Tag Archives: Player Development Executive

Why do casinos need player development?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

The Importance of Internal Relationships

During my casino years, I saw all kinds of relationships in various stages. We regularly had new players who were just meeting the people who worked at our property, so relationships began with the host assigned to follow up to retain the loyalty of those patrons. Other patron-employee relationships had been solidified for years; many of these have continued beyond the confines of the casino’s walls. Among the casino’s associates, there were romantic relationships, work-spouses, friendships, mentoring pairs, and (of course) difficult relationships among all sorts of people. This is to be expected, because the reality is that in any service industry, relationships are the driving force behind the business’s success (or lack thereof).

In Casino Player Development, one must obviously build effective two-way relationships with casino guests. (We discuss how in Relationships 101.)  That’s the biggest part of the job. With this in mind, It’s surprising how many hosts don’t intuitively begin building relationships with co-workers as well. These relationships enable a host to be as successful as possible. Imagine trying to get steakhouse or hotel reservations made and confirmed without the assistance of a co-worker…particularly when fulfilling those ever-present last-minute requests from a big player. Or think about how difficult it could be to enhance a patron’s visit when you plan to surprise her with a spa treatment, but they tell you they’re all booked up and can’t accommodate you. While it is certainly paramount to develop strong working relationships with patrons, the relationships built among co-workers are arguably more important, and are likely to last a lot longer, too. I am still in contact with several former co-workers and know I can count on them even today if I or someone important to me needs their help.sidebyside

Casino guests rely on a number of employees to make their visits go the way they expect, and when hosts can work together with those other employees, everybody wins. In many situations, guest satisfaction can only be achieved through teamwork. That teamwork must, like any other collaborative relationship, be built on a solid base of understanding and communication. 

In the post “A Highroller Told Me,” we learned that a good host works together with both the VIP patron and the associates in the departments the patron utilizes in order to provide the experience that player is hoping to have. This player’s host not only makes appropriate reservations to prepare for his visits, but she coordinates with fellow employees to give them a heads-up that he is coming in and remind everyone about his (and his wife’s) expectations. This host reminds and encourages her co-workers to provide the best possible service to their shared and very valuable guests.

How can you build this sort of relationship with the people who work with you? It’s really not that different than the way host/player relationships are built. Show your appreciation for their efforts. Thank them honestly and effusively, share appropriate gifts and perks, and tell your guests which of your co-workers contributed to their positive experiences. Learn something about them and use that information to refine your efforts to continue growing your relationship. Remember that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend. Find ways to help your co-workers’ jobs easier, make sure their supervisor(s) know how much you appreciate their assistance, and remember that you’re all working toward a common goal: return visits from satisfied, loyal patrons.

Relationship building is certainly important from both an internal perspective as well as from a guest-facing one. Make sure that all the relationships you build are solid. Show how much they mean to you in small ways and make that a habit if it isn’t already one you have. Praise and positivity are always welcome. Use them freely. Everyone will benefit, both in-house and those who visit you.

Amy Hudson

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

7 Habits That Help Hosts Succeed

In a world of increasing digital contact and fewer human interactions, Player Development still has a focus on personalized contact, whether by phone, email, snail mail or in person.There are techniques that successful Casino hosts employ to build relationships with valuable players and secure their loyalty.

These the 7 Habits that we’ve observed in successful casino hosts:

