After many years in the casino business, and having known lots of people in both my personal and professional lives, a handful of solid relationship-building principles have clarified themselves to me. Fortunately, these principles are universal in their application. They work whether the relationship in question is a personal or professional one, and their usefulness is evident after only a short while. The Golden Rule is golden for a reason; treating others the way you would like to be treated makes perfect sense, even if not everyone follows it. These simple principles are all tied to the Golden Rule at their core, but it seems that they just don’t come naturally to everyone. In Casino Player Development, however, the diligent use of these principles may well make the difference between failure and success.
- Be truthful. Always. Fortunately, this principle doesn’t require you to automatically blab everything you know about anything. It DOES, however, preclude you from telling an outright lie. For example, when you have to tell a guest something he or she doesn’t want to hear, find a way to say it that is truthful and polite without over-sharing. Say something like, “Sally, I am so sorry you weren’t invited to the VIP event we had last weekend. The qualifications for the invitation were very particular, and I couldn’t get permission to include you.” The first part is true because nobody wants to have this conversation in the first place, and the second would be true even if you didn’t ask for permission to include her, knowing her play didn’t meet the criteria. You didn’t have to tell her the criteria, and she understands now (even if she doesn’t like it) that her play is the reason she wasn’t included. See how that works? Even if you don’t really like Sally, you owe her an honest response. This applies to everyone.
- Accept people as they are. Don’t try to change people. They are who they are, each and every one of them, and it’s not up to you to decide whether that’s okay or not. Even the most difficult people are that way for a reason, and to build an effective relationship with someone, you have to know and accept who he is. You don’t have to understand why, but you DO have to accept it. I learned this lesson as a step-parent, and it’s one I have to remind myself to do daily. Sure, it’s my responsibility to help raise these children, but that doesn’t give me the right to ask them to be someone other than who they are. I can guide them to what I believe to be a better path and set them upon it, but ultimately it’s up to them to choose which one they’ll take. It’s the same with guests or co-workers, friends, significant others, and every other person with whom you interact in the world. As Popeye told us, “I am what I am.”
- Don’t take everything personally. Sure, sometimes that nasty comment was meant personally, but not every upsetting thing you hear was intended to hurt you. Think about how upset your guests sometimes get over the perceived value of their offers, and you can see how people can get all worked up over something that was never meant as a statement of their personal value. Don’t let that happen to you. People who are angry often lash out in unnecessarily hurtful ways, and you will almost certainly get caught in the crossfire at least once in your life. Keep your wits about you, take a deep breath and respond to the issue instead of the barb.
- Learn to anticipate the needs of others. I see this in action every time I walk into my local Walmart on a rainy day and note the umbrella bag display. In this case, as in so many others, there is a smidgen of self-preservation involved, as the floor will undoubtedly stay drier (and safer) if wet umbrellas are encased in plastic bags as they accompany their owners throughout the store, but it’s also a way the reviled retailer has anticipated customers’ needs. As a host, this is an invaluable skill, and it will certainly make you happier in all your relationships. It’s not even difficult to do. Note the things that matter to your guests and your bosses, then strive to meet their expectation before it’s been announced. (I’m pretty sure the cup of coffee my husband gently wakes me to drink whenever I have to get up early makes his day nicer too, but mostly because it makes my day start with more civility.)
- Place blame appropriately and tactfully. It is a simple fact of life that things will go wrong, and according to Murphy’s Law, it will happen at the worst possible moment. The aftermath can be so much better if the blame game can be handled with some diplomacy. In the workplace, a postmortem review is often used to learn from what went awry, and they can be difficult at best. I’ve been involved in a few that were excruciating, and I couldn’t help but think that they might have been more productive if they had been handled with a bit more grace. Don’t rail at someone for a mistake (or the results thereof), and try to remember that none of us is perfect, so bad things do indeed happen to good people. In fact, if possible, worry less about blame and put the emphasis on learning from what went wrong instead of who flubbed in the first place.
- Own your mistakes. This is such an integral part of a solid relationship that it could make or break one all by itself. When you make a mistake, it is ultimately up to you to take responsibility for it and immediately take steps to make things right. Don’t hedge, don’t play the martyr, just own it. If you forgot to make the reservation, tell the player the truth. Then, in your next breath, tell him what you can do about it. If you have a good reason for the error, include it if it is relevant, but don’t if it’s not. (To test relevancy, ask yourself whether it would make any difference if you were the one hearing about it.) People will learn that they can trust you if you can accept responsibility for your failures.
- Listen. I’ve saved the most important one for last. Because I’m a talker, this one is difficult for me. I always have something to say, but I have come to realize that I learn more when my mouth is firmly shut. Learning more about someone is an essential part of building a relationship with them, because it can’t be a true relationship if it’s all about you. Think for a moment of your best friend. Could you tell me about his or her favorite color, food, style of hat, animal or hand gesture? Sure you could. Now think about the last time you talked together. Was the exchange closer to a 50/50 in terms of time spent talking? That’s how you know those things. Whenever you talk with someone, talk WITH them. Take turns. Listen and learn. With everybody.
What relationship-building essentials have I left out? Tell us in the comments.
