Tag Archives: customer service

Embracing (the Need for) Change

Apparently we humans are wired to both hunger for and shy away from change. As we gaze longingly into the world(s) beyond and dream of what we might find there, we remain solidly planted in the tried and true; the more familiar environment from which we muse. So when things aren’t too painful for us, we rarely look outward with the purpose of implementing change, no matter how beneficial those changes might potentially be.

We have spoken with scores of casino properties about their Casino Marketing and Player Development operations, and when someone is talking to a technology vendor, it seems they are considering making some changes to the way they do business. This change is not necessarily representative of a big shift in the company’s processes, but often heralds an adjustment to the way they look at things as a starting point for improvement. In other cases, a total rebuild of a department’s function is under way, or at least being considered.

Shifting marketplaces, tightening competition for discretionary dollars, and an increasingly entitled customer base, among many other factors, make it tough for casino marketers to continue with the status quo today. Now, more than ever, we have to identify and pick up any dollars left on the table. Finding efficiencies in order to get more done in less time (and with less money) has become a normative practice in nearly every kind of enterprise. All of these realities mean that change is inevitable. Our best move now is to manage the change and make it work smarter for us now and into the future.

In speaking with casino operators, I have learned that the reasons for making changes are as varied as the markets in which these fine folks do their work, yet they remain somewhat universal. For example, properties who have traditionally had host teams who hug rather than hunt are looking to shift the team to a more sales-focused function. Casinos whose core marketing mailer has traditionally been mailed to *everyone* in the database are taking a more nuanced approach in determining what offers go to whom. Heck, even slot manufacturers are coming up with fresh new spins on old favorites to broaden their appeal. Markets tighten, customers churn, and the same “been there, done that” methodology just isn’t cutting it any more.

These changes are happening all around us. Spreadsheets are being replaced with dynamic tools that make it easier for middle managers to see the effectiveness of the casinos’ programs. Executives can shift their time from analysis to observation of the property’s operations. Front-line employees have been empowered to really take care of their customers. Processes are being scrutinized and modified for increased efficiency and effectiveness. All of these represent a fundamental change in the way business is being conducted. The hard truth? None of these beneficial adjustments will occur unless change is embraced. Even if implemented, lack of commitment to the change will result in less than optimal results.

The key is finding a solution to your business problem(s) that allows you to maintain control over the change process, empowers you to implement the changes you identify as your best practices, and improves the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your programs. As you begin to distill your wishlist, the actual work of finding the right solution for you will become easier.

Embracing the need for change is only the first step. Determining the course the change must take is obviously a much more involved process. Make the process easier by finding a technology vendor who wants to be a technology partner. Choose someone who understands what you are trying to accomplish and can help you get there. There is a better way.

When Hosts Don’t “Adult”

A former colleague reached out to me via Facebook a few days ago and asked me to blog about hosts who steal other hosts’ players.  My reply to her suggestion was that I needed to think about it a bit, because I always addressed it on an individual basis when allegations of such behavior occurred on one of my host teams.

The first idea that came to me as I gave this some thought was: this behavior is immature, to say the least. Then, when following that train of thought to circumstances during which I’d seen this type of thing happen, I remembered that often, the hosts who would poach other hosts’ players also had other behavioral “quirks” that provided clues to the motivation behind some of their other problematic habits. So, here we are, discussing “non-adult” conduct that might be making waves among the members of your host team, and how you should address them.

Player Poaching

Honestly, this just isn’t cool. When one host has already been working with a patron, unless the two aren’t getting along, the other hosts should simply make themselves available to assist that patron if needed. Under no circumstances should any host suggest to a player that they “ask if you can be coded to me instead of insert other host’s name here.” Not only is it a pretty underhanded way to gather worthy new coded players, it undermines the team’s effectiveness in a number of ways:

  • It gives rise to mistrust, which begins as suspicion among the rest of the team, then turns into gossip. (And we all know how helpful gossip is…) Later, there is open discussion among the hosts and any other associates who care to listen, all while the host in question is out on the floor looking for more good players to approach. As a team leader, I have walked into a shared host office and seen the informal gathering that indicates a deep discussion about something…and learned that they were drawn in when a co-worker started complaining about another host. No phone calls are being made, maybe one of them was on the floor, and nobody is listening to the radio or responding to alerts.
  • It creates retaliation and reduces the efficiency of the team. While everyone is speculating and talking about how upset they are at this person’s behavior, how much work is getting done? Not a lot. Even when they are on the floor or responding to alerts, they’re still half-absorbed by the drama.
  • The retaliation splits the hosts into Survivor-style “teams.” Everyone takes a side (the best abstain from participating), and the sides snark at one another. Teams refuse to take care of “their” players, and generally work to derail any sort of progress they might make as a cohesive team. (Now, maybe nobody is acting like an adult.)
  • It confuses players. Like in any new relationship, players need to take some time to consider what it means to them and how they feel about this new person. Having more than one host courting a patron can start a comp bidding war between the hosts to secure the patron’s loyalty to him or her…instead of remembering that the patrons’ loyalty should be to the property first. Relaxation players may just skip the real-life drama and take their money to a competitor.

