaments and invite them. A host can let them know when it looks like their favorite progressive is about to hit. A host can get them to share the tale of their bad experience and convince them to give your property another chance to get it right.

There are any number of ways to get a player to come to your casino for a visit, but there is nothing quite as effective as a casino host when it comes to bringing back players or potential worth.  These players expect more than coupons and promotions as a “reward” for their patronage.  Many of them know they are worth a lot to you and expect to be treated as such. Targeting new players who aren’t yet loyal, finding players who are at risk of defection, and reaching out to those you have already lost are cost-effective ways to boost revenue, and there’s no one better than a host to bring them back to you. A well-trained and equipped host team can drive revenue that will have a significant effect on your property’s bottom line.

If you aren’t sure where to start, or if your team needs additional tools or resources, find a PD partner who can show you how to refocus your host team and target the right potential players in your database.  You’ll be pleased with the results.

This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a comprehensive way to drive revenue from your team of Casino Hosts and Player Development Executives. Or contact Paul Cutler at 561.860.2621 or pcutler@harvesttrends.com.  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.

Are they?  Really?  One of our most popular blog posts is “6 Tasks You Shouldn’t Find in a Casino Host Job Description.”  It is popular because hosts being hosts doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.  How do I know?  I’ve lived it.

When I got my first casino job, as a host, I was often very busy, but not driving revenue for the property.  That wasn’t the role of a host in those days (in many regional markets, anyway).  I was what my boss at the time called “Mr. Mikey,” meaning I drew names and announced promotional winners as often as every hour some days.  I handed out paper drawing entries.  I worked at the Plateau Players Club.  I ran slot tournaments and paid the winners.  I ferried comp slips around and I chatted with people at slot machines.  I didn’t do a lot to drive revenue in the sense you think of today.

Years later, when I became responsible for a host team of my own, the scope of their responsibilities began to shift to what you expect is the norm.  Instead of sitting at a table handling Blackjack tournament registrations, the hosts were being asked to drive  revenue in conjunction with the marketing machine, utilizing the personal touch.  It was difficult to prioritize the activities of the team to enable them to be successful in this new role without finding a way to shift some responsibilities elsewhere.  Ultimately, it took two additional people to do the promotions and events tasks that the hosts had been handling, but the revenue the team drove more than made up for the extra labor cost.

Interestingly, balancing a host’s priorities is a more common challenge in 2014 than you might expect.   Today, there are hosts who sit at a desk and return “Why didn’t I get coupons?” calls or enter hotel reservations into the computer system.  Hosts give away cars and do jackpot announcements.  Hosts get called to resolve service issues for players who aren’t likely to ever be hosted.  They “pit clerk” so they can make an informed comp decision.  But they’re not driving revenue.  Not like they should. Your hosts should have a fairly narrow focus.

Even if there are extraneous tasks that the property really needs them to handle, anything that keeps the hosts from connecting with (and driving more play from) your best players should be kept to a minimum.  If you are short-staffed at the Players Club, talk to your counterparts about cross-training some of their part-timers as back-up club reps instead of using a host.   If you don’t have a dedicated promotions team, rotate marketing staff to minimize the impact of drawings and giveaways when it’s likely to be prime casino floor hunting time. If those aren’t viable options, talk to HR for help with a long-term solution instead of relying on the hosts to do tasks that really don’t help them achieve their revenue-driving potential.

Long story short, the hosts ought to be spending the vast majority of their time focused on communicating with and driving visits from your best players.  Identify the players, whether at risk, new with potential, or recently lost. Produce a snapshot of their worth, then show your boss the number.  Let him know how much higher that number can be if the hosts can be protected from distractions.  Work together with your boss and team leaders in other operational departments to establish some boundaries to enable the hosts to focus on their work.  Set the goals, monitor them relentlessly, keep the team on track, and move the needle.

