Tag Archives: Harvest Trends

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.

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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!

Getting Your Casino Player Development Team Back On Track

“What should I do if my team is behind pace for achieving their goals?” If you’ve ever asked that question, this post is for you.

There are a number of great ways to get the team back on track, and not a single one of them involves anything painful. (Well, maybe just a little emotional pain is involved if anyone who is part of the process decides to make excuses or tries to pass the buck.) Being proactive is the key here, as it’s nearly impossible to make up lost revenue at the end of a quarter. For your team’s success, look at the numbers as often as possible and discuss the situation with your team at least weekly to ensure the feedback loop is fully functional.

The first thing to do is determine which goals are presenting the biggest challenge. Presumably, your host team has more than one goal: theoretical, retention, and either acquisition and/or reactivation numbers to achieve. If the team is struggling with theoretical, then improvement in any one of these three major patron groups will have an immediate impact on theo aggregation. If new or inactive players are where the team is struggling, there are some really effective ways to get those patrons back into your casino before the quarter is out, provided you reach them quickly. When retention (maintenance) is the issue, perhaps there’s a bigger problem afoot. Identify where the “missing” players are, and you’ve got a starting point.

So, once you’ve identified the patrons who need to be targeted, it’s time to determine the root of the problem.  (That’s right, the next step involves analysis. You saw that coming, didn’t you?) Determine which segment of the “missing” players is most responsible for the shortcoming. Are your local patrons not making as many visits as they once did? Are you having trouble activating new members for a second or third visit? Is a competitor actively courting your regulars? Is the weather keeping your older guests from driving to the property on weekdays? Did the direct mail offers not move the $200-$300 ADT group? Are your hosts simply not connecting with their players as they should? Any one of a zillion factors could be at play, so you need to figure out which one(s) are affecting the numbers.

Then, it’s time to come up with a plan to mitigate the loss(es) and make up that lost ground.

  • If the locals are making fewer trips, a low- or no-cost event may be the way to go. Assemble some of your guest-friendly executives for a town hall -style meeting to ask the patrons who keep your power on, “What’s keeping you away?” (Be prepared to hear some crazy responses, and make sure no one makes promises the property can’t keep!)
  • While I’m not a proponent of matching competitor offers, knowing what the other properties are doing is the only way to ensure your patrons can’t play you against one another. Shop your competitors or develop a relationship with a good player (or several) who regularly visits several properties to keep abreast of what they are offering. If your budget allows it, retain a company who can provide you certain ADT range comparisons and offer updates from the properties you choose.
  • For icky weather, drop a postcard that extends a special offer to motivate weekday visits after a particularly cold or snowy period. I’ve seen both point multipliers or mail offer date extensions do a great deal to bring in folks who just couldn’t make it in when it was nasty out.
  • If you aren’t sure the host team is doing all it can (or even if you think they are…), monitor host contacts daily to ensure they are making every effort to build relationships with the players you’ve assigned to them. Hold them accountable if they aren’t.
  • For new members, coordinate with your traditional marketing and direct mail teams to ensure the new member offers are reaching mailboxes (or inboxes or voice mail boxes) in a timely manner to engage worthy new cardholders. Target the best for host contact as soon as possible after the first visit.
  • Most importantly, don’t accept excuses or the status quo. Hosts who aren’t doing the job need to know that’s not acceptable. Offers that don’t get a response should be evaluated and, perhaps, tweaked or replaced. Competitor moves that impact your numbers must be countered in a cost-effective way.

Taking a little bit of time to identify the cause of any shortfall will give you the best basis for making a difference with whatever you decide to do to make it up. Relentless analysis and postmortem evaluation will help you learn what works and what doesn’t. Regular two-way communication and coordination with all the parties involved will enable you to stay proactive and make up lost ground sooner rather than when it’s to late.

What tactics have you used to make up revenue you might have otherwise lost? What worked and what didn’t?

 

How a (PD) idea became a reality

Once upon a time, a Casino Player Development Manager had an idea. He was using spreadsheets to run his host team and measure their achievements. Parts of his program were working just fine, but other parts had room for improvement.

“My hosts are good at prospecting and identifying good players on the gaming floor and in the database because of our Casino Management System technology,” he thought. “But how can I make a change so that they are more proactively qualifying those players and making them loyal to our casino?” Because the hosts wouldn’t benefit from the theoretical generated by their prospective players until AFTER they had qualified to be coded, there was no urgency to work toward getting these players to come in more often and/or play more…and that’s what hosts are supposed to do.

He was only able to “code” players to the hosts at the change of the quarter, because his property’s lone database analyst spent so much of his time and resources on keeping the mail moving (and analyzed) that he didn’t have time to provide PD reports more often than once each month. This limitation was also responsible for the property’s inability to give the hosts “credit” for the theoretical generated by the prospect players.  The idea was to use a rolling 90-day qualifying period that would run concurrently with the goal period.Unfortunately, when he had this idea, restructuring the reports and other processes used to run the PD program just wasn’t an option.

