Tag Archives: Casino

Are your hosts really hosts?

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.sittogether

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.

Do all of you have all the tools you need to set, measure, communicate, and target goals? If not, resources are available in many forms. A number of technology partners can slice and dice the data for you and help you find the opportunities already in your database. (This is true of the entire database, not just those patrons whose play warrants a host’s attention, by the way.) Use a CRM to provide continuity of contacts, preferences and play history in an ever-changing world. Use analytics to target the right patrons, and you might even use your Casino Management System to code and track play from hosted payers. You’ll also need reporting to show how many contacts have been made, which players have been in, who redeemed what, and what that all means for your host team and your property. Mostly, you have to ensure a steady stream of information about what your hosts and their players are doing in order to keep things on track and make changes when they’re not.

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.

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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

Link in with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hudsonamy/

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.

Always follow up

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:

It’s not all about you

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.

War Stories: Cautionary Tales from ‘The Trenches’

Many years ago, I had primary responsibility for a big casino promotion. My bosses were at the big gaming show in Vegas (before it was called G2E; it was a loooong time ago) and I was launching a big 6-week extravaganza without them for the very first time. We had floor sweeps to hand out scratch-off tickets, offering a variety of prizes for matching symbols. Every ticket had the potential to be a winner, but the odds suggested we’d have only one or two “big” winners (of $1000, if I recall correctly) for the entire 6 weeks.   Non-winning tickets could be dropped into a big drawing drum for the grand finale: a pickup truck to be given away on the last night of the promotion. When the second and third “big” prize winners showed up within hours of the first floor sweep, I knew we had a problem. Someone had figured out how to cheat the scratch-off…and I was sure of it when the fourth winner of the night was the same person who had turned in the first winning ticket.

The GM and I wrote an announcement that I would read over the PA to suspend the scratch-off portion of the promotion, and we quickly printed out truck giveaway entries to be handed out until we could sort out the issue with the game tickets. It was with trepidation that I began reading our announcement, but security and a handful of sympathetic guests (regulars, but the good kind) were nearby to offer moral support. Only twice since have I been in front of a crowd so hostile. As I clicked off the microphone and took a step to leave, a handful of them surged toward me, blocking my exit route to complain about the provision that we would not accept any more “winning” tickets. A few of these had multiple tickets in hand, suggesting that they had picked up tickets others had left behind…it was a mess.

From this promotional War Story, I learned many things.

  • Have scratch tickets printed by someone who has lots of experience with them so it’s impossible for players to cheat.
  • Involve the Security Manager and Compliance department when doing promotional planning to help ferret out vulnerabilities in the conceptual stages.
  • Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for the honest guests, even in the face of some who are angry that they can’t take advantage of a vulnerability they found.
  • The NGCB had our back. Our rules were clear and enforceable, and they stayed in the loop with us as we navigated those uncharted (for us) waters.
  • The loudest voices you hear aren’t always the ones you should pay the most attention to. My GM was cool, calm, and collected as we worked through our short-term plan. Loud, angry voices had no place in that discussion, though we obviously thought through the effect we’d have on our guests.

Everyone who has worked with the public at all probably has some pretty good stories to tell; it’s likely they’ve got some that will curl your hair. Thinking about them for this post actually had me chuckling earlier:

  • The club rep who figured out how to cash out points belonging to inactive guests, but didn’t notice the transactions on a detail report the same rep ran each night for the manager’s review.
  • The angry patron who grabbed a supervisor’s tie to pull him over the counter and almost found himself prone when the (former military) associate instinctively drew back a fist. Fortunately, no one was harmed during this little episode.
  • The promotional attendant who set up a promotion to run with pre-determined winners…and didn’t see any problem with that.
  • The guest who called the company headquarters to complain that he’d been told his patronage wasn’t important…since the casino wouldn’t increase his offers just because he thought they weren’t sufficient.
  • The high roller who hung up on his host because the host uttered the word, “No” during a brief phone call. (The host called right back and said “It seems we were disconnected before I had a chance to tell you what I CAN do.” The guest was all ears.)
  • The small gang who gathered at the promotions desk to write down the winner’s names at nearly every drawing because they were convinced the giveaway was rigged against them.