More than ever, your Player Development team can have an impact on your property’s bottom line.  It’s not necessary to increase your reinvestment (in many cases) to retain most of your very best players.  It is, however, necessary to differentiate yourself from your competitors in some way to give you the edge when your guests are deciding where to wind down next time they want to play.  It’s Player Development’s role to provide your best guests with a resource to clear the way to an enjoyable and rewarding casino experience.  Doing this well with as many of your best players as possible is beneficial to the bottom line.

Your hosts need to be free to provide their personalized service to as many of your players of highest worth as possible.  In order to make it happen, you have to get everyone on board with the notion that they are hosts.  They’re not Managers on Duty, not Customer Service ambassadors, not promotion attendants or pit clerks.  Hosts.  On the floor.  On the phone.   Driving revenue.

Then they can move the needle.

This post is brought to you by Harvest Trends. We specialize in Player Development (PD). Please take a look at PowerHost, a comprehensive way to drive revenue from your team of Casino Hosts and Player Development Executives. Or contact Paul Cutler at 561.860.2621 or pcutler@harvesttrends.com.  Paul will overnight you an informative package along with pricing.

What do I do about the underperforming hosts on my team?

When looking at your host team’s performance, no matter how often, you are looking at the same kinds of things, such as theo generated, player recency, frequency, incline or decline of play, reinvestment, exceptional comps, profitability, contacts, and events support. Hopefully you and your team can see these numbers on a regular basis so you always know how you’re doing. (You can certainly use monthly numbers to tell how well your team and the individuals on it are performing. More often is better.)

Often, the results are sort of a mixed bag. Some are ahead of pace for theoretical, but behind in reactivation or acquisition goals. Others are bringing people in, but those folks aren’t playing as expected, so the host is behind in generation of theoretical revenue. This can even happen while the property itself is performing well, depending in large part on the level of the host’s efforts.

So what can you do about it? First, check your program for opportunities to underperform. Most important of all, please give your hosts measurable goals. (It doesn’t have to be complicated, though it certainly can be.) Start with contact goals: make XX phone calls, mail XX letters, speak on the gaming floor with XX players every week. This single objective set means your expectations have been outlined and can be measured, so your hosts will know what you have assigned to them to do each day. You can, of course, give each host or the team a theoretical revenue target to reach, and/or you can set achievement numbers around separate functions such as new player acquisition, list growth, maintenance and reactivation. Setting measurable and achievable goals sends a message to the hosts to tell them how to be successful in their jobs. (This works best if you’ve aligned your team’s targets with the overall trajectory of your property’s marketing programs.)

Once you’ve set and communicated goals to the hosts, you have to measure the results in order to provide them feedback for improvement. Document everything. Have them sign the goals when they are communicated, and regularly share results in team or one-on-one meetings. Schedule these sharing sessions for two days after you receive results, whenever that is. This keeps you accountable. In the meetings, provide suggestions for ways to build relationships and follow up on opportunities, ensure they understand the guidelines and tools provided to them, and hold them accountable for their performance. This includes both praise for pacing well, achieving goals, and exceeding expectations as well as proper coaching and discipline in accordance with your property’s rules when they don’t do as well as they should.

If you’ve looked at your program and found other opportunities for your hosts to underperform, make a list and determine how you will turn things around. Do you have hosts who love to hug the usual suspects but don’t make a lot of phone calls? Communicate a specific number of hours each shift you expect them to actively make outgoing phone calls, then hold them to it. Are there hosts who spend all day on the phone but never hit the gaming floor and talk with patrons? Set a specific number of interactions to be reported to you along with the location on the gaming floor where they spoke with that guest. Do you have someone who seems as though his or heart just isn’t in it anymore? Have a frank conversation about why they have this job and come up with a plan to help them re-engage, or find a way for them to gracefully move on to greener pastures. Alternatively, you could even follow up with guests to verify that they are talking with and satisfied with their host.