To get anything more than once-a-month reports, the PD manager had to run his own canned reports, export the data and crunch the numbers into something he could share with the team. Doing this took as much as 40% of his week; all to provide weekly updates to keep the team on track. Hosts, too, could run and export some canned reports, but they spent too much precious time massaging the lists into something they could work with. The PD Manager and his boss knew there had to be a better way.

Fortunately, the property was just about to subscribe to a service that would allow them to streamline and optimize their direct mail program and free up some of the database analyst’s bandwidth for ad hoc reporting the Marketing Director wanted to see. The PD Manager began building a relationship with this new service provider, and he explained his idea to his account representative.She worked with him to set up the program based on his hosted player qualifications and the details of the program. Then, the idea became a reality.

Today, each host receives a Daily Action Plan automatically, and knows exactly how he is pacing to goal, which of her players was on property yesterday, which of their prospects have qualified, and why the ones who haven’t didn’t. The PD Manager (who has since been promoted, but still runs the PD team) receives his own Daily Action Plan, which provides a snapshot of his PD program. It lets him know how each of his hosts is doing in terms of goals and objectives, which players need to be coded to which host, and which ones weren’t activated. (Players don’t sit dormant on a host’s prospect list any more after 90 days, so someone else can give them a call!)

In addition to the Daily Action Plan for PD, the Manager receives a handful of additional daily updates on overall profitability, day/week/month trends, and a few others he and his coworkers “designed. If he wants, he can also log in to a dashboard and see how his rewards program is doing in terms of new players and tier churn, how each of his specified markets are performing, and what sort of mail redemption they’ve had, among (a LOT of) other things.

He gets all of this automatically, or in the case of the dashboard, whenever it is most convenient for him. He doesn’t have to ask the database analyst, the database analyst doesn’t have to stress over when he can get to it, and the Manager has the information he needs to run all of his programs more efficiently and effectively. They can arrange to have automated updates sent to specified property recipients, make and monitor changes to any of their programs, and have a much wider and more granular view of their database with this subscription.

The moral of the story? All things are possible. You can bring your ideas into the real world. You just need the right tools and the right partners.

So. What would you build if you could make your ideas reality?

 

Who is it that you seek?

Before you can begin a journey, you must have a destination in mind.  Sure, we’ve all jumped in the car and driven aimlessly on a journey of discovery, but usually if you’re going someplace, you are, well, going to some place.  In Casino Marketing and Player Development, the same is true.  In order to get somewhere, you have to know where you’re going.

So how does this relate to the title?  Well, this is a blog about goal positioning, after all, and usually the biggest component of casino hosts’ goals is related to their players and the revenue those players generate.  It follows, then, that finding the right players makes it easier to set the right goals.  Right?  Right.

Take a look at the profile of your hosts’ player lists.  Is the average trip frequency pretty high?  Is the average ADT on the higher end of your target range?  Do you (and more importantly, do your hosts) know enough about these players to put faces to the names when you see them on the lists?   If so, to some degree, this is a good thing because it means you know your players.  But, if most of your coded players are known to you and your team, there are probably players in your database who are underserved and worthy of your hosts team’s attention.  Assigning those players to your hosts instead will drive increased revenue.

Look next at your host team’s theoretical targets for the last few quarters.  Has there been growth or are they struggling to achieve? If there has been some growth, from where did the growth come? Prospecting worthy new and unknown players is key, and I suspect that you have some hosts who are aces at finding and activating those players…and some who aren’t.  Identifying the sources of additional revenues will allow you to target similar players and increase your team’s growth even more.

You can give those hosts who are skittish about prospecting  a nudge in the right direction by providing prospective players for them.  Do some digging and determine what kinds of players are in your database who offer some potential for increased visitation and/or play, then assign them to your hosts for contact and activation. We call them “players of interest,” and understanding the typical player of interest in your database (particularly in terms of potential worth to your property long term) is the first step in turning those folks into loyal patrons.

Look for players of high worth and low trip frequency first and foremost.  Odds are they’re playing someplace else and your host team can steal a trip or two simply by establishing contact and starting to build a relationship with them.  Scoop up players with a minimum of two trips in the recent past and whose ADT is promising.  The specifics are going to be unique to your property and market, but don’t shoot too low.

Do you have some numbers in your head already?  Good!  Now decide how much activity the hosts have to generate from these players in order to have them coded.  How many trips must they make in how much time?  What must their ADT or cumulative theoretical or actual loss be in that time?

Once you’ve done that, you can set new theoretical targets for the team based on the activation of these prospect players and drive more revenue for your property.  That is, after all, what your host team is supposed to do.

Harvest Trends can help you with this task, particularly if you are short on database resources.  The HostMAPP dashboard and the Daily Action Plan will allow you to identify, assign and track the activity of these valuable guests from beginning to end. Our new host-dpecific DRM (named BoB, for BOok of Business) enables you to see in real time whether or not your hots are contacting the players of interest you’e assigned for them. It alerts you and your hosts every day to their success and pace to achieving the goals you’ve set for them.