Here’s the best part about these War Stories: every single one of them teaches us something. The club rep learned that there are checks and balances to prevent theft and that a few hundred bucks was all it took to lose a promising career in gaming. The patron learned that he would be asked to leave private property after assaulting an associate, with a minimum 12-month exclusion to boot. All of us who have worked with casino promotions have learned that people feel entitled to win and will always suggest that someone is cheating them if they don’t. The high roller learned that sometimes it’s better to be quiet and listen to the rest of the story before shutting someone down (particularly if it’s someone who can help you). The gang learned more than they ever cared to know about how electronic drawings work, as the executive responsible for promotions gathered them close and did a mini-workshop on the software’s capabilities.

So, tell us in the comments below: what are your favorite War Stories, and what did you learn from them? Any lesson is a good one, though the ones learned “the hard way” tend to stick with us. Those where we learn what NOT to do are even better, because we may not have to live through the awkwardness and difficulties ourselves (or only tangentially).

Share with us the stories that came to mind as you read some of mine. We can’t wait to learn from your experiences!

How do you keep your team rolling?

I swept my whole house today. You’re probably wondering why I started with that fascinating factoid, right? While I was moving the dust mop through my kid’s rooms, I noticed that the stuff I was sweeping up was reacting differently to the mop’s motions based on its individual nature.

There was a yellow bead that kept rolling right past the rest of the stuff I’d swept up, and there was a tiny metal bead (like a BB) that rolled pretty well but mostly stayed with the pile. There were some dust bunnies under my 16-year-old’s bed, and they stuck to the dust mop. The leaves under my 9-year-old boy’s bed were stubborn and didn’t want to be swept up, so I had to get the bristly broom for those.

Your player development team is a lot like the stuff I swept up today. How? Each individual on your team responds differently to the same stimulus. The yellow bead is the host who takes your advice and direction and runs with it, not looking back to see where the rest of the team is. The BB was your “steady Eddie” host, who stays with the pack and keeps moving at a steady pace.The dust bunnies are like the hosts who won’t make a move without a push. The leaves are the hosts who keep doing what they’re going to do regardless of your attempts to motivate them, at least until you force the issue.

In my experience, player development pros get better when they have to step outside their comfort zones, and their leaders sometimes have to start sweeping to get things moving. The dust bunnies would still be under my daughter’s bed if I hadn’t swept. The yellow bead would probably have ended up in a different place on the floor, and the BB would be hanging out with the leaves. They needed motivation to move; to roll.

Each of the members of your host team needs motivation too. Most likely, it will take something tailored to each individual to get maximum results.

The host who’s rolling on without regard to the rest of the team may be ready to take on the challenge of being a mentor for another employee. The one who is rolling along but not excelling may benefit from some encouragement to implement his ideas. The ones who want to hang back and need a push might do more if they know you’re watching and keeping track of their accomplishments. The stubborn ones could get better with training, so they should be paired up with a “rolling” host.

Take the time to evaluate your team individually, assess the tools you have available to get them moving, then choose the right combination of tools and methods to start things rolling. Then, repeat as necessary. Just like I’ll have to do with the clean(er) floors in my kids’ rooms.

Ethical Scenarios for Casino Player Development

In these blogs, we have covered a lot of ground: things hosts should do, things they shouldn’t do, how to evaluate them, how to set and measure goals, and we have gone into some depth on a few of these topics.  One important aspect of a host’s job, however, is one we’ve only briefly touched.  It is especially important that hosts keep in mind the effects of their decisions and the ethical implications thereof.  This post is designed to be interactive, so please comment with your responses.

Let’s pretend for the purposes of this post that I am a successful casino host.  I work at a property that has thus far been blissfully free of growing competitive stresses, though some of my players occasionally travel to Las Vegas for an extended gambling vacay.  I’ve been at my property for just over 5 years, and I’ve developed some solid relationships with many of my high-worth guests.  I am not allowed to accept cash tips, but guests may give me gifts of a reasonable value.   In the following scenarios, what should I do?