What are some of the specific things you can do to help an underperforming host do a better job? The first thing to do is ensure understanding of the tasks and responsibilities of the role. Start on the same page and check in regularly to stay there. Then, once a week or more, make quick notes about the hosts’ performance. It only needs to be a couple of sentences, but note things like whether you saw her going over and above, if his milestones are consistently being reached or not, and add your thoughts on the numbers in the goal period to date. This is also a good place to compile tardiness, absences or extra work hours, patron feedback you’ve received, time management concerns, strengths or weaknesses (and how they’ve progressed or not), and other measurable data specific to that host’s performance. Then once a month, sit down with each host and share your thoughts on the work history you’ve now compiled over the course of the last few weeks. Doing this ensures you are looking at the data and providing the hosts with the necessary feedback, coaching and support they need to be more successful.

When you’ve done all this and the host just isn’t achieving all he should, it’s time to have another frank conversation about the host’s future. It’s critical, especially at this stage and in this situation, that you document everything. Have the host sign documentation related to your expectations, any special arrangements you have agreed upon, milestones and dates for follow-up, and all the steps that have been taken by both of you to rectify the situation to date. Then keep detailed notes along the way. If expectations aren’t being met after all this, it is probably time to make a change.

It’s never easy to let someone go, but when it opens the door for another person who really wants to do the job, it is likely to make the team stronger in the long run. The effects of having a coworker who isn’t pulling his weight can be devastating to your team. Resentment, rumors, and a general malaise can set in and undermine everything you need your host team to be: courteous to a fault, responsive, and cooperative. Hosts who are frustrated with a co-worker are stuck in what they see as a no-win situation. It’s tough to stay motivated and present a happy face to your guests when you’re feelings about work are uncharitable. Whatever the specific issue, the hosts who are performing will appreciate that you held an underperformer accountable and those who are on the fence will understand that you expect performance at a higher level.

Snail Mail 101 for Casino Hosts

Many years ago, in a casino industry vastly different from the one we live in today, hosts usually didn’t send much snail mail to their players. Player tracking was relatively new, so the marketing department did the lion’s share of the work in sending out mailed player communications. Much like today’s core mail pieces, they were often newsletter-y and mostly advertised the upcoming mass promotions, plus they offered free buffets and room rates to known patrons of worth. Hosts mostly glandhanded players on the slot floor and high-fived the familiar faces in the pit. They wrote comps and issued tiered cards to the property’s favorite frequent visitors. Sign-ups were the order of the day: get cards into player’s hands.

Hosts sometimes mailed those tier cards, or made phone calls to support the direct mail campaign for an upcoming tournament, but very rarely did anyone but the “old school” crew take the time to hand write more than a greeting card or thank you note to a player. It wasn’t the priority; relationships were built face-to-face while folks were playing or at VIP events. Loyalty was a lot easier to come by in those olden days. There wasn’t another casino just across the state line or even several from which to choose in the nearest big city, so there wasn’t a real need to send a piece of mail to each and every player the host took care of.

In the current landscape, where a casino could lose a patron to a competitor at almost any time, those relationships are more important than ever. Making patrons comfortable in your casino is certainly the responsibility of every person who works there, but casino hosts are tasked specifically with securing the patronage of those guests from whom the property has the most to gain. It can be both tedious and time-consuming, particularly for a host who is attempting to do it right. And doing it right means you communicate with your players in multiple ways, using their preferences as a guide.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid when sending out snail (or even e-) mail communications to your hosted players. Obviously hosts need to build positive relationships with these folks to provide them an incentive to return to your casino… so the relationship-building can continue in person while that player is enjoying a visit with you. Doing these things may harm your chances to have that face-to-face opportunity again.