Contact Amy for a 30-minute demo (or to ask questions) today!

Getting With the Program

Host goals should be in alignment with the property’s overall marketing direction. Hosts should have an understanding of the profitability of their players, and their authority to supercede or supplement a player’s existing offers should be dependent upon their understanding of the total reinvestment in that guest.

It sounds like common sense, right? How often, though, do the “traditional” marketers and the Player Development team join forces to ensure that their goals and objectives are in alignment? When it’s time to establish or update the host team’s goals, it’s also time to communicate with marketing team leaders to determine whether what seems obvious is in fact still the right direction for the hosts. As you review your results each goal period and launch the next, it is a good time to look back at the team’s benchmarks, assess the goals and objectives of both the team and the property, them determine whether any adjustments are needed for the next couple of quarters.

If your host team is killing it, and they are surpassing their goals pretty readily (bless them!), then it may be time to up the ante, so to speak. Do some database mining and find the players who aren’t visiting as often or playing as much as they should, decide how much revenue is left on the table, then set new theo targets. Or, if you aren’t doing it already, round-robin assign new members of worth and include the anticipated play and trips in your hosts’ next set of goals.

If your host team is struggling to achieve the targets they’ve been given, perhaps a realignment with marketing is overdue and would be beneficial for everyone.  Take a look at how the hosts are spending their time, evaluate their player lists and see if there are some players who need to be replaced with those of higher worth and lower frequency, and let marketing handle the maintenance for a quarter while the hosts drive some revenue and taste success again.

Honestly, there is never a bad time to step back and take a higher-level look at your Player Development team’s contribution to the overarching marketing program. It also seems there is never enough time, either.   Make a list of your questions, get them answered, and set aside some time to make sense of what you learn.  stablish your processes for measurement and follow-up before making changes to the host program, set the new targets, communicate them to the team, and you’re good to go.  You don’t have to wait until the end of the goal period to get started.

In fact, there are several consultants and technology companies who can provide you an objective view of your operation. FInding the right partner to validate what you believe to be true, point out things you might not have known, and hand you a list of low-hanging fruit may be just what you need to refine your efforts and set the team up for success. Harvest Trends offers both the technological assistance and consultant’s view to benefit our partners to the fullest. Want to know more? Visit our website at www.harvesttrends.com, call us at 877-277-5661, or sign up for our newsletter to learn how we can help you.

How Do You Know How You’re Doing?

A host I know lost his job because he failed to meet his goals in his first quarter at a new property. Sadly, he says he was never told that he had only one quarter to prove that he could achieve goals. Not only that, he added that no one gave him a progress update during that first quarter. Not once. Can you believe it? It’s bad enough to feel as though you’ve failed because you missed a target, but imagine losing your job due to your very first failure to achieve your goals.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are an Ace Casino Host. You do the work you have been asked to do: you return calls, host player events, talk to people, resolve issues, make reservations, answer questions and represent your property like a pro…but how are you doing?

Can you confidently say, at any point in any day, how you are tracking to achieve the goals you’ve been working toward? Do you have to rely on a gut feeling that you’re generating enough revenue to hit your theoretical target? Do you have a way to look it up or calculate it? Are you supposed to bring back folks who haven’t visited lately? How about new club sign-ups or high-worth recent new members? Have you signed up or brought back in enough players to reach the goal? Can you check?

During your team meetings, are you asked how you’re doing? Does someone tell you? Do you write it down, track your activity, and see the ebb and flow of your guest’s visits and play history? If someone asked you to demonstrate your contribution to the company’s goals, could you do it? Do you know which of your daily tasks are the most important or upon which ones you should focus today to remain on course to achieve your goals and objectives?

In order to understand how to reach your destination, you must first be aware of where you are and how best to navigate your way. Then, you can know what obstacles are in your path, use the right strategies to circumvent them, and make steady progress to the finish line. Do you have these essential touchpoints? If not, how do you keep yourself on target?

In order to have a productive day, an Ace Casino Host needs to understand which players should be his priority contacts. To do his job most effectively, that host needs context for each contact. You handle each player differently because they are individuals, and you approach them differently based on the reason for the contact. Right?

So, would any of the following be useful to you, Ace Casino Host?

  • A daily update on your theoretical for the goal period to date
  • A progress report on metrics upon which you could earn a bonus
  • A list of players who haven’t made a trip recently and need a call
  • Players who haven’t made trips as frequently as they used to
  • Newly coded players with whom you haven’t yet made contact
  • Brand-new club members who played well when they signed up
  • Players who have a birthday or other occasion coming up soon
  • Good players who haven’t played as well lately
  • Okay players who have played better recently

Wouldn’t it be awesome if this information was available to you every day? What if it was delivered automatically, waiting in your email inbox, without your having to lift a finger? Or, even better, what if you could log in and see this information whenever it’s convenient for you, and you could quickly note that you had made the call or booked the guest?

It can be.  Harvest Trends can help your property configure a PowerHost program specific to your goals and objectives.  Ask us how.