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6 Tasks You Shouldn’t Find on a Casino Host Job Description

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Have you ever seen a host running around the casino floor on a Saturday evening? He’s heading to the pit to help break the news that this roulette player isn’t getting a comp for the buffet tonight. He took a call from one of his players as he was leaving the tables, and now he’s running for the hotel desk to greet a guest who’s just checking in. He grabs the mic on the way and makes a jackpot announcement, since a slot attendant held out a note to him as he cruised by. His radio crackles, and he’s off to the steakhouse to push back a reservation before he heads to the entertainment stage to do a promotional announcement.

Can you see him? Walking as quickly as possible without actually running, while dodging guests, trash cans, structural features, and cocktail servers. He’s hoping to make it to his destination in one piece, knowing that it’s just the next stop in what’s going to be a long night. All too often voice mails go unchecked, players’ questions go unanswered, reservations are un-cancelled, comps are left unwritten, and hosts are unfulfilled. It’s sad to think that this happens in one of the most rewarding jobs a people person can find.

Here’s how you can prevent all the “uns” from happening. Don’t ask the host team to do things that run counter to their main objective. They are employed to do one thing: get your best players to spend as much of their gaming wallet with your property as possible. If a task isn’t one that’s directly related to accomplishing that objective, it’s not a task a host should be doing.

Here are 6 Tasks that a Host should not be doing!

  1. Not doing overhead announcements. For anything. Really. This is an easy responsibility to leave with your players club and/or promotions team. Consider hiring a personality to record “standard” announcements and set them to run at particular times so your staff can concentrate on taking care of your players.
  2. Not handling Registration. For anything.  Really. No tournaments, no hotel check-ins, no VIP event tables, period. Hosts should be walking through the event talking with people, not stuck in one place doing administrative tasks unrelated to driving visitation.
  3. Not handling all operational complaints. Obviously, part of a host’s job is to smooth the ruffled feathers of an angry high-roller. It’s not necessarily the host’s job, however, to come to the steakhouse every time a guest says his meal hasn’t met his expectations. It is of vital importance that F&B and PD come to an understanding about which players (and which situations) should be handled by a host and when the room’s staff should be trained and empowered handle things themselves.
  4. Not running promotions. I know, I know. The hosts are charismatic and the crowd loves them and blah, blah, blah.  But the host should be working that crowd and finally meeting that elusive new player he’s missed the last 3 visits, not stuck at the Promotions Desk swiping player cards or drawing the winner’s name.
  5. Not poring over reports to figure out who to call. Your host team will be more effective if they don’t have to do the database mining themselves. Give them specific information, on a daily basis, that pinpoints which guests to call, which reservations to make, and which activities to complete.
  6. Not making calls to players whose ADT is never likely to reach a level for hosting. You know which players I mean, right? The squeaky wheels who end up on a host’s voicemail because they couldn’t get a comp last time they were there and a coffee shop server suggested the host could help them. The guest who hasn’t been to your property in more than a year and wonders why he doesn’t have coupons this month. These are not the players your host team should be spending their valuable time on. Again, front-line employees, including those in the call center, need to be trained and empowered to handle service recovery themselves. so they only escalate to the host-on-duty for the exceptional players.

Imagine if you had 600 players coded to you, and your number one objective was to get your best players to spend as much of their gaming wallet with your property as possible. How would you want to spend your time? Not taking care of administration and minor service recovery.

So, work with your Player Development and Operations teams to re-assign these six responsibilities to other front-line employees.  Then challenge your hosts to exceed their goals with all their new time and some new tools!

10 Steps to Customer Loyalty (that retail could borrow from Casino Player Development)

On Black Friday, as I contemplated people shopping ’til they dropped for great deals on all the must-haves, I kept coming back to a conversation I had with a Harvest Trends client on the day before Thanksgiving. We both, at almost the same moment, had the same thought: what if retailers used the same methods to drive revenue from existing customers as casinos do with their best customers via Player Development.

I know that some companies are doing some of these things (heck, the airlines really started the whole loyalty marketing thing in the first place, didn’t they? OR was it the credit card companies?), but in my experience, it doesn’t run very deep. Social media has certainly changed the landscape when it comes to communications between consumers and the folks with whom they do business. I believe, however, the implementation of all the steps on this list would generate a significant return, as it would set that retailer apart from the rest.

