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?

What’s right?Featured image

  • 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.

If you aren’t sure you are providing this level of service and attentiveness to your high rollers, perhaps a technology partner would help you to enable your team to take care of your best players better than they do today. Harvest Trends has a suite of tools to help you provide more personalized service and keep players from falling between the cracks and potentially being lost to a competitor. A high roller told me that’s what he thinks the industry needs. Ask Harvest Trends how we can help you provide this experience to your best and up-and-coming players.

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Learn What Your Customers Want

My mom worked in a casino for a number of years, all in table games. She started as a dealer, but loves the challenge of a good math problem…so she ended up being a Pit Manager for a while before she retired. Craps was her favorite. When we spoke last, she told me the story of a patron she enjoyed seeing, while everyone else rolled their eyes when they saw him coming.

The patron, who we’ll call Tom, usually played about $250 per roll on the layout, and he bet a variety of hardways, so doing the math quickly was a little bit of a challenge. Tom made it tougher, though, because he wanted his bets to stay up (something that was perfectly alright to do), so when he won or lost anything, the dealer(s) had to figure out how to pay him or how much to collect to leave his bets on the table for the next roll. My mom enjoyed the mathematics challenge, and Tom liked playing when she was at the table in any capacity because the game moved faster when she was doing the math. He didn’t have to keep leaning across the table; he could collect his winnings and/or toss in what he needed to replace lost bets. Because of this, he would occasionally get in a groove and place a quarter bet for the dealers, also on a hard win so they did pretty well whenever he did. Win/Win, right?

Any person who works with the public should pretty quickly see the lesson in this anecdote: Utilize the strengths of the associates on your team to cater to your customers’ quirks whenever it’s possible and within the guidelines of the associate’s role. If the patron requires a little bit of extra work, and his spend is profitable, it’s worth the effort to make him happy and keep him spending his hard-earned dollars with you rather than have him shopping around.

Tom enjoyed playing his favorite game even more when he didn’t have to work so hard at it himself. The house and the other players benefited, too, because the game moved faster; and when Tom bet for the dealers, other players would too, sometimes. Tom would stay and play longer, the shift moved along faster, toke rates were good, and my mom’s brain enjoyed its math exercise.

How can you benefit from learning about your customers’ quirks and catering to them? Well, in most cases, very little separates one brick-and-mortar establishment from another. Stores have displays with merchandise, restaurants have food and a “system” for getting it to you, hotels have rooms in which you can rest; even online experiences are pretty much the same…you see where this is going, right? What makes one better or more special to a valuable customer are the little things your place does better for them than anyone else.

Personally, there is a local restaurant that I truly enjoy going to. There is outdoor seating, right next to the water, so the view is fantastic with a lovely breeze even on the warmest evenings. That alone is a pretty compelling reason for me to go there, but they also have great food and the staff is really friendly. We’ve had some hits and misses in terms of the skill of our server from time to time, but since everyone in our house who is old enough to have a job has waited tables at one time or another, we get that it can be a tough job to do well. We assume they’re new and cut them a little slack, because the food is really good, and there are little surprises from time to time. Simple things, like logo sunglasses from one of the beers they were featuring, the birthday girl’s name written in caramel sauce on the plate containing her free brownie a la mode, a visit from the chef (who came bearing balloons for all the kids).  All these things made up for the waiter who didn’t know what draft beers were available or the lack of a certain menu item that day.

Learn what your customers appreciate, however you need to make that happen. Interact with them. Try things to delight them and measure the response. Set up a tracking system so you know what they like and what they don’t. Play different music on different days, toss a free sample into a shopping bag, give a discount to people whose driver’s license number ends in 9, whatever. Heck, you could even send your customers a survey and ASK them what they like or wish you did to show your appreciation for their patronage.

Doing so might be the difference between you getting their available spend or having them shop around to find a new place to spend it.

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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.

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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!

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What if you could build and measure your DREAM PD Program?

