Lovely Reminders to Ask Questions

The phrase Emotional Intelligence is thrown around a lot in articles about Player Development. The intelligence to accurately recognize another person’s emotions through their words, body language, and facial expressions. And the intelligence to respond appropriately with our own words, body language and facial control. You can see how appropriate this is to hosting Casino guests. (And if you want to try your hand, then take this quiz!)

Of course, there are tremendous cultural variations in our behavior, that can completely throw off one’s Emotional Radar. I am British, I’ve lived in the US for over 30 years, and I am back in England to take care of my 86 year old Mother after a stroke. As I walk around the town and navigate the shops and the Hospital, I realize every now and then that I have done something slightly inappropriate! I have a strong enough Emotional Radar to pick up on their reaction, but I don’t know my mistake because I have forgotten so many details about how to interact in this culture! Even though I visit twice a year.

However. There is another important component of dealing with others, and that is Respect. I’ve seen how my Mother was treated in the Hospital and now how she is being treated in the Rehabilitation Home, and that is with a great deal of Respect. So the attached picture from Facebook really struck a chord with me. Take a look at this lovely way of using photographs to distinguish between how a person is seen, and how they see themselves.

Many of our most valuable Casino Guests are in the demographic of these pictures (and 20-30 years older than our Hosts!) These guests will greatly appreciate our respect as we take the time to ask about their lives, to hear their stories (perhaps repeated), and thank them for all they bring to this experience of being alive.

(This picture is from https://www.facebook.com/lifeisamessage/photos/a.1744618715782170.1073741846.1432141293696582/1744618822448826/?type=3&theater)

Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle

I drove past one of those bright yellow signs with black lettering and it read “Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle.” It really caught my attention and I looked to see what kind of business it was. A Dentist! Now, I am not sure I’d want to go and see a Dental Surgeon that was relying on their Hustle over their Talent, but I still like the phrase.

We can have all the talent in the world but it doesn’t count for anything unless we roll up our sleeves, get to work, and hustle!

This probably struck me hard because I was on my way to a County planning meeting to try to persuade them to make a zoning change so that I could start a new business. I had not thought of myself as hustling, but I was! Putting myself out there and trying to make my vision become a reality.

At Harvest Trends, we have to hustle to get the word out. We might have the best solution for Player Development and we might have passion, but unless we hustle through our marketing efforts then no-one will ever know.

And Player Development professionals have to get out there and hustle every day. A Host can have all the talent in the world; a wonderful way with people, a natural charm, a grasp of every detail of how to analyze and grow a player, and an encyclopedic knowledge of everything gaming.

… but Hustle beats Talent when Talent does not Hustle.

I usually talk about the Strategic Host and the need to take a strategic approach to Player Development. The need to have a PLAN of how the Strategic Host is going to achieve their goals by dividing up their time and acting consistently on the right priorities.

Yes, we have to use our Strategic Talent to analyze our goals, divide up our players into different ‘types’ or ‘segments’, and decide how we are to go about growing their trips and play.

But it is the Hustle that makes us execute our plan!

It is the Hustle that forces us to make those out-bound calls to missing players, to make sure we send 30 letters each and every week, and to start each shift with a list of 3 Key Todos for that day. It is the Hustle that leads us to network with the Pit Boss, the F&B Manager, and the Front Desk so that we can pull strings for our guests. It is the Hustle that gives us the courage to ask our Manager, “Where can I improve?”

Let’s take our Talents and add some Hustle this week!

Drive, and, Host Defensively!

I want to share a story that has been rolling around in my head about Casino Host ethics, integrity, and not crossing the invisible lines.

In the last article, 6 Reasons People Gamble; and Why a Host Should Care, I wrapped up with this thought: ‘Are you a friend? Of course not. Don’t get too friendly or you can easily cross a line that leads to no end of trouble for you.’

An Executive shared an old story with me regarding a Host who crossed a line and ended up in trouble. It involved a Host becoming ‘too friendly’ with some guests and going off-premise to join them for food and drinks. Because, of course, the Host could not drink on property. An F&B Manager was aware of this, and even ended up joining the group off-property! The story did not end well, and it raised all kinds of HR issues about Who Said What, and Who Knew What, and What Really Happened.

In my own professional life, I have found myself in a bad situation where it was all about ‘My Word against Their Word’ but it was a fellow employee and not a customer. If you are the employee and ‘they’ are the customer, then you are immediately less likely to be believed.