• Failing to proofread thoroughly can cause serious headaches. How do I know this? Once, an Executive Host was going to send out a letter to his patrons, and I quickly read over it, then approved its release after suggesting a couple of minor changes. I assumed that the host had verified the property’s toll-free reservations number…and long story short, he had not. A string of angry voice mails greeted me the following week, because the prefix (888, 866, 877) in the phone number was wrong and had led the callers to a charge-by-the-minute porn line.  Does anything more need to be said here? Double-check everything for accuracy.
• Addressing the mail to “Dear Sir or Madam” or anything like it is insulting to your high-worth and high-potential players. Use mail merge to personalize each piece of mail. Also, be sure to correct misspellings of recipients’ names and FIX ALL CAPS before merging the file. If correspondence is coming from a player’s casino host, it ought to be more personal than mail addressed to “…or Current Occupant.”
• One-size fits all letters are for the Direct Mail team to send out. If you are writing a letter to your entire coded player list, please use mail merge and/or variable fields to include information that is pertinent to the individual who will be reading the letter. Don’t send a summary of every single event going on in the next few weeks. Track preferences among your players and use that to determine which upcoming calendar items will be of interest to which players, and create several versions of the letter to address common interests.
• Always relying on a printer means your patrons won’t ever receive a handwritten mailer from a host, and that is a mistake. Think about how you feel when you receive a greeting card from your grandmother or favorite aunt. When you see the cursive script on the address panel, you know someone took the time to choose a card and handwrite a message to you. Doesn’t it give you warm fuzzies? You can send the same warm fuzzies to a casino player by handwriting a letter, greeting card, or other note and dropping it into a mailbox. Take the time. The positive impression you’ll make is totally worth it.
• Never sending snail mail to your players is a failure as a host, in my opinion. To make the relationships you share with your customers feel more real, you need to communicate with them in a variety of ways, including sending appropriate snail mail. Do you have a player who has been sick? Send a greeting card. Are there players you haven’t seen in a while and you aren’t sure why? Write a letter specific to that issue and send it to the players to say you’ve missed them and invite them back. At the very least, you’ll get some calls and learn why those players haven’t visited recently. Even better, some of them will return because of your letter.

Long story short, hosts should send personalized snail mail communications to their players every once in a while. A host who is responsible for 300 players should send at least 30 pieces of mail each week, meaning they’ll send each patron at least one mailer per quarter and additional cards and letters as appropriate for birthdays, anniversaries, tier card upgrades, illness, new member introductions, or for reactivation purposes.  Broken down this way, a host only needs to generate half a dozen pieces of mail each shift, which should take no more than an hour. That hour (or less) will result in return visits, incoming guest calls, reservations, answers, and increased revenue.

Trust me or test it. That’s my challenge to you. See how much revenue a structured host mail program can generate. Tell us in the comments how it worked for you!

A High Roller Told Me

What things do casinos do that make their high rollers crazy?

I had the opportunity recently to become re-acquainted with a gentleman I’d met some months ago. His wife is my friend’s sister, and my friend kept telling me that her brother-in-law and I needed to have a chat about his casino experiences so that I could gain a deeper insight into the player’s mind. As a Casino Player Development pro, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

This gentleman is the sort of blackjack player most any casino would be happy to have. He’s worth millions in gaming revenue each year, and he is fully aware of the fact that the odds are in the house’s favor. He’s a methodical player who is willing to play a higher minimum per hand in order to keep less experienced players off his table. Let’s put it this way: if he loses, it might mean that table games hits their number for the day, but if he wins it won’t tank the day’s drop. He is looking for the gambling plus a high roller experience that he can share with people who are important to him. If the value is there, he doesn’t so much mind leaving some of his hard-earned dollars behind at the end of his visit.

We sat down in his suite at a Mississippi Gulf Coast casino last week, and after I’d given him a quick breakdown of my experience and my current role, I asked him what casinos do that makes him crazy. This man delighted me by answering that question and then following up with examples of things they do right. I was delighted because many of the things he says are done right are all foundational concepts in casino player development. Basically, this high roller confirmed what I believed to be true about how a strong PD team can contribute to a property’s bottom line.

Since this was where we started the conversation, it’s where I’ll start:

What’s Wrong?