In order to prevent this situation, have a clear and concise prospecting process. Clarify for the entire team when a player is “up for grabs” or when he has been secured (more or less) by a single host and should only be approached when there is a reason for another host to provide that patron assistance. When the guidelines are clear and enforceable, it’s much more difficult for the hosts to find opportunities for poaching.

Complaining To Players

When talking with patrons, hosts should always remember that they are a representative of the casino. First, this suggests that the host shouldn’t be unloading his or her burdens on the guests. Casino patrons are entertainment seekers. They didn’t come to your casino to hear about employees’ problems. Personal concerns may come up during the course of conversations over time, but those of the property’s team members shouldn’t be discussed with guests. (The exception is when a personal experience of the associate’s can provide comfort or empathy that the guest will recognize as genuine.)

It also means that when a player complains about something, the host should not respond with anything like, “Yeah, I don’t know why they do that…” While it’s understandable that a host might want to agree with, and thereby validate, the patron’s source of unhappiness, this is not at all helpful in the larger scheme of things. The host’s response should be one that helps the player understand what he must do to get what he wants. For example, if the property doesn’t allow hosts to issue comps but requires patrons to redeem points for free buffets, the host might suggest that the player take advantage of point multipliers to make the most of his play, or invite him to a VIP dinner instead. Hosts should think of themselves as leaders, or as managers of their book of business. Good leaders don’t gripe to customers about the company’s rules. They also don’t use them as excuses for guests’ disappointments.

If this is happening at your property, you will hear about it at some point, and it would be best if it’s not from one of the players who has had his or her concerns validated by a host or been regaled with a host’s personal drama. Good or bad, hosts are still representatives of the property, after all. Invest a few hours each week to talking with both hosts and patrons to discover sooner rather than later if this is happening so you can nip it in the bud…and do address it as quickly as possible.

Going Rogue

I’ve addressed this in another post, but it bears repeating and fits this category quite nicely. It’s a running theme in every bad cop movie: the down-on-his-luck veteran police detective says in a growl, “I work alone!” Just like those fictional detectives, your hosts really do their best work when they’ve got the rest of the team available to provide backup when needed. A host who has gone rogue is likely to be wherever the rest of the hosts aren’t, and he’s asked “his” players to contact him directly, day or night. While this level of service is commendable, it’s really fueled by a desire to keep the other hosts away from those guests whenever possible. Your Rogue may also be poaching players from the other hosts and keeping a distance to avoid conflict. Either way, your team isn’t a team when one host stands alone.

A frank one-on-one discussion is the best way to approach this situation. Get to the root of the host’s concerns about the others backing him up when he’s not available for his players. Realistically, there is  no valid reason for your premiere customer service team NOT to all work together to ensure a seamless experience for your hosted players. Obviously there are situations where one host is preferable to another, but ideally all your hosts should be able to provide the same level of service to all your worthy players. Understanding and addressing exactly why your Rogue doesn’t want the other hosts talking with and serving his players is the key to settling this one peacefully. As a bonus, you may uncover information that will enable you to improve your team.

Shirking Responsibility

Every parent has experiences this. Many supervisors and managers have heard it, too. “But, it wasn’t my fault!”

As the leader of a host team, providing clear expectations and regularly checking in with each host to determine why they are successful or not will help you to keep these hosts on task and on track. When they know you will be asking the questions and that you expect reasonable answers, the irresponsibility has to take a back seat to preparedness. Knowing what your hosts are doing (and what they are not) is key. Holding them accountable for their effectiveness is going to help you move them up or move them out.

How would you handle these “non-adult” behaviors? Let us know in the comments!

Customer Service and Casino Player Development

There are parallels among all the service industries, if one cares to look for them. Throughout my career, I have made it my business to understand the impact that customer service has on my operations, with an eye to profitability and loyalty, particularly as they apply to player development. In that career, I’ve done a lot of service jobs. From fast food to retail to supply chain to casino marketing, there are a lot of commonalities.