  1. One of my players has been indicted for embezzling a significant amount of money from the banking company for which he worked (until the indictment, anyway).  He continues to visit and play, even coming in more often now than he used to since he’s got more free time these days.  As his host, what is my responsibility to him and to the property?
  2. I have an older player who sometimes invites other guests to come to her room (in my on-property hotel) to assist her with getting in and out of the shower.  Because she obviously trusts these players, she is heartbroken and sobbing when she comes to find me on the gaming floor to tell me that someone has stolen $300 in cash from her purse.  I immediately suspect the latest of her “assistants,” but she begs me not to say anything to that lady.  What is my best move in this situation?
  3. My best friend is a hotel supervisor at my casino, and she calls me over to stand behind the desk so she can make an emergency trip to the ladies’ room.  I know how to check people in and issue card keys, so when someone approaches the desk, I assist the guest, who tips me $50 with a wink upon check-in.  Rapidly, I go through the options available to me: upgrade to the last host room (it’s a suite), upgrade to a room with a better view, say “thanks” and put the cash in my pocket, hold the tip to give to my BFF, or explain that I’m just filling in and suggest that the tip should be given to someone else since I can’t accept it.  Which choice should I make?
  4. One of my players was delighted with the anniversary amenity I had waiting for her and her husband in their hotel room last week.  She was so delighted that she sent me a thank you card containing a $100 bill.  The guest sent the card to my home address.  I’m not sure where she got it, as I’d never give a guest my address…What should I do with the cash?
  5. I believe that one of my players makes his money illegally.  I don’t know any details, but I have heard other table games players (and dealers) gossip about him.  Speculation on the sources of his income runs from gunrunning to illegal drug sales to house-flipping to a sizable inheritance.  He doesn’t seem to have a regular job, he travels a bit, and he always has lots of cash and a fancy “new” car almost every month…so I know something isn’t typical about how he earns his living.  What is my responsibility to the player and/or my property in this case?
  6. I overheard a conversation between one of my co-workers and his wife last night.  He was on his company cell phone, shouting at her in the back-of-the-house hallway.  Visibly upset, he returned to the office not long after and began making guest calls.  One of his guests must have known he was upset, because next thing I know, he’s spilling the story to a guest on the office phone.  What should I do about this?
  7. One of my favorite players is moving (permanently) to her lake house about 4 hours’ drive from my property.  She has extended to me and my family an open invitation to come and visit her sometime.  She’s not likely to make many visits after the move, since she is reluctant to drive such a distance alone.  She doesn’t have much family and considers me one of her closest friends.  Is it okay if I accept her invitation?

Many hosts encounter similar situations to these, and it isn’t always easy to know what one should do.  Your feedback might help a casino host to make a better decision, so don’t be shy.  Choose one scenario or reply to them all…but use the number of each so we know which scenario to which your answer(s) refer(s).

Ready?  Set?  GO!

Player Development isn’t a Department. It’s a Mindset.

Does everyone at your property sell the gaming experience to your guests? Just as importantly, does everyone at your property understand that the main function of a Player Development department is to sell the gaming experience to your most worthy guests?

It still amazes me how many people work in gaming without a clear understanding of the role Player Development professionals play in the operation. When given the opportunity to do the job they were given, Casino Hosts can drive revenue. They build relationships with patrons. They make it easier for a guest to choose YOUR property over going to visit a competitor. They provide concierge-like service to players who have a real impact on the bottom line, especially when those patrons don’t come in as often or play as much as they once did.

How is Player Development a mindset? It extends to every casino employee who has direct guest contact as well as those whose work affects the guests. (So, basically everybody.) If a dishwasher doesn’t do his job properly, one of your pickiest profitable players might receive a drink in a dirty glass. If a slot attendant assists a guest without introducing himself, he doesn’t exactly make a good impression even if the service was timely. When maintenance isn’t keeping up with broken fixtures in your restrooms, your guests notice. Honestly, we don’t want ANY casino guest to experience these things. This means that every employee needs to understand the basic principles of Player Development in order to keep the guests raving about your property.

These principles include using a guest’s name, responding quickly and professionally to guest requests, and anticipating guests’ needs (and meeting them). These are all things that PD pros do every day. Happily, they are things every casino employee can do, too! These simple measures help to solidify the loyalty of the guests who frequent your property, and they give new or undecided guests a reason to come back.

Even if front-line employees don’t fully understand the Player Development function, they can learn to do the things inherent in building player relationships to make your property more profitable. By keeping your guests top of mind, all your associates can facilitate keeping your property top of mind with those guests. In general, building relationships with patrons who help to keep your doors open is a function of player development that applies to every guest and every employee with whom they come into contact, either directly or indirectly. Helping your associates understand this is the first step in creating a PD mindset that will differentiate your customer service from that of your competitors.  And that, folks, is a good mindset to have throughout your operation.