• Casinos send offers in the mail that aren’t remotely of interest to the player. This player only plays blackjack, but more than one casino sends him slot free play every month. He’s not a tournament player, but his ADT is high enough that he receives multiple invitations to blackjack tournaments. He’d love it if you’d send him something that is meaningful to him instead, and he knows the information necessary to make that happen is in your system somewhere, if you’d only leverage it.
• Rewards programs veiled in smoke and mirrors. As a player who keeps track of his spend, this gentleman already has a good idea what he’s worth to the casino, and he expects that his rewards will be in alignment with his worth.  It should be easy to tell a patron how many points he needs to earn to advance to a higher tier, whether or not he can receive a comp based on his play, and what his average bet and time played are in the system. If it’s too complicated for your employees to explain, it’s probably too complicated.
• Being made to haggle over comps. To his point, this guest understands how the system works. He told me about an experience at another South Mississippi casino where he had to make a case for getting a pack of cigarettes comped. He was frustrated by this because he’d just dropped roughly \$15,000 at a single blackjack table in a few hours and felt like he was being made to beg for a comp he had surely earned. FYI: He doesn’t go to that casino any more.
• Employees who don’t have access to pertinent player information. When this guy asks for anything, he anticipates that he has earned it and that his request will be granted. He expects that when a host approaches him, that host will know who he is, how much he’s played, and what rewards are available to him because of that information. He even suggested that hosts should have a smartphone app which would enable them to quickly access such information wherever they are in order to provide the best possible personalized service.
• Casinos who forget who pays their bills. The casino this patron frequents near his home has recently made some changes that make him feel as though his long-term (and significant) patronage is no longer appreciated. He went from having an executive host who anticipated his needs to having a junior host who will have to call him back when he wants a room or show tickets. Remember, this patron is worth literally millions in gaming spend. But this property is apparently trying to attract even bigger players, and in the process is likely to lose many like this man, who would help to balance the scales when a bigger player wins.
• Failing to get the details right. When I talked with this player, we were sitting at the dining room table in his suite, smoking cigarettes while we talked. He was staying in a non-smoking suite despite the fact that he’s a smoker…whose cigaretters are sometimes comped by the property. While the casino hotel operator in me cringed, I thought, if you know he’s a smoker and you put him in a non-smoking suite, shouldn’t you expect him to smoke in it?
• Sharing the high roller experience with players of opportunity. He related a story from his “home” casino where he headed to the pool only to find it closed for a private party being held for a lower card tier than his. It was exclusive to those patrons who had that level of player’s card. He thought this was a good idea, because he saw the promise of aspirational play from those patrons who attended the party. He wasn’t even annoyed that he couldn’t use the pool because he understood the business reasons for having the party.
• Hosts who understand and anticipate his needs. His wife isn’t a gambler, but she is definitely interested in the pool, the spa, some of the shows, and the restaurants at the casinos they visit. His host here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast does a pretty good job of keeping track of the things this player will want during a weeklong trip, and she even goes so far as to alert associates in other departments when he (or his wife) is going to be utilizing their services. The special personal touches this property provides mean this player will return again and introduce people in his life to the benefits his play earns. He may take 4 extra people to the steakhouse or ask to exceed the usual number of cabana guests, but his play warrants that and his host doesn’t make him ask: she offers what she knows he will want.
• Protecting the player’s benefits from unauthorized use. On the flip side of the coin, the casino in question always asks for ID or a room key before anyone redeems or room charges anything. His wife kept her maiden name, so she is sometimes asked to provide identification to ensure that she is who she says she is. While I was with them, the service was exceptional and included accommodation when she didn’t have her driver’s license readily available. She told me about her first visit to the spa where a new employee didn’t recognize her. After a quick call to the player’s host to verify his wife’s bona fides, her request was handled efficiently and professionally, and she appreciated the extra effort required to ensure that her husband’s (and, by extension, her) benefits were being protected.

All in all, I’d say the casino where I talked with this patron gets about an 8.5 out of 10 for their handling of this high roller and his expectations. He agreed that they get it right more often than many of the other casinos he’s visited. That tendency to get it right more often than not has earned that property this high roller’s loyalty and repeat business.

Amy Hudson

Communications in Casino Player Development

Casino hosts have a responsibility to develop working relationships with their players. In addition to this, they are often tasked with identifying worthy patrons who would benefit from a host’s service and beginning to build relationships with these folks, too. Then there’s the inevitable situation where a host has to mollify an upset guest…and all of these important host roles require effective communication.