  1. Successful hosts are detail-oriented.  When you’re responsible for hundreds of valuable casino patrons (and their spouses, at least by proxy), it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Remembering a guest’s children’s and grandchildren’s names is just the beginning. Does she smoke cigarettes? Which brand? What kind of room does he prefer, and does he have a favorite in your hotel? Will he want to go to the steakhouse right after he checks in, or will you need to go and pull him off the tables so he won’t lose his reservation? This kind of attention to the details about his or her players allows a casino host to provide personalized service that hardly exists anywhere these days. It sets them apart.
  2. Understanding profitability is key.  The details a good host remembers about his players aren’t limited to preferences and habits. He needs to understand the profitability profile of each player and his associates in order to proactively motivate them to make visits to the property without overspending the casino’s assets. Here’s a good rule of thumb for tough comp decisions: If you wouldn’t foot the bill yourself, why would you expect the casino to do so? Look at play patterns, redemption patterns, and associated play in aggregate before making a comp decision. It is entirely possible to motivate a player without spending money on supplemental offers.
  3. Good hosts don’t let good players languish. Does Susie usually make at least one trip per week? Have you seen her lately? If not, you should give her a call. Did you hear that Ron was upset about not getting tickets to last weekend’s Beatles tribute show? You should look into what happened and check in with him. While it’s sometimes appropriate to allow an angry guest some time to cool off before making contact, it’s better to reach out soon and re-establish communications before they try a competitor and decide they’re treated better someplace else.
  4. Information is king. Sharing it is key. Whether overheard on the gaming floor or learned in a training session, like any good employee, a good casino host will look for ways to incorporate things they learn into doing a better job taking care of their players. This includes learning what not to do! A great PD team leader will encourage hosts to share what they’ve learned, particularly about promising players or competitor activities, so they can work together to be proactive against any threats or looming disappointments which might be mitigated.
  5. Balance the wants of the guest with the needs of the business.  It’s often a precarious position to be in: your players want what they want and your company says it’s a “no go.” There are a myriad of ways to make everyone happy, and a good host will navigate through the possibilities until finding just the right one. From making an alternative offer, meeting the player halfway, presenting a case to the leadership in advocacy for the guest, or coming up with a brilliant out-of-the-box idea, hosts whose heads AND hearts are in the game will find a solution that keeps the players and the bosses happy.
  6. Remember to take “me” time…but not too much!  While it’s true that working in a 24-hour business with some of its most demanding patrons is almost assuredly a recipe for burnout, most of the PD pros we’ve met love their jobs so much they don’t ever want to do anything else for a living. In order to keep themselves on an even keel, dedicated casino hosts have to take a breather now and then to keep from going into overload. Leaving their players in the hands of their co-workers may be nerve-wracking, but the time away from the constant demands of  the job is essential to long-term well-being and success. Aside from weeks-long vacations, there are ways to regroup and refresh during the work week as well. Enjoy a hobby, take a walk around the neighborhood, meditate, go to the gym, read an engaging novel. Finding a way to disconnect from the world for a few short hours and recharge one’s batteries can make all the difference.
  7. When all else fails, host pros ask for help. It’s not easy to admit it when we need assistance. Whether it’s with a computer program, finding time to accomplish everything on the day’s to-do list, or handling a sticky guest situation, there’s nothing like another perspective to help a host move past a roadblock and keep things moving. There’s no reason a host who needs a hand shouldn’t ask for the assist. Studies have shown that people who do favors for others tend to regard the recipients in a more favorable light, because who wants to help out someone who isn’t deserving? This happy side effect can help to bring a host team closer together while solving the issue at hand. Nice, huh!?

There are a lot of moving parts in a casino host’s set of responsibilities. These 7 attributes can indeed make a good casino host better. Think about it: If you’re refreshed and fulfilled, have the tools you need to execute what’s best for both the guest and the business, and you proactively seek solutions to the day-to-day demands of your players, you can’t lose.

This article is brought to you from casinoplayerdevelopment.wordpress.com, sharing Helpful Ideas on Player Development.

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!

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

 

Finding Balance in Player Development

As many readers of this blog already know, it is the job of a casino host to produce return trips from a property’s best players.  That means they are always in contact with guests, building and enhancing relationships with their players both “old” and new.  The key to doing it right means ensuring the host is in contact with a variety of players, many of whom are at different places along the bell curve of their player cycle.

What do I mean?  Well, think about a cross-section of a casino’s database.  There are guests who have just discovered your property, or maybe they just signed up for a card even though this is their 4th visit.  Either way, these are your new players in terms of marketing.  Then you have the “regulars.”  These people play within a predictable pattern, and are likely to be in one of the top tiers of your players club.  You know them and they know you.  Surely you have decliners, who might fall between the cracks in your player retention programs.  If direct mail doesn’t move them, a host call might, but if no one realizes they’re missing, they might get that call too late; after they’ve found an alternative in one of your competitors.   Finally, there are the ones who are “lost.”  They haven’t been in for a while due to reasons you may or may not know.  Obviously there are players like these at all levels, but your hosts really need to be aware of those who are among your best.

Since it’s easiest to talk with people you know, many hosts tend to communicate over and over with the same core group of guests.  I often refer to them as “the usual suspects.”  They are generally good players who become the ones you look for in a roomful of players at an event or show or tournament.  These players absolutely deserve the attention, but focusing too much time on these players means that the host doesn’t manage her time properly and other guests go unnoticed or un-contacted.  Additionally, contacting them first every time there is a value-added opportunity for them means the profit margin on the guest (or couple) shrinks with every offer they accept.  You run the risk of unprofitability once spending on these players exceeds your target reinvestment percentage.