Here are 10 steps retailers could take from PD to drive more loyalty (and more revenue!):

  1.  Drill into your data and determine which customers make up the top 20% of your sales. Focus first on securing the loyalty of those customers because they are keeping your power on, your doors open, and your paychecks coming.
  2. Look at their buying habits and determine what they might be worth to you if they purchased everything available in your store FROM YOU. Obviously, you aren’t going to get 100% of someone’s spend (on whatever, be it clothes, electronics, furniture, food, entertainment, toys, literally any category) but if you do it right, you can make them think of you first if they need or want something you sell.
  3. Put together a loyalty program in whatever form works best for your company’s business model. Call center(s), targeted mailings, social media followings, events, membership cards, special discounts, points, custom links on your website, free stuff…any or all of these could be included in your program.
  4. Find some fantastic personalities to get the conversation started. Whether you communicate with your best customers primarily via e-mail, snail mail or phone call, you want bright, energetic, responsive and customer-service oriented people communicating with these VIPs. Then get those superstars on the phones or dropping mail or creating dynamic internet campaigns to drive the loyal customers back to you.
  5. Close the feedback loop. Monitor social media interactions (an agency is a good pick here if you have the funds available), ask your customer service interaction team to keep you posted if they hear the same complaint often enough to create a pattern, and train your people to make your customers happy based on their lifetime worth to you and where they are in the life cycle of that spend.
  6. Set goals for the customer service team to reach. Many things could be considered in goal-setting, much like in Casino Player Development. It makes sense to start with things the team can actually control, like issue resolution, number of customers contacted, customer satisfaction scores, and sales figures. Analyze the behaviors of the Top 20% and set goals that are a bit of a stretch, but still achievable.
  7. Monitor and adjust as needed. Often, in Casino Player Development, you lose customers (they move away, lose a job, have new families, etc.) and you might need to shift your focus. Adjust the program to reward first-time buyers or make offer changes if you aren’t getting the results you expected. Use analytics to find the money that’s on the table and plan ways to pick it up.
  8. Try to remain-customer focused so you don’t lose your way. When your loyal customers tell you what they do or do not like about your practices, please listen to them. Clearly you can’t give in to their every whim, but when someone loyal to your establishment complains to you about a thing they find to be objectionable, they are asking you to give them a reason to continue doing business with you. How you respond will directly affect how much longer they will do so.
  9. Let your people know when they’ve done well and hold them to task when they haven’t. The last part is the most difficult for me, but I have learned that you do no one any favors if you don’t create accountability. Ensure that the work gets done as it should, let your people know they’re important to both you and the company. Tell them when customers say they’ve been outstanding and share the pain of the inevitable defeat. Then everyone can get up, dust themselves off and get back to work.
  10. Remember to have fun with it! This is of the utmost importance. Many writers of customer service advice cite Southwest Airlines as a good example of a great many things, and this is one thing they do better than anyone else I’ve experienced. Happy helpers make happy customers, and a sunshiny demeanor is something even the angriest of customers responds to, however reluctantly. Make sure the people who provide customer service in the name of your company have smiles on their faces whenever possible. It’s easier to do if everyone is enjoying themselves.

Did I forget anything, PD pros?  Retail veterans, what do you think?

A Day in the Life of a Casino Host

Good Player Development leaders realize that each host has inherent strengths and challenges, and that it is important to provide each host individual opportunities to grow, to maximize their strengths and increase their overall effectiveness.

Individual performance toward goals, as well as contributions to team efforts and the provision of excellent guest service should be elements in the host training and evaluation process. Ideally, host efforts will be observed and monitored on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.  Feedback should be provided regularly to create both accountability and skill enhancement.

The ultimate goal of all that hosts do is to drive business.  Every job responsibility of a host is a function of this goal. Bringing high-worth and potential high-worth players back to the property and increasing trip frequency by these players, developing a “base” of players from which to draw, and recognizing and rewarding guests based on their play are all things hosts do to reach that ultimate goal.   Monitoring the performance of tasks a host should complete in a shift is an easy way to begin assessing performance and effectiveness.

Daily Tasks

One thing that sets this job apart from so many others is that a host does not have a set schedule of how and when they perform their job responsibilities within their shift. Time management is a key skill and each host has to determine what they should work on and for how long. While there is flexibility, each host should have some element of routine in order to accomplish their goals.

Here is an example of a casino host’s daily activities.