To put this into perspective, imagine that you have moved to a new town or city. You don’t know many (if any) people there, and you need to start building a local support network. You are introduced to new faces and have to find some common ground in order to begin getting to know them and determine what place they may have in your “new” life. It works much the same way when you are a host, except you have to do this with literally hundreds of new people.

Getting to know you…

Learning about a person you don’t know is simple: ask questions and remember what you discover. Offer information about yourself that is relevant and will allow him to determine what place you may have in his or her life. Sharing anecdotes, discovering common interests, and listening to learn (rather than listening to respond) all indicate that you are investing something of yourself to build something of benefit to you both. This takes only a short time if you hit it off right away, but it might take longer if you don’t have a lot in common in the beginning.

Expressing an  ongoing interest…

By asking questions, you allow your new acquaintance to tell you all about his favorite subject: himself. When it’s your turn to reply, indicate your understanding by repeating what you’ve just learned in your own words, then inquire further to either gain more understanding or clarify that you truly “get” what that patron has shared with you. Then, in subsequent communications, confirm your interest by sharing only what is of interest to that individual.

In Casino Player Development specifically, that means not inviting a slot player to a blackjack tournament. Don’t send a mass e-mail to all your players with a listing of every single event that’s coming up. Instead, write a handful of variations that focus on topics of interest to a subset of your patrons. When you send out greeting cards or notes to your guests, be sure to include something that ensures the recipient will understand that you see her as an individual.

Take notes and reference them

One of the most legendary hosts I ever heard of was a gentlemen who had left my first property before I was hired. He was legendary because he remembered things about his players that most people wouldn’t. The story that I was told first about him has stuck with me for many years: he had a guest whose dog, Jake, had suffered a broken leg which had to be put in a cast for several weeks. This host sent the guest a handwritten card to wish Jake a speedy recovery and to express his dismay over Jake’s injury. Rumor has it that the patron refused to go to another casino as long as this gentleman was his host because he’d taken the time to send well wishes to the guest’s dog, who was the man’s four-legged child in a sense.

Since most of us aren’t equipped to remember this level of detail about several hundred people (and those who are important to them), it’s critical to keep track of the information you gather about your players. Whether you write it down, enter it into your CRM or CMS, create your own “database,” or do something else, this effort will endear you to your players because they will know you’ve paid attention to their priorities.

This may seem like a  no brainer, but it needs to be stated clearly: don’t drop the ball! (And when you do, own it and fix it as quickly and painlessly as possible. It will happen. Be an adult about it.) Whether it’s a reservation confirmation, the answer to an inquiry, or simply a reply to a guest communication, make your responses timely and accurate. Don’t leave your players waiting or guessing. Instill confidence in your service by being on top of the details and communicating them to the pertinent patron. Being dependable is one of your biggest assets.

Remember the basis for your relationship

Many hosts with whom I’ve worked have some players with whom they are close on a more personal level. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can go too far. Sharing things of a very personal nature is potentially problematic, as it changes the dynamic of your relationship. Spending time with a player outside the casino’s walls is sometimes a part of the job, though there are instances where a host can find himself “owing” a guest for the experiences shared elsewhere. Instead of having the patron see you as their personal casino “concierge,” they may begin to see you as a friend, and they’ll expect your relationship to feel like an ordinary friendship, even though there are some boundaries you might soon find yourself banging your head against (or breaking).

Always remember that the player’s first loyalty should be to the casino you represent and not to you personally. Keep in mind that you know this person because you are supposed to provide caring and consistent service to them. Don’t let a too-personal connection get you into trouble either personally or professionally. As in any relationship, things will go awry at some point and the host will be at a disadvantage when a team leader inevitably has to step in.

Keep it real

Another no-brainer, but I’ve seen it often enough to include it here: don’t make stuff up and don’t tell lies. The truth will come out eventually, and trust broken is extremely difficult to regain. If you don’t know the answer to a guest’s question, say so and pledge to find out and follow up with them (see that point above). Instead of speculating or guessing, demonstrate to the guest that you want to know the answer, too.