And even if you are believed, there is still the terrible PR issue of the customer’s complaint. The Casino must take responsibility for your actions, or perceived actions, and the Casino must clean up the mess. So, you are going to be in big trouble.

Let’s go back to this story.

tsaThe F&B Manager should have known better because a Manager must be even more Squeaky Clean than an individual contributor.

The F&B Manager should have told the Host to cut it out and, if the activity continued, the F&B Manager should have told the PD Manager.

As the TSA poster says, ‘If you see something, say something”.

Both the Host and the Manager should have thought a little more deeply about why they cannot drink on their own Property. It is not to be mean. It is because alcohol removes inhibitions and even if the employee can hold their drink, it doesn’t mean that the customer can. You drive defensively, watching out the other idiots who may run a light, not give a turn signal, or text and drive. As a Casino Host, you must work and live defensively, watching out for customers or fellow employees who might cross a line and drag you with them.

  • How might it look if you are drinking off-property with a VIP customer?
  • How might it look if you are up alone in the Penthouse with a group of guests drinking? Take someone with you!

Here’s the brutal reality. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, it matters how it could be interpreted.

Of course, on property, you have the added protection of cameras so if a customer, or employee, accuses you of impropriety then Surveillance might be able to pull the tapes. Off-property, you don’t that extra layer of protection.

And what about off-hours? Does the Casino own your entire life and so you cannot go bar-hopping or dancing? Well, for one, it probably depends where you live and how likely you are to run into your Coded Players! And what about friends? Can the Casino tell you that customers cannot become friends? Lovers? Of course not, and of course it is going to happen in some cases.

The point is that you must Host defensively. Tell your Manager as soon as there is any reason to do so. Just so they are not taken off-guard and, perhaps, they can re-code the guest. I remember being told “I cannot tell my Manager because this high value player is a married woman’. Well, don’t be having an affair with a married woman, let alone the best slot player!

And as for friends… We all have friends, and we might have friends that play in the Casino. But if your fellow Host meets a bunch of party animals in the Casino and follows them off-site to hang out with them… then those are not their friends! The motive was not friendship but a good time, and parties can go sour. If you See Something, Say Something!

It is all about perception and managing perception. Last night’s news was all about the revelation that Michel Cohen named Sean Hannity was a client. Sean Hannity says he was not a client. It is a ‘Him against Him’ story. But Sean Hannity has spent the week lambasting the FBI raid on Michael Cohen while pressuring Cohen to keep him out of the story. My point is that I don’t know the truth; I just know that Sean Hannity is now dealing with a major news story because he tried to avoid disclosing a minor news story.

Did the PD Manager know about the Host going off-property and whooping it up with guests? If so, they should have Said Something but perhaps they dismissed it as harmless or just gossip. By avoiding that minor conversation with the Host, the PD Manager was pulled into an HR nightmare.

If you See something, Say something! First to the person themselves and then, if necessary, to management. It may be embarrassing or difficult to speak to someone about their behavior, or a rumor of their behavior, but it will be MUCH worse when you get pulled into HR, or the Gaming Authority, to explain what you knew and when.

A Casino Resort has a dangerous mix of heady-entertainment, alcohol, hotel bedrooms, and Casino Hosts have the extra burden of having to be ‘nice’ to guests. So, Drive and Host Defensively!

6 Reasons People Gamble – and Why A Host Should Care

I found an article on Why People Gamble. I didn’t quite agree with the original article so I’ve re-written some of the reasons!

But more importantly, I was thinking that if we focus on Why people gamble, then we can think about How to make them love their Host. And if a valuable player is loyal to the Host then they often think twice about playing somewhere else.

So here we go, with thanks to Samantha Gluck, the author of the ‘PSYCHOLOGY OF GAMBLING: WHY DO PEOPLE GAMBLE?’.

The Chance to Win – Yes, people gamble because they have a chance to win, and they enjoy the sense of anticipation, and the hunt for the winning game. As Casino Hosts, you can create new chances to win. Create 10 baskets of chocolates and play Find Your Host. The first ten players that find you on the Casino Floor between 5pm and 6pm, win the goodies.

Escapism – the Casino provides an escape from everyday life. As Samantha says “for the time that we are taking part we can be surrounded by different people, different sounds and emotions, all of which stimulate and arouse our senses.” As the Casino Host, you want the valuable player to think of you as part of this special world. They are deliberately taking time away from their job, family, relationships, stresses and strains. They want their Casino Host to consistently give them an unconditional and reassuring warm welcome. Strive to be an important part of their alternative life.