  • Check the mail, both snail and electronic.  Mail that is addressed to someone in particular should be placed in that individual’s mailbox and other mail should be distributed accordingly.
  • Check that day’s arrivals list to make note of reservations for high-worth players.  All the hosts should be aware of the day’s anticipated arrivals and should work as a team to greet these guests and take care of their needs, especially for guests whose host is not on property that day.
  • Spend some time in the office during the shift to read e-mail/check phone messages and make/return guest calls as needed.
  • Once the most outstanding of the above contacts have been made, head out to the gaming floor.  Floor time includes sign-ups (as assigned), but also means face time with guests (make contact with the regulars; get to know some new faces) and interaction with staff in other departments.  REMEMBER!  A good host is a role model for the property.  It’s easy: Smile, be sincere, project a positive attitude, and try to be the “morale coordinator” for everyone, guest and team member alike!
  • Organize a contact list and work from the office after some time on the floorCheck for new player bounce-backs, inactives, players with upcoming occasions to note, and hot players.  Prepare guest mail for bounce-backs, any greeting cards, and “Welcome to the Club” notes. Look for tier upgrades (if applicable) and check on the progress of yesterday’s (or today’s) new sign-ups.
  • Make guest calls to book business.  Focus on positive guest contact and planning something special for at least one couple or group of players for the coming week(end).  Make player development second nature by staying cognizant of player contacts.
  • Use the tools provided to track and note all contacts.  Set up reminders as needed to make reservations, provide amenities (flowers, food, cards, etc.) for upcoming visits, or complete other follow-up tasks.  Include trying again to reach guests who were not reached on the first try.
  • Make sure that upcoming events are booking as they should, and do some telemarketing if needed.  Be sure to complete assigned calls for filling events in a timely manner.
  • Follow up on play reports for sign-ups or player contact logs, double-check on restaurant reservations or notes      that need to be delivered to guest rooms, book show tickets, and take care of all the follow-ups due today.  Look through the ones due for tomorrow.
  • Complete required reporting on all contacts and activities as assigned.
  • When leaving a work area, make sure it is neat and orderly.  Log off the computer before the next person will need it.  (Lock the workstation when leaving for only a short time.)   Before leaving at the end of a shift, make sure  that everything has been distributed as needed (reports sent, mail delivered, messages delivered etc.).

Thoughts?  Comments?  Missing responsibilities?

E-mail them to ahudson@harvesttrends.  Please.

What IS Preemptive Reactivation?

Simply put, Preemptive Reactivation is a name for a Player Development approach in casino gaming. It is a method for identifying and mitigating player loss.

There are three steps:
1. Identify a new or imminent threat to which you may lose good players
2. Determine which of your very best players are likely to migrate to the new option you’ve identified
3. Assign those players to a host (if they aren’t coded already) to work on solidifying the relationship to prevent their departure

Here’s an example. You are looking at the numbers and notice that your hosted players are making fewer trips than they did last quarter and compared to the same quarter last year. While this may not come as a surprise to you in light of the economics in the last few years, you are conscientious and want to find out why.

Time for step one.

Identifying the threat is often the most difficult thing to accomplish. If it’s imminent, maybe you already know about it. Perhaps there is a shiny new casino opening up in one of your main markets. You could be facing the expansion of an existing competitor, looking at an aging property you cannot properly upgrade, or it could be as big as the leviathan that will be legal online gaming in the USA. But, there’s a chance it’s more of an internal issue. Have you received feedback that better players are dissatisfied with club benefits, direct mail offers, service failures or something else you can address in-house? If it’s something like that, or if you just aren’t sure, leverage your host team in any number of ways to achieve this objective.

Give them a series of questions to work into player conversations to tease out the reasons for diminished play/visits. Give them a survey interface into which they can enter the card number and check (or type in) the reasons given to them BY THE GUESTS for their less frequent visitation. Hold events, have executives record outgoing calls to ask players to contact a host with concerns, or drop a postcard in the mail for a special “tell us about ourselves” day in conjunction with your operational department teams. Set up a feedback loop with your Casino Host team at its core. The answer you get the most often is your biggest threat. Then you’ll know why the numbers are down.

Now, step two.

Determining which players are most likely to defect is only marginally less tricky than identifying the threat. In our scenario, you should be able to identify which players are making fewer trips, but in the event of an imminent threat, you’ll need to do some detective work.

