Casino Host: Your Best Form of Customer Service

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Casino Host: Your Best Form of Customer Service
by Eric Booker


n the casino business, the casino that offers the best customer service wins! Of course, customer service is utilized by and important to every department in the casino, but nowhere is it more critical than within the casino host department. They have the most in-depth and consistent relationship with your key players and as a result it is imperative that their customer service skills are top notch. Of course, customer service standards of professionalism, clear communication and sharp appearance still apply, so what makes customer service different for a casino host? Unlike traditional businesses where goods and services are more concrete and implicit, casinos sell entertainment, and a completely unique form of entertainment at that, and as such the guidelines for how guests are received, entertained and accommodated extends far beyond traditional customer service standards.

Communicating Guidelines to the Guests One part of ensuring a positive customer experience may include explaining comping guidelines with your guests. This is not to say that this will be important to all guests, but some will want to understand the rules by which they are playing. For example, a guest that normally plays at the top of the limit and is comped accordingly comes to the casino for the weekend but spends more time outside the casino than normal and isn’t hitting the same numbers they normally do. When the guest asks for a comp at the steakhouse, it may be appropriate to explain the minimum play required. That then allows the guest to decide whether they want to play some more to meet the criteria or if it’s okay to pay for this particular dinner. Either way, most guests will respect both that there is a tangible standard as well as the host’s ability to communicate directly with them. Additionally, this open conversation will provide the opportunity for improved communication in the future as well. Of course, in order to be effective in this objective it will be critical that all members of the host department both understand and are able to effectively communicate these standards to the guests. A misrepresentation of comping standards could easily be mis-interpreted and potentially escalate into a negative perception of the casino. This potential is most easily minimized by ensuring that the host staff is able to fluidly and comfortably discuss these details with key players. Consider practicing and role playing within the team to make sure the information is communicated easily and naturally. Working with Comping Guidelines It should probably go without saying that every casino should have a well defined comping policy. It should be clear to the host staff when a guest should be comped and how much 54 Indian Gaming
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according to their amount of play. Working with these guidelines within the casino industry is not completely cut and dry and requires a business sense to ensure good customer service. For example, let’s say that your comp criteria is four hours of play per day and an ADT of $300 for the fine dining restaurant, but your customer has been playing three hours per day at an ADT of $250. Would you tell this guest that they cannot go into the fine dining restaurant because they have fallen short of play or should a comp be provided? While the numbers are important, you may want to consider other factors as well, such as their past history. Do they regularly play at a $300 ADT level? Have they been overcomped? Take the guest in the above example. Let’s say they consistently play more than they’re comped so even though the play on this particular visit isn’t quite as high as the guidelines suggest, since the casino consistently makes money on this guest it would make business sense in this case to comp the guest. Taking a look at the other side, not comping the guest in this scenario could be interpreted that the casino is “tight” and could ultimately damage the long term relationship that keeps this guest returning. Understanding other factors may lead to the conclusion that occasionally the guidelines can be flexed a little bit to maintain the business and loyalty of a good and consistent player. Accommodation Alternatives What do you do when the numbers just don’t add up? If after reviewing a customer’s play, history, and comps you determine that a comp to the steakhouse doesn’t make business sense to the casino, what do you do? Keeping in mind that they now understand the comping guidelines, good customer service means coming up with alternatives so they still feel accommodated. If the play doesn’t warrant the best restaurant on property, you might be able to interest them in a different restaurant. Or perhaps you can get even more creative. This is where knowing your guests will be of a strong benefit and you might be able to provide something to them that is of high emotional value in their eyes, but may not be of high cost to the casino. Regardless, the casino is entertainment so even if your proposal has to be of a lesser value than the guest’s original request, providing alternatives is better than denying a request altogether. Dealing with Upset Customers Another aspect of customer service in a casino that is very different from other industries is upset guests. That’s not to say that other industries don’t have to deal with upset guests but the nature of why and how these guests are dealt with is very different. Consider a customer that has purchased physical

goods such as a couch or suit. A displeasure with the item can be easily resolved by substituting a replacement. Not so with the casino industry. If a customer is upset it is almost always because they have lost money and unlike a couch, it’s not going to be replaced. So the solution isn’t as simple as traditional customer service. Of course, comping may relieve some of that emotion, but when that’s not enough the host must be able to use exceptional people skills to defuse the situation and keep the guest coming back to the casino. Now, any customer service job will list “exceptional people skills” as a requirement, but consider taking “being good with people” a step further and expand your skills to an in-depth understanding of the various personality types. Understanding personality types is an asset that will serve hosts well in understanding the driving forces behind human action and reaction. Hosts that have been in the industry for a while may have learned these tendencies through experience, but all hosts can benefit from an improved understanding of basic personalities. There are many books, theories and metaphors for describing different types of people and most have some element of truth to them. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to quickly adapt to and understand each of your guests and what is important to them, which is especially critical when they’re upset.

Guests may be upset because their team lost, or because they spent more than they should, or they had a fight with their significant other. But the more upset a guest is, the harder it will be for them to be rational or to convey what they want. The host’s personal experience with the guest combined with both a personal and academic knowledge of their personality will simplify how to manage the individual in that situation. Certainly, traditional customer service skills such as listening and empathizing still apply, and the host staff should be encouraged to continue to hone and develop those skills. But they must also be able to go above and beyond standard customer service in order to maintain relationships with key players. They must posses a mature business sense, posturing and understanding to approach difficult and unique situations with poise and authority. In the casino, customer service goes beyond a friendly face and a smile. It is an intuitive understanding of each guest’s needs and working to make sure that they know that your casino is the one that will work to keep their patronage. p Eric Booker is Director of Player Development for Snoqualmie Casino. He can be reached by calling (425) 999-0903 or email

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October 2008

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Description: Casino gaming article to help Player Development Departments Customer Service in Casinos