Glamour – Samantha writes about the portrayal of a’ stylish, sexy, fashionable image of gambling… There is often a suggestion of ‘high society’ and attending at ‘a place to be seen’.

Certainly the decor of the Casino is designed to be upmarket and to make people feel that they are in a ‘special’ place. But, in this day and age, I suspect people are not looking for glamour so much as wanting to feel important. So many people feel worn-down, under-appreciated, and that they are slipping behind compared to the stars of the Reality TV shows. When they walk into the Casino, they can feel important again and especially if they are greeted warmly. (I remember Therrin Protze of DNC pointing out the value of a warm welcome from the security guards at the main entrance at Jumers Casino & Hotel.) As the Casino Host, you want the player to feel that you see them, that you appreciate them. This extends beyond the Casino Floor to sending messages and cards, placing calls, and reaching out when they have not been on property.

Your body language and facial expressions are really important in making people feel comfortable and welcome. As a Casino Host, you need an immaculate control of your body language, and use of Emotional Intelligence, so that you convey open friendliness to the most *#&@^ personalities.

Importance – so let’s talk some more about importance! Guests love to interact with executives when they can. High-end guests feel as though their patronage should give them a seat at the table, so why not give them one? Light hors d’ouvres, light cocktails, and round tables surrounded by comfortable seating set the stage for a dialogue that will make your most valuable players feel important. Just remember, make no promises in response to their suggestions!

 

Social – Samantha writes that people gamble for ‘social reasons’. Yes, people visit the Casino’s as couples, with family, and with a group of friends. As the Casino Host, you can track the relationships and use them to your advantage. For example, if someone tells you that they are off to Vegas with friends from out of town, then tell them to let you know when those friends are next in town, and you will take good care of them.

Which leads me to Loneliness. You all have those players who visit regularly, even daily, because they are filling a void in their lives. When they come to the Property, perhaps by limo because they can’t get around, then they are happy to lose money in return for being welcomed into the family. As their Casino Host, you can become a trusted friend.

Are you a friend? Of course not. For those of you that are new to being a Casino Host, be careful to always set boundaries around your interactions with guests. For everything that I have said above, there can be a down-side and you will see this during your career in Player Development.

  • Don’t be too generous or you will be seen as a walking ATM machine for free play and comps.
  • Don’t make them feel too important or they will feel entitled to throw their weight around and be demanding.
  • Don’t blow hot and cold so they feel rejected and want to complain about you.
  • Don’t get too friendly or you can easily cross a line that leads to no end of trouble for you.

But, at the end of the day, people are choosing to spend time and money at your Property instead of at the competition. They would like to see and feel some gratitude and, as the Casino Host, you can convey that sense of gratitude in a personal way with how you listen, laugh, commiserate, and genuinely thank them for coming in.

So thank you, Samantha, for your article that inspired this one!

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.

Share this article with your Database Marketing team or vendor! No more waiting until the end of the Quarter to see where you stand.

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.

 

Click here to read more Management Articles.

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SMART Goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound

Every time you write a goal, you need to take a step back and ask yourself is it SMART? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Let’s look at an example:  “In this Quarter, each Host will increase Theo from Active players by 7% over the same quarter last year.”

Is this SMART?

• It does Specify ‘Increase Theo from Active Players’
• The Measure is 7%.
• Is 7% Achievable? You can check by asking for a report that shows the total Theo for coded players in the last six quarters. If most of the coded players have been increasing their Theo at 5% even before you set Host Goals and influence Host behavior, then it probably is Achievable to grow by 7%.
• Each Host is responsible for growth from their own Active players which is Relevant to the company’s objective.
• The goal is Time-Bound and compares this quarter with the same quarter last year.

In conclusion, this goal is SMART but only IF, at your Property, you can measure the growth for each Active Player, and provide the Hosts with daily and weekly reports on which player to contact, and why.

In many Properties, the Hosts are not told their Goals, or given their coded lists, until a month into the quarter. And they are often not told where they stand against their Goals until after the end of the quarter when IT or the Database Analyst can run the numbers.

This approach is completely demoralizing because the Hosts have no idea whether their daily efforts are bringing them success. And from a Management perspective, the Hosts will meet their goals out of sheer luck and not because they focused their efforts on the right players so why pay out a bonus on a lottery?