Patrons talk with one another and sometimes they know more than the hosts think they do…so always be honest. This doesn’t mean that giving someone proprietary information is okay, either; use professionalism and discretion to determine how to respond accurately and diplomatically at the same time.

For example, if a host is handling communication with a patron who is upset at her failure to receive an invitation to an ADT-based event, the best recourse is to explain that her play during the qualifying period wasn’t quite what it needed to be and give her a basic guideline for qualifying for future events in which she’s interested. Don’t tell her the ADT number; instead, tell her how many points she needs to earn in future visits to make it onto the list. This tactic works for those who are upset about card tier status, mail offers, and promotions as well.

Communicate based on the patrons’ preferences, not your own

So you don’t really text very well, or maybe you don’t like to talk on the phone. That’s something a host needs to put aside because the best way to communicate with a guest is the way the guest prefers you to. If I’m your player and I tell you I’d rather you text me, then text me. I’m going to be annoyed if you insist on making a phone call or if you send me an e-mail when you have something to share with me. When one form of communication goes unanswered, choose another method to inquire as to the most convenient way to get information to that patron.

If you take away only one thing from this post, it should be this:

Keep this key concept in mind, and remember to communicate with patrons based on their preferences and interests. (Reading that sentence, it seems this post could have been a LOT shorter, because that sums it right up.

What if you could build and measure your DREAM PD Program?

Have you ever taken the time to sit back and really daydream about what you would do in your PD program if there were no constraints? If you could have the answer to any question you have about your host team’s work, their player lists, their productivity, and what the team is actually doing for your bottom line, what would you build?

Having spent nearly 18 years in Casino Player Development, working as an ambassador, host, promotions administrator, tournament official, club manager, and finally director of many things marketing, I know “the struggle is real”. I remember having to practically beg the database guy to run a list for me, then I’d have to spend hours combing through it to kick out the one-trip wonders,remove the folks I knew had passed away since the last list build, plus I had to try to remember which players had relationships with which host…AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

The best marketer I ever worked for challenged me to run my PD program based on what the analysis told me. And while I certainly saw the sense in the suggestion, I had no way to truly analyse the program in order to do what this challenge laid out. We had two database gurus, and they were always too busy to help me. Director or not, my requests always ended up in line behind (all things) direct mail, promotion analysis, ad hoc reports requested by finance or the GM, and nearly everything else these busy guys did every day. Without the occasional fulfilled request for something I could update and run for myself (usually excel riddled with macros and connected to a backup database so we didn’t take down the casino floor by running a report), I was flying nearly blind and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get answers to my many questions.

But that was then: olden times, as the youngsters say. (You know, before phones were handheld computers…) Now things are different.

What if you could easily ensure that the players coded to your hosts were worthy of that honor? Then, what if you could determine how many other players were in need of a host’s service and could round-robin assign them with a few clicks or by sending an e-mail?

What if you could set daily or weekly tasks that rolled up into monthly or quarterly goals? How about being able to see some progress to goals in real time, and getting a full update every single day? What would you think if the hosts received the same update every day so they could self-correct and make adjustments to achieve their goals in a proactive way?

What if someone told you that all of this (and more) are possible without the need to ask your IT or database teams for assistance every time you have a question? What if you could find these answers for yourself with just a few clicks?

What if your hosts could enter a player contact on the fly or update preferences while they are on the phone so you could personalize the offers that go out to your best and most loyal patrons? Better yet, what if you could see in real time how your hosts are progressing to achieving the goals and objectives you’ve assigned to them?

Wanna hear the best part? You can have all this (and more!) without having to purchase expensive hardware or software. It’s a service that can be completely automated, and it’s available for an affordable monthly fee per user. We’re talking hundreds, not many thousands of dollars. Plus, there’s no contractual obligation, no long-term commitment, and no risk.

It is possible to build the Player Development program of your dreams. It’s also possible to monitor, measure and report on the results of that program.