Tag Archives: Player Development

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.

7 Keys to Evaluating a Casino Host’s Performance

As the end of the year approaches, it is time to reflect on the year past…and for many of us, it is time to begin writing evaluations. It does not have to be a daunting prospect. Two things need to be addressed, however, before we get started.

  1. Use concrete examples whenever possible to back up what you write in the evaluation.  Even if you don’t include them in the document, make note of the examples and use them when you discuss the evaluation with the host. Anecdotes help you make a point in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Nothing in the evaluation should be a surprise to the host. If you’re going to drop a bombshell on someone, this is not the right time. Be honest, but don’t be brutal.

Use the following 7 areas of performance to evaluate whether your hosts are doing well or not, and use the evaluation process as a starting point for coaching to improve the performance of those hosts who are not meeting your expectations. Rate each host in every attribute and make notes to back up each rating.

Accountability: A host who is accountable is one who takes ownership of his role and understands how it contributes to the property’s success. The accountable host handles his responsibilities and knows where he stands in terms of his performance. What negatives should you look for? “Lost” reservations, difficulty locating the host while on shift, guests who say calls were never returned, incomplete tasks, and similar dropped balls.

Contribution: An individual makes a contribution to a team by providing candid and constructive feedback to team leaders and co-workers in the spirit of continuous improvement. Did your players like the ice cream social party you had? If not, what should you have done instead? A host who is contributing to the team’s success would have shared with you what her players said about it. She also might have told you about the shortcut she found in your player tracking system and she may even have suggested coming in an hour early tomorrow to show the ambassadors how to set up for tournament registration.

Collaboration: Hosts need collaboration to be successful. From getting timely hotel reservations to setting up birthday celebrations, hosts need to establish and nurture working relationships across the enterprise to effectively meet both guest needs and property objectives. Leveraging relationships with dealers, slot attendants, steakhouse servers, reservations agents and valet attendants enables a host to provide the absolute best experience for their players. Ask the host who her go-to person is in each department on property to understand how collaborative she is.

Communication: It is of vital importance that hosts understand what needs to be shared with whom, and in what venue. Ensuring that the flow of information follows established guidelines to protect private and proprietary data is one of the most critical security concerns hosts have. Beware the over-sharer or, alternatively, the host who rarely has anything to add to a conversation.

Results: A results-oriented host is one who achieves individual and team goals the majority of the time and focuses on results instead of efforts. Here, you’re looking for a performer who can tell you whether or not he is on pace to reach a goal, how much theo his players drive on a typical Wednesday, and what he is doing to surpass his goal. A host who is not results-oriented will tell you how many people he was unable to reach when he was making calls and often offers up excuses instead of plans when he is off pace.

HostGoals

Guest Service: This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be addressed because of its importance to Player Development. When in front of a guest, the host should be able to focus on that guest as though he or she is the only person in the world regardless of what is going on around them. A host should always follow up on guest requests in a timely manner and should provide the same level of courtesy to his collaborators around the property. Think of more than one anecdote to back up your score in this area, because there is always room for improving one’s guest service.

Strengths and Areas for Growth: To demonstrate your understanding of each host as an individual contributor to the department, include a short list of that host’s strengths as well as areas in which there is a need for improvement. Think of it sort of like a lawyer’s closing argument. Present to the host a quick but comprehensive picture of your view to his overall performance. Doing this establishes that you have been paying attention to the host’s work and that you know him.

Now that you’ve written some scores and anecdotes for each of the attributes, set aside the evaluation. Review it in a couple of days and make any adjustments you deem necessary, then complete the review process according to your property’s practices. Keep in mind that you should be setting the example for your team, so you may want to evaluate your own performance using the same 7 attributes.  Happy evaluating!

 

Preemptive Reactivation? Huh?

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

“You just made that up, didn’t you?”

Well, yeah. I kind of did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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