Resetting the “No!” Between Departments
One of the most challenging relationships at a casino resort is the one between marketing and the operations departments. There are a number of complex interactions that have proven to be the cause of that tension at properties throughout the industry. Marketing makes decisions without considering how programs affect the slot floor, table games, food and beverage, the hotel. Operations executives refuse to participate in marketing meetings (not interested, no time), even when they are invited. Revenue goals and budgets are created that pit departments against each other: Does marketing have to subsidize every discount and comp offered by food and beverage (F&B)? Does the hotel get credit for guest gaming value when they comp VIPs or set discounted rates for players club tiers? Who pays for redeemed club points: slots or marketing?
Here’s a situation that occurred during a client’s promotions planning meeting. In attendance were the heads of marketing and a variety of operations departments. Trying to build a cross-property promotion that included all revenue-driving areas, the marketing manager wanted F&B to create specialty drinks to serve at the bars based on the monthly theme. The idea was to promote those beverages at special prices that would enhance the themed promotion being carried out throughout the casino.
The F&B manager said, “No.” They weren’t interested. They didn’t think it was important to be part of the theme. The marketing manager said, “You never want to participate. You always say no. Why can’t you work with the rest of the team?”
Sometimes, one of the most critical roles a visiting consultant can play is moderating conflict resolution. First, the goal was to remove the animosity from the interaction. Instead of attacking the lack of participation, when asked WHY the drinks wouldn’t work, the bar manager explained that they rarely sold drinks at the bar … that almost all drinks were comped based on play at the slot/video poker bar. So, themed drinks wouldn’t drive revenue and would instead create more work and virtually no return. The follow-up question was: Is there something else F&B could do that would support the theme and perhaps drive incremental revenue? The answer from the food and beverage team: CUPCAKES! “We make great mini-cupcakes that we could decorate to enhance the monthly promotions theme and sell them or just offer them as a gift to the players.”
Marketing loved the idea, F&B was happy to be involved, the conflict was resolved, and the team was a “team” once again.
So, what can casinos do to turn their inter-department, decision-making communications from “No” to “Yes”?
Raving’s Casino Ambassador training program, developed by Raving Service President and gaming industry trainer Steve Browne, is designed to turn floor staff into “service and sales” hosts for all casino customers. The program uses the concept of “The Power of D.O.” or “Just DO it!” where D stands for “demonstrate the benefits” and O stands for “overcome the objections.”
In a nutshell, the object is to motivate this change in employee behavior: Rather than telling a customer what they CANNOT do, focus on telling them what they CAN do.
So how can we apply this strategy to resetting the “No!” between our properties’ departments?
- Agree to the goals and be flexible about the tactics. If the outcome is what matters, enable each department to come to the table with what their experience tells them will work best. Not everyone will get their way every time, but there will be more buy-in from all participants.
- When possible, request back-up in the form of measurable results. If a department can support their ideas by providing reports that show improved revenue outcomes from past programs, then it will make sense for everyone to support those programs.
- Make sense of budgets. If marketing is expected to absorb the cost of all marketing programs, then ensure that the marketing dollars are in place to support that responsibility within the marketing budget. If the cost of comped rooms falls under the hotel’s budget, make sure the hotel receives financial credit for an appropriate amount of the play generated by overnight guests. It is virtually impossible to get department managers on the same page if one is rewarded for revenue while another is hit with the costs.
- Train all managers in cooperative and open-minded communication. Never use these phrases: it won’t work, it didn’t work last time, my department won’t benefit from this, you’re wrong. Instead, use these phrases during meetings and inter-department interactions: help me to understand what you’re trying to do, I can help you better if you…, help me find a solution, I hear what you’re saying … let me explain what I’m thinking.
- When sharing ideas between departments, always be positive. The flipchart, brainstorming process is usually effective for gathering input. Here are the rules: the person writing down the suggestions writes everything down. Nobody says: that’s dumb, won’t work, I don’t think so. The best phrases: good idea, what else, give me more. Remember that anything is possible if you can find a reasonable way to implement it. And, when paring down the solutions, the cream WILL rise to the top. No put-downs, no embarrassment.
- If an idea is not possible (budget limitations, against regulations, doesn’t fit the plan), thank the participant. All input is valuable and even less than fantastic ideas can lead to other, more effective ones. Let everyone feel that their participation is critical and important.
- Always know who and what you are dealing with. The more people know about how the other departments run and how they drive revenue and provide service, the stronger the team will be at finding the answers and making the best decisions possible.
If you have department managers who tend to say “No” when planning team-driven, casino-wide programs, help everyone focus on what CAN be done, rather than what CAN’T. The result will be more “Yes,” less “No,” and not only will productivity increase, but the team will be happier, healthier, and significantly more effective.
Toby O’Brien, Vice President of Marketing and Client Services for Raving Consulting Company, has been in the gaming industry for over 17 years. She provides marketing expertise, mentoring and training to Native American and commercial casinos, helping gaming organizations develop and implement customer-focused, strategic marketing plans aimed at driving revenue and creating an outstanding entertainment experience. Contact her at Toby@ravingconsulting.com.