It is my habit to be positive, but that outlook hasn’t always served me well. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt certainly helps me seem more likable, but I don’t always see when someone’s motives are suspect. On the other hand, the things people do wrong aren’t always motivated by bad intent. So, continuing both myarticles specifically targeted to casino hosts and my tendency to be positive, I’ll provide some examples of things hosts should NOT do, and I’ll even explain why. As we look toward 2015 with hopeful hearts, here are some behaviors to avoid to make the new year a great one.
For more host advice, please see my post entitled “10 Tips for Casino Hosts” and also check out “Casino Host Basics.”
- Sticking to the “tried and true” without considering the adoption of new methods or prospects is a mistake that can manifest itself in many ways. Some hosts always call the same players for every event (without going a bit deeper into their player lists) to fill a quota. Others do the same kind of player party or gathering, or work with a trusted handful of event types or themes. There are hosts who recycle an old letter to one’s players with updated information and instead of writing one from scratch every time. Spread your wings! Embrace the creativity! If you’re in a rut, get yourself and your players out of it. If not, don’t fall into one. Ask for ideas if you need to; just don’t be boring or predictable all the time.
- Being less than truthful is always a no no. Obviously, you can’t tell your guests everything , but if what you say has truth at its base, you’re staying on the moral high ground. If you have to deny a request for a comp exception, please don’t tell the player, “My boss said I’ve given you too much already and I’ll be written up if I issue you the comp you asked for” even if that’s exactly what your boss said. Decide before you contact the player how you will tell them a truthful reason for your denial of their request. I would start with something like, “I would love nothing more than to give you what you requested, but because I comped you *insert comp info here* and *another example,* I am unable to grant your most recent request.” Have some responses to protests all prepped and ready to go, too. “I know it’s your *insert special occasion here* so I can offer you *something less than what they asked for* based on your most recent play.” Don’t use excuses. Tell it to them straight. They will know if you lie to them and they will talk about it if you do.
- Adopting a “one-man-band” attitude is detrimental to the department as a whole and doesn’t serve your players well. Hosts are usually part of a team, and they should ideally behave as such. When you’re off property, someone else should be empowered and comfortable taking care of your players. When you’re on property, you should be taking care of other host’s players. That way the whole team is more successful overall, and guests don’t fall between the cracks when their host is unavailable.
- Failing to listen, whether to your boss, your co-workers, or your guests means you aren’t a very good host. When someone is talking to you, pay attention to what they say and how they say it. Instead of thinking of how you’ll reply, read body language and consider the words and tone of voice you hear. Then stop and formulate an answer based on all the available information instead of just reacting. This habit will serve you well in all your relationships.
- Going rogue and disregarding rules or policies will do no more than get you into trouble. If the comp guideline is 10% of theo or loss don’t issue more than that without an easy-to-communicate justification. If you break a rule, you have, in fact, created a new rule…and if it is unsustainable, you have also created a problem. Ask questions if you don’t understand a policy or procedure, and follow your property’s rules, even if you don’t entirely agree with them.
- Voicing your dissenting opinion in the wrong company can get you into some really deep hot water. I’m not suggesting that you should always keep your opinion to yourself whether it’s in agreement or not, but always consider your audience. I’ve heard stories of hosts who were overheard (by guests) exclaiming their disdain for certain situations or changes, then the word was out on the floor. Before you know it, tongues are wagging and the host’s name is being muttered in the executive offices. (NOT the best way to get attention from the C-Suite, mind you.) Always be tactful and kind, but firm if you must be. Pick the right audience and the right venue before sharing your thoughts.
- Becoming unprofessionally close to your players is a minefield. Allowing a work relationship to become too personal can be a slippery slope. Refrain from getting too close to a particular player because it opens the door to the appearance of impropriety, even if none exists. This kind of conflict of interest could be damaging to the host’s career, emotional state, and well-being. It’s best to keep things businesslike, but friendly. Find the balance. (I know of a few hosts who have had successful long-term relationships with patrons, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Tread carefully.)
- Believing that you know all you need to know can be a dangerous trap. In this new gaming reality, knowledge is power. Learn about new technologies, your competitors’ programs, your players preferences, how your own property’s programs work, and how to best use the tools at your disposal. There is always something new to learn and leverage to take the best possible care of your players.
- Depending on a small, core group of your players to drive the bulk of your list’s revenue is simply shortsighted. Keep looking for worthy prospects, especially if they aren’t supplied to you. Carve out some floor time and use the hot player screens to identify players who seem to be spending well and introduce yourself to them. Keep in contact with all of your players and prospects to drive additional trips or find problems that may prevent them from coming in. It’s your job to smooth the way for your guests to visit your property more often than they visit any other. That principle applies to every player of worth. Don’t forsake them for your “pet” players.
- Keeping player feedback to yourself is another way to set yourself up for failure. When a player shares something with you, it is entirely likely that they expect some action on your part to either resolve or share their experience with someone who can make it right. Whether positive or negative, it is part of your role to represent the players’ interests with your boss or other departments as necessary to ensure everyone concerned knows as much about the situation as you do. Keeping players happy within the guidelines your property has set is, after all, what hosts do.
Remember, your success is related as much to what you don’t do as it is to what you accomplish. If you have additional traps or host mistakes to share, please do.