You know from where your better players come, right? Look at those zip codes and determine whether those players are closer to you or the new/upgraded competitor. They’ll tell you if they are getting more compelling offers from another casino they’ve visited. Determine who else has been there and evaluate whether you have the stomach for the bidding war that might ensue if you try to buy back the business.

Whatever the threat, you have to come up with a plan for mitigating the losses. Offer your players an alternative that’s more appealing than whatever they’re thinking of leaving you for. You’ll be able to see the effectiveness of your plan when the trip numbers start to shift.

Then, step three.

Make adjustments to your hosts’ player lists in order to ensure ongoing communication and satisfaction with your property. This single step will do more to secure the loyalty of your best players than anything else you do. Maybe in step two, you determined that the food offers coming from a competitor were driving your best players to their steakhouse. You don’t want to dismantle your entire direct mail program to cater to a small segment of high-end players. Instead, use the personal touch that is casino player development. Empower your casino hosts to offer those players a premium: the guest turns in to the host his mailer coupon for four buffets in exchange for an equal value in the steakhouse. The player can make the reservations and make all the arrangements for the guest’s convenience, meet him in the steakhouse, do some relationship building and exchange the paperwork.

In order to make this work, you’ll need some pretty specific analytics. You’ll need to have several months’ or quarters’ worth of player development reports, your direct mail redemption analysis, a breakdown of your hosted players including demographics and frequency, and that’s just for starters.

You’ll also need an articulate and engaged team of casino hosts, a participatory executive team and some guests who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. (Fortunately, that last one isn’t very difficult to find!)

Harvest Trends can help with some of the rest of the things you’ll need. (Sorry, you’re on your own with the executives.) Contact Amy J Hudson at or at 304-218-1265 to find out how.

Preemptive Reactivation? Huh?

Everybody's so serious lately
Everybody’s so serious lately (Photo credit: TheeErin)

“You just made that up, didn’t you?”

Well, yeah. I kind of did.

I was a panelist at the Raving Player Development Summit in 2011. (You may know me as Amy Burbidge. Life changes happened.)

My response to one of the topics we discussed led the term “Preemptive Reactivation” to drop out of my mouth (and into the microphone).

Steve Browne stopped mid-step, spun around and locked eyes with me for a beat. He grinned and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Amy here just paid your registration fee for you.  Preemptive reactivation! That’s powerful stuff…” I’ll never forget it.

He’s spoken about it since, and I believe Raving featured the term in one of their publications not long ago.  Me?  I worked to continue exercising it for as long as I ran a Player Development team afterwards. I tried to instill in my Casino Host team that Preemptive Reactivation is essential for player retention. In fact, I believe Casino Hosts are uniquely situated to readily practice Preemptive Reactivation, particularly in an increasingly competitive worldwide marketplace.

How can  YOU benefit from this fortuitous turn  of phrase?  You can learn what it is and how it will help you retain your best players BEFORE they start to spend their time and money someplace else.

Preemptive reactivation first requires you to know which of your best players are visiting you less frequently than they once did.  Then, you go about finding out why they are visiting you less frequently.  Finally, you do something about what you’ve learned.  Often, just a phone call from a host is enough to accomplish preemptive reactivation: they know you noticed their absence, found it important, and asked them to return.  Sometimes you have to solve a problem for the player(s) in question.  Sadly, there are also some who have just begun to drift away and you may not be able to get them back.

Why do I call this process “preemptive reactivation”?  Because you are taking action BEFORE you lose the player entirely.  Proactively identify any threats to your strongest players, reach out to them to let them know you don’t want to lose them, learn what you will have to do to keep them close to the fold, and then put your money where your mouth is.

I’ll be happy to help you figure out what preemptive reactivation means at your property, if you like. Been there, done that.  I even have the t-shirts to prove it!

Isn’t guest service more important than ever?

As more and more casinos open across America, doesn’t it seem like providing a superior customer service experience would be the first thing existing casino operators would do?

Sadly, many casinos are hiring only part-time employees who aren’t invested in the long-term prospects of the property. This may someday extend to the Player Development department, where the effects could be quite dramatic and negative.

With more options available than ever, and with online gaming just months away for at least SOME casino players, how will you know what is happening to your very best players?

If you’re doing it right, your casino hosts will know. Prepare for and respond to threats to your business by utilizing Preemptive Reactivation.