The Player Development team needs targeted information each day to make the correct decisions on whom to contact. Without daily information, the team is not making conscious decisions on how to meet their goals, so why even have goals? It will be sheer luck and not inspiration or perspiration that enables the team to meet their goals.

So! Make your goals SMART and then be smart about providing the Player Development team with all of the training, coaching, and tools that they need to succeed and exceed with their goals!

 

Available at Amazon. $21

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.

Reference
Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.

What is Your Annual Cycle? Gambling month by month…

When you write Casino Host Goals, they need to be SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Let’s consider the word Achievable in the context of Seasonality. You need to do some research regarding what is realistic for each quarter for your Property. It is unlikely that each quarter is the same, and it is unlikely that your Player Development team can grow play by the same amount in every quarter of the year.

For most properties, there is a seasonal factor based on the weather patterns. If you are in the mid-western USA, then Q1 is lower than other Quarters because snow and ice in January-March will deter players from venturing out. If you are in Arizona or Florida, then Q1 might be higher because of snowbirds escaping to your warmer climes.

Q4 is often slow because your customers have so many other Holidays and family commitments that need their time, and money, to enjoy. If Q4 is always slow, then you should you have a lower growth goal for Q4 than for the other Quarters.

Take a look at this chart… the data reported by State Gaming Commissions from across the United States shows a clear cyclical annual patterns in play based on annual life events such as tax returns, paying for Christmas gifts, and taking vacations in the summer.

You can see the same pattern across the USA for three consecutive years. March is high, June is low, July and August are high, and the fourth Quarter is low.

This analysis was created by Harvest Trends and described in 2012 by Susan Kesel, a Gaming industry executive, in an article in Gaming & Leisure Magazine.

Does this pattern still apply to your Property? Are you having a great March? Get ready for April! Or do you have a different annual cycle?

If you talk to the CFO, they will know the annual cycle because the Finance Department has to manage the cash flow throughout the year and not be impacted by this fluctuation in revenues.

And take this into consideration as you set your Casino Host Goals! This is why many goals are written as growth over the same Quarter last  year, and not as growth over the Previous Quarter.

 

 

 

4 Steps to Strong Coaching from Managers

Here are 4 Steps to Strong Coaching from Managers.

  • Are you a Manager? Ask yourself ‘Do I take these Steps?’ and then file this away for when you need it.
  • Are a Host or Executive? If you are a real go-getter then you are hungry for this kind of feedback. Or, if you suspect that you are on ‘thin-ice’ with your manager, then suggest these steps to get their actual opinion of you, and to engage them in proactively coaching you.

This program takes you through the detailed steps of addressing and improving performance:

Step 1 – Prepare a Clear Assessment

  • Is there a written job description that details the expectations of the job?
  • Is there a standard Annual Evaluation Form for your Property?
  • Set aside 30 minutes of quiet time to reflect on the Host’s soft skills:
    • Read through the Job Description and the Evaluation Criteria
    • Give the Host a ‘grade’ of ABC for each part of the Job Description and the Evaluation Criteria.
      • A = ‘Really good at this’
      • B = ‘Okay at this’
      • C = ‘Not good enough at this’
  • For the C’s, write down 3 specific examples of where the Host went wrong.
  • Are their written goals such as ‘Increase Theo by 10% over last quarter?”
    • If so, review the Host’s results.
    • Reflect on your assessment of the Host’s soft skills.
      • How can the Host meet/exceed their goals by working on their B’s and C’s?
  • Prepare your summary! Map out a conversation that runs like this:
    1. Here are some areas that are really strong for you!
    2. These are some areas that need improvement.
    3. So we have talked about your strengths, and some areas that you need to improve, and I am here for you. Moving forward, how about we do X and Y each month.

Step 2 – Set up a Meeting but Don’t Terrify Them!

Schedule an hour with the Host.

Make sure your email gives them some homework to do ahead of time, so they can sit and reflect beforehand.

  • Subject “Discuss your Results”
  • Hi Jackie, Let’s spend some time going over your Job Description (attached) and discuss what you do well, and where you could improve. This is an informal conversation to see where I can give you some pointers on how to succeed. Please read the Job Description ahead of time and think about what you do really well (A), what you do adequately (B), and where you think you can improve (C). You won’t be giving me your own score but I want you to have thought ahead of time about what you see as your strengths and your areas for improvement. PS. Great job on the event last night. Thanks!