6 Things to Look for in a Casino Host New Hire

The truth is, it’s not an easy thing to quantify what you are looking for in a Casino Host, particularly if the candidate in question has never been a host before.  Read this summary, to see if you agree, and then and click to download the interview questions.

A People Person

When you interview any host candidate, the thing you are looking for is a natural tendency to be a “people person.”

Ask questions about specific customers the candidate remembers and why.  This sort of question works whether you are interviewing someone who has been a host before or not, even if the background of your candidate doesn’t include customer service.  Recent college graduates should have some sort of work experience (summer jobs, internships) where they had to provide a product or service to someone.  That is what you need to tap into to determine whether they are truly attuned to people as individuals.  If they are not, keep looking!

A Positive Attitude

Taking any new job can make someone anxious.  Taking a new job where one is responsible for the needs and wants of a casino’s very best players is daunting even on a good day.  An angry high roller is of critical importance and a host using a negative approach is likely to fuel the fire; then nobody wins. Devise some interview questions specifically geared to identify whether the prospective host is one who sees things in a positive light most of the time.  Ask about a difficult situation with a co-worker or customer and how it was resolved.  Whether the candidate solved the problem on his or her own or if it needed to be escalated, how he or she tells the story will give you some insights into a “glass half-full” mentality (or not).  If the glass isn’t at least half full, this candidate isn’t the one you want.

A Willingness to Learn

This attribute extends beyond the ability to learn how your property expects hosts to handle the company’s assets.  Willingness to learn includes gleaning and utilizing information about individual players and their preferences, how to handle conflict on behalf of a guest, navigating computer systems and how they are integrated, plus a myriad of other intricate details necessary to manage such a dynamic marketing role.  Ask about subjects the candidate enjoyed in school and why; inquire as to training programs the individual has experienced and what he took away from them.  Also, assess computer literacy during the interview; a host in this day and age who isn’t comfortable tackling a new interface is assuredly going to be at a disadvantage.

A Go-Getter

Some of the most charismatic hosts have a fatal flaw: they require external motivation.  These hosts are great with guests, they can talk with people from all walks of life, and they are fierce advocates for their players when the need arises.  All great attributes for a host, right?  Right!

Interestingly, not all hosts are great at tracking and reporting on their own activity, providing justification for questionable comp decisions, following up on guest phone calls or other correspondence, or completing guest-related tasks such as reservations and confirmation contacts.  It only gets done on deadline through much pulling of hair and rending of garments…and that’s due to you hassling them repeatedly to get it done on time.

You want someone who can engage and follow through.  Ask about how the interviewee handles follow-ups, requesting long-term assignment examples for recent grads and specific work examples from non-host candidates.   An experienced host should be able to give you some idea how many room nights or tournament seats he is able to fill in a telemarketing session.

A Sense for Confidentiality

Some of the best hosts I know have a different critical weakness: they share too much.  Whether it’s personal information about themselves or dissatisfaction with something in their professional life, a host who burdens a guest with unnecessary information is not one you want.  Just as one shouldn’t tell a guest “that’s our policy,” one should also never say, “I can’t believe they won’t let me give you…”

To screen for this, ask the candidate about a time she experienced a disappointment due to a policy or guideline in her past and how she handled it.  Another, less subtle, way to find out about the candidate’s tendency is to ask about a situation where rumors and over-sharing had an effect on her  customer service or job performance.

A Passion for Life

Most importantly, a good casino host is likely to become a person for whom Player Development will become a way of life.

To find that attribute in a candidate, and determine whether or not the passion in his life might grow into a love of Player Development and casino marketing, ask the tired old question about what he dis/liked about a past job or activity, but add a twist.  Ask what she thinks would have made her like it more.  Ask her what she would’ve changed if she were in charge.  Find out why the role was or wasn’t a good fit and why.

Ask questions about what the candidate does when he or she isn’t working, too. You cannot become overly personal here, but look for the thing that makes the candidate’s eyes light up.  If it’s something related to being a good casino host, then you’ve got a good one.  If you can’t find the thing that makes his eyes light up, maybe you want to keep interviewing.

And click to download the interview questions.  You can download them in MSWord and change them to meet your needs.

Are you reading this because you are applying to be a Casino Host? Then click here for more helpful information on how to Become a Host