It’s better to spread that spend around.  Make sure your department’s overarching goals include specific activities targeting players in all stages of their cycle of worth to your property.  Identify a player profile of those you stand to lose to a competitor (using drive time, ZIP codes, frequency, and other metrics to see what those players “look like.”)  Determine how you’re going to segment new players and build goals for getting enough of them to return and become loyal (and profitable!)  Teams of generalists should have goals targeting reactivation and acquisition as well as retention, and they should include a little reach so they don’t fall by the wayside throughout the goal period…your property will lose good players along the way if the hosts aren’t working them.

120x110_tree_onlyTechnology can help you identify, segment, and track contacts with any player according to criteria you set.  Test, survey, adjust goals, monitor progress and measure results as often as possible to ensure your plans are working as expected.  Establish goals which require your team to shift priorities from only touching retention.  Talk with your hosts and understand the challenges they face.  Keep acquisition and (preemptive) reactivation top of mind with the team so they don’t lose sight of your best players in all areas of the cycle.  Keep everyone up-to-date with regular periodic reviews and updates of progress and pace to goal.  That way, every member of your Player Development team is on track, on pace and ready to change course if needed to reach the finish together.

What Kind of Culture is Best for Casino Hosts?

It takes a special kind of “people person” to be a good Casino Host.  The backgrounds of today’s hosts are quite varied, but the thing they all have in common is that they are delighted to be in the company of others.  A host has the ability to make each of his players feel as though they are the most important person in the world.  Hosts can make “no” sound like “I’d really like to…”  And they need a particular kind of environment in order to thrive and do their best work.

Like employees in any sort of job, hosts expect to be compensated for the work they do.  Hosts should be paid a salary commensurate with carrying a company phone that is likely to ring at all hours of the day and night.  Casino hosts have to cater to some very demanding guests, but because the guests are worth it, most hosts pride themselves on satisfying those “difficult” players.  But again, just like any other employee, hosts require more than just a paycheck in order to do the job to the best of their ability.

Think about the primary tool in a Casino Host’s toolkit: the relationship.  It is more powerful than a comp, brings players to the casino more reliably than the direct mail program, and trumps new or updated competitors in the long run as long as it’s been properly built.  Interestingly, a strong relationship with a team leader should be part of a host’s compensation.

The relationship a Casino Host has with his or her team leader will, in many cases, directly affect the host’s level of engagement with his or her assigned players.  In a recent blog post on Harvard Business Review, the author suggests that engaged employees feel “loved,” and that the more “love” an employee feels drives a higher level of engagement in the job.  The post clarifies that the love in question is “companionate love,” derived from a feeling of connection and warmth in the employer/employee relationship.

“You mean we have to hold hands and sing Kum By Yah in a circle at our host meetings?”  As entertaining as that might be to watch (contact me before you do this; I want to have you record it and send me the video file!), what I am proposing goes deeper.  I am suggesting that team leaders invest some emotional capital in the hosts to help them flourish.

Any good Player Development professional will confirm that the relationships hosts (or any casino associate, for that matter) build with the property’s players build loyalty and help a casino hold on to their share of the gamer’s wallet.  Strong host/player relationships can prevent a player from defecting to a competitor over a disappointment or other negative experience.  Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that the relationship between an employee and his or her team leader would have a commensurate effect on the employee’s performance and direct engagement with the job?

Here are some ways to build that companionate love without crossing the necessary boundaries of a workplace relationship.  Spend some time with the members of your team during the workday.  Learn about them: family ties, personal motivators, challenges and frustrations, hobbies and interests, background experience, and growth aspirations.  Share some of your own workplace experiences with the members of your team so they see you more as a fallible person instead of just as a “boss.”   Ask them for feedback on your leadership style.  Demonstrate their importance to the property’s success and implement their ideas whenever you can.  Lavishly praise their accomplishments and provide candid and fair assessments of their performance when improvement is needed.  Observe their performance first hand and discuss your observations.  Talk WITH them and not just TO them, just like you should with your guests.  Generate a dialogue.  Build strong working relationships to ensure they each feel a connection with you.

Not the warm and fuzzy type?  Don’t fake it.  They’ll know.  Just be genuine.  Step outside your comfort zone for them.  Make the effort.  It will make a difference.

How will you know it’s working?  When the members of your team feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns and speak freely, you’ve arrived.  If someone isn’t doing the best job possible, and you approach them to discuss it, defensiveness melts away during the conversation.  If it’s real, you’ll both know.  And your team will thrive.

By all means, share your own experiences with us.  Tell us what you’ve done that worked or what you’ll do to build that kind of relationship with your team.