Try not to freak them out with your email! You don’t want them to lose productivity as they fret about the meeting.

Step 3 – Meet and follow the Sandwich Method

Meet with the Host in calm quiet place, and run the meeting as the Sandwich Method.

What is the 3-step Sandwich Method for giving feedback?

  1. Start with something positive (bread)
  2. Cover the negatives (the meat!)
  3. Close with encouraging words (more bread)

Sometimes, managers will describe the bread as fluff, but it really isn’t.

To stay motivated, the Host needs to know where they are strong (first slice of bread), their challenges (the meat), and that you still believe in them (last slice of bread).

(Of course, you might be at the point where you don’t still believe in them! In which case, look further down at Corrective Action.)

You run through the conversation that you prepared earlier:

  1. Here are some areas that are really strong for you! (The A’s)
  2. These are some areas that need improvement. (The C’s)
  3. and, we have talked about your strengths, and some areas that you need to improve, and I am here for you. Moving forward, how about we discuss this when we meet each month?

‘As you cover each Job Skill, do not ask them what grade they gave themselves! That was just an exercise to get them thinking.

Describe the behavior as you see it, with a specific example.

Focus on the behavior and not what you suspect to be the reason:

  • You don’t talk to as many guests as necessary. Not – I think you’re scared/lazy/too busy with your phone.
  • Your appearance needs to improve with a sharper image. Not – I think you’re scruffy, and without taste in clothes.

Don’t ask them to agree to your assessment!

  • They don’t have to agree with you, they just have to listen carefully and then take steps to meet your expectations.
  • If they say, “Well, I don’t see it that way…‘, you say ‘The point here is that I see it this way, so you are going to have to work to change my perception“.

Finally, give the Host something in writing that summarizes the C’s. This can be as simple as this:

  • Jackie, we met on 3/19 to discuss your performance. I have asked you to focus on the following:
    • Make sure you talk to 40 guests a week.
    • Improve your image to be sharper and in line with the rest of the team.
    • Focus on 10 Inactive players to get them back on property.

Ask them to sign your copy, and put it in your folder.

Schedule another meeting in a month’s time to discuss their improvement.

Step 4 – Monitor and give Feedback

For the next 30-60 days, depending on how urgent the situation is, you monitor their behavior, and note specific examples.

  • Send ‘atta-boys’ for positive change. “Hey! Just a quick note to say congratulations on meeting your goals this week”
  • And send ‘Nahs’!  “Hey, we talked about your appearance and I was not impressed when I see your tie undone yesterday”.

I know from experience that it can seem like a large investment in time to meet regularly with each team member and go through this kind of process. But if you don’t, and you just wait until the Annual Review, then:

  1. You are at risk of the employee saying the dreaded words ‘This is new to me!  You’ve never mentioned it! How can you ding me for something that you never told me! I am going to HR”.
  2. Plus! One of your key roles as a manager, is to coach and grow your team.

Are You ‘Done” with this person?

If you ‘done’ with this person, then it is time to meet with your HR representative and find out the process for “Corrective Action” which usually includes verbal warnings, written warnings, and then dismissal.

If your Property doesn’t have a Correction Action process then consider the following steps so that you can protect yourself against a charge of unfair dismissal. You can also Google for Correction Action Process. Consult with your manager and make sure they are aware of what you are doing, and support your actions.

Make sure everything is written down, or in a printed email, and put into a physical folder along with dates.

Give verbal warnings such as ‘We have discussed your appearance. It is is not acceptable and you must improve it within 30 days or you risk disciplinary action that could result in termination’. Hand-write a note for your file that captures what you said, the date, the rough time, and the location. And what the employee said, if anything.

If the change is insufficient, then put the same words into writing. ‘We have discussed your appearance. I gave you a verbal warning on 3/19. I am now giving you a written warning that this is not acceptable and you must improve it within 10 days or you risk disciplinary action that could result in termination’.

And then, if the time comes, you are well-prepared to justify the termination, and you can feel good that you did everything that you could to help the employee.

In summary, your role as the manager is:

  • Be crystal clear about your expectations and whether they are being met.
  • Give the person a chance to change and succeed by being clear, being consistent, giving specifics, and providing immediate feedback.
  • Grow the talent that is on Property

And, not incur the expense of constantly bringing in new people, training them up on your Club and Amenities, and then moving them on because they did not ‘cut it’.

As always, let Jackie know if you have anything to add to this!

 

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