Like any business that requires patrons to enter its bricks and mortar locations to spend their dollars and their time, a casino is selling a product. The catch is that the product may be much more nuanced from customer to customer in a casino. I’ve written about what motivates players to patronize casinos before, and I’ve written often about how an attentive casino host can provide guests a compelling reason to visit one casino property over another. But today, we are going to explore the parallels between casinos and other, similar establishments.

When a shopper enters a department store, he may or may not have a particular item in mind that he would like to find and purchase. There may be more than one target in the customer’s crosshairs, and he may or may not need assistance with making his selection(s). A smart salesperson (especially one who works on commission) will develop a method for assessing the interest and commitment levels of each customer he encounters. This enables the associate to quickly determine how to allocate his resources (time, attention, computer systems, fellow associates) to serve as many customers as he can, as quickly as possible. This makes customers happy, and has the added benefit of increasing profits. It’s especially true if customers become frequent purchasers because of the service they receive.

A casino host on the gaming floor must have similar skills: while walking on the floor talking with known players of worth, a host takes a moment to speak to each player nearby. If any of the patrons need a player’s card, the host can proactively bring it to the player at the machine. Should a known player have a friend nearby, the host makes a good impression on both by acknowledging the “new” guest personally. Perhaps there are patrons listening to a host offering an inducement to a coded player, and they want to know how they can have something like that, too. The principle is the same: understand who is in your area and how you can best serve them. The more delighted patrons you have, the more loyalty to your property you create, and the more your bottom line is boosted.

In big box stores, appliances and electronics are aplenty. Customers can easily be bewildered by the sheer number of options available, each with features which may or may not be available on the next model over. It is simplicity itself to greet every customer who graces your place with their presence, and doing so provides each of them with a familiar face if they require assistance. Being attentive to the facial expressions and body language of your guests makes it relatively easy to spot the ones who are seeking help, and proactively offering your expertise is a fantastic way to delight a customer.

This is remarkably similar to the wide-eyed look one can find on the face of a patron who has walked onto a jam-packed casino floor looking for a game she recognizes. If your property doesn’t have an electronic wayfinder to help guests find particular machine themes, make sure your hosts know the layout of the floor well enough to escort the player to an appropriate area. In fact, it would be ideal if everyone whose work takes them to the gaming floor was able to offer this sort of assistance. This is the kind of service that will pleasantly surprise your guests and make you stand out from among your competitors.

Even online shopping has parallels to gaming. There are a couple of ways to look at it (particularly online slots vs. casino machines), but we will compare the casino guest to an Amazon customer. Amazon has an uncanny suggestion algorithm that crunches what you look at with what you’ve ordered and (I’m sure) looks at your spending patterns.  Then, it shows you items related or similar to the things in which you have expressed an interest, all in the hope of getting you to buy something more.

So, when a host sends a carbon-copy e-mail or quarterly letter to all his players, he is missing an opportunity to emulate Amazon’s enormously successful “personalization” strategy. The host should write a communication with room for variable fields related to upcoming events or other news that can be customized based on the patron’s interests and past activity.

Here’s how it works: on Amazon, if I buy 3 books by the same author, my suggestions will include others by that writer and books like hers, so I may learn about a new series or author I’ll enjoy, so I buy more books than I originally intended. With my favorite casino, if I get a letter from my host every few weeks, I’d like it to specify the things the host believes I’ll like instead of just reiterating everything the monthly coupon mailer already told me about. Perhaps I’ll call the host to book my room for the slot tournament if he suggests that in his communication. Long story short, Amazon doesn’t show me country music artists, because I have never purchased any of it from them. In the same spirit, my host shouldn’t tell me about a blackjack tournament if I have never played cards at his casino.

Now that you’ve seen my parallels, see if you can find some of your own. Think about your outstanding or most disappointing experiences as a customer and find some inspiration in it. Either emulate what was done well or provide in your own role the things you wish the service providers who failed you in some way had done.

Customer service is at the heart of gaming and hospitality.  Without it, every hotel or casino out there is pretty much just like all the others. To differentiate yourself, start with these two notions: Player development team leaders, include in your hosts’ goals some direction for reaching out to “untouched” patrons of worth (collecting  player profile information, calling through an inactive player list, etc.) . Hosts, make it your personal goal to provide the kind of service you’d like to receive. Find the grumpy faces and make them smile. Delight your customers so they come back and see you next time.

What parallels can you find?