Have you ever taken the time to sit back and really daydream about what you would do in your PD program if there were no constraints? If you could have the answer to any question you have about your host team’s work, their player lists, their productivity, and what the team is actually doing for your bottom line, what would you build?

Having spent nearly 18 years in Casino Player Development, working as an ambassador, host, promotions administrator, tournament official, club manager, and finally director of many things marketing, I know “the struggle is real”. I remember having to practically beg the database guy to run a list for me, then I’d have to spend hours combing through it to kick out the one-trip wonders,remove the folks I knew had passed away since the last list build, plus I had to try to remember which players had relationships with which host…AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

The best marketer I ever worked for challenged me to run my PD program based on what the analysis told me. And while I certainly saw the sense in the suggestion, I had no way to truly analyse the program in order to do what this challenge laid out. We had two database gurus, and they were always too busy to help me. Director or not, my requests always ended up in line behind (all things) direct mail, promotion analysis, ad hoc reports requested by finance or the GM, and nearly everything else these busy guys did every day. Without the occasional fulfilled request for something I could update and run for myself (usually excel riddled with macros and connected to a backup database so we didn’t take down the casino floor by running a report), I was flying nearly blind and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get answers to my many questions.

But that was then: olden times, as the youngsters say. (You know, before phones were handheld computers…) Now things are different.

What if you could easily ensure that the players coded to your hosts were worthy of that honor? Then, what if you could determine how many other players were in need of a host’s service and could round-robin assign them with a few clicks or by sending an e-mail?

What if you could set daily or weekly tasks that rolled up into monthly or quarterly goals? How about being able to see some progress to goals in real time, and getting a full update every single day? What would you think if the hosts received the same update every day so they could self-correct and make adjustments to achieve their goals in a proactive way?

What if someone told you that all of this (and more) are possible without the need to ask your IT or database teams for assistance every time you have a question? What if you could find these answers for yourself with just a few clicks?

What if your hosts could enter a player contact on the fly or update preferences while they are on the phone so you could personalize the offers that go out to your best and most loyal patrons? Better yet, what if you could see in real time how your hosts are progressing to achieving the goals and objectives you’ve assigned to them?

Wanna hear the best part? You can have all this (and more!) without having to purchase expensive hardware or software. It’s a service that can be completely automated, and it’s available for an affordable monthly fee per user. We’re talking hundreds, not many thousands of dollars. Plus, there’s no contractual obligation, no long-term commitment, and no risk.

It is possible to build the Player Development program of your dreams. It’s also possible to monitor, measure and report on the results of that program. You can bring your vision to life, just like this casino marketer did.

We’d love to show you how it works. Contact Amy to learn more.

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Contact Management for Casino Hosts – our PowerHost CRM goes Mobile

Here is our Player Development-specific CRM, live and ready to go on your mobile device or tablet! We are pleased to offer this product on multiple platforms so this powerful tool can leave your office with you. Wherever you go, you can bring your guests, recommendations, tasks and notes.CasinoHostContactManagementMenu

What is a recommendation? Each day, each Host receives recommendations based on business rules that makes sense for your property, and your goals.  Hosts know they are supposed to: invite these players to the tournament, reactivate these patrons this goal period, reach out to these new club members, and make sure these guests know their free ticket offer expires this week.

CasinoHostContactManagementRecommendations

With just a click on the phone or tablet screen, you can make a call or send a text or email. Amy can give you a preview. She’d love to share her vision and get your ideas on how our new CRM can help with guest relationship management, contact management, task management, and meeting goals.

Stay in the know…even on the go!

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Contact Management for Casino Hosts!

We are rocking and rolling at Harvest Trends, and building a contact management solution specifically for casino hosts. When we started, we called it Host BoB for “Book of Business”. (After all, that is what you have: A Book of Business full of coded players that you need to grow.) Today, though, we call it PowerHost CRM.

Notes

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