Online gambling is at an all-time high in accessibility and popularity. But many betting app developers are blindly rolling the dice without addressing users’ concerns about customer experience (CX).
More states in the US are legalizing sports betting with legislation in many other countries. Major sports leagues like the NFL and the PGA Tour add legitimacy to organized sports betting by attracting high-profile betting partners. Sportsbooks such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars are expanding in consultation.
With money at stake, literally, with gambling apps, these companies have an increased burden to provide customer support. That could well be a survival requirement, as many of their online gamblers have never bet on sports before, let alone placed bets via mobile apps.
So far, the rollout of sports betting in new states has been relatively seamless. Still, some obvious CX issues need to be addressed before watchdogs and regulators step in.
Sports betting companies need to address four potential stumbling blocks:
The product is still new for many customers. Gambling companies need to clear up confusion about the legal methods of sports betting and instill confidence that bets will be paid out. Most sports betting companies are pushing mobile apps for everyday use and interaction, creating a strong need for technical support to help with sign ups and payment issues. Geolocation issues are an important factor. If users are near neighboring states where sports betting is illegal, their phones may confuse them as they are in the wrong location and their bets will not go through. Seasonality. Major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, March Madness, The Masters, FIFA World Cup and the World Series amplify gambling activity. As a result, gambling companies must have robust CX infrastructures in place to handle the increased seasonal demand.
One of the biggest challenges is volume projection and headcount due to the industry’s rapid growth and lack of historical data, according to Chris Crowley, Chief Commercial Officer for CX provider Alorica. A significant and ongoing increase in users comes from existing states, as well as from new states legalizing sports betting apps.
“As the user base grows, the number of voice, chat and email transactions is increasing, especially from new users and novice users of sports betting apps. The ability to develop the right workforce models and train the workforce effectively is critical for delivering an exceptional customer experience,” he told CRM Buyer.
Bet on Digital-First Stability
Another big test for the sportsbooks, Crowley noted, will be finding the bandwidth to handle peak seasons when major sporting events spark a surge in gambling activity.
To withstand scrutiny from regulators and watchdogs, these companies require trained personnel who can work with customers via voice, chat, text and email.
“Like other digital-first companies that were born very product-oriented, sports betting may not fully realize the need for technical support and account management,” he warned.
For example, most sportsbooks rely on FAQs on the website to support their customers. Many of the new customers are betting on sports for the first time.
CX is critical to dealing with these concerns because money is involved. Customers rightly want access to a support person when they spend money to get something back, such as a bet to win or a deposit to get a bonus or free bet.
App speed risky business
Logistically, the speed of the app interface makes betting easier. But it also increases the risk of errors, Crowley warned. That’s why it’s critical to have informed and readily available support offers from live agents and automated channels.
Fierce competition to develop repeat customers makes CX critical to this emerging market. Companies like DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM and others are currently spending huge amounts of money to quickly grow their user base through aggressive marketing.
“To get the necessary return on this investment, they need to develop user loyalty because it is so easy for users to jump to another app. One bad service experience can put a novice gambler off forever,” Crowley said.
Another reason why CX is important is that sports betting has its own community and jargon. It can be unfriendly to newbies who don’t have a good understanding of betting odds and how promotions work.
“A big problem is where ‘free’ doesn’t always mean free. Having a customer service team backed by a true CX strategy gives new users a lifeline to find out about sports betting,” he explains.
Social acceptance of sports betting is now commonplace. State governments are increasingly supportive of the industry.
Additionally, with the rise of second screens, sports fans have found new online communities that share their love for the game, Crowley noted. Fans are often on Twitter and Reddit these days watching their teams play, reading and commenting on what other people have to say about the game.
This further encourages fan engagement. Online sports betting has benefited from the influence of social media and, to some extent, cord cutting, which has evolved the way we consume sports, Crowley noted.
“As sports betting gains wider social acceptance and state legalization continues, the industry will grow rapidly. For many, sports betting has become synonymous with watching and attending sporting events,” he said.
In the short term, this will be an ingrained part of our social norms. In the past year alone, the number of American adults betting on sports has doubled. It is critical that companies in this sector invest in a robust CX operation and explore strategic partnerships with suppliers that can keep customer engagement impactful, secure and scalable, Crowley insisted.
Changing world of rules and regs
The regulatory environment is rapidly changing in mobile sports betting and online gambling.
In general, online sports betting platforms are advancing with new functionality at breakneck speed due to rapid changes in state regulations and requirements. Most major sportsbooks and online sites are still in the process of obtaining the required licenses in recently legalized states.
The Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA gave states the opportunity to pass their own sports betting laws. About 30 states – plus DC – have legalized sports betting and 22 have legalized mobile and online sports betting. Twelve states have active or pre-filed voting laws for 2022.
State laws vary widely. Regulations range from betting in on-site versus mobile/online casinos to the age of gamblers. Restrictions relate to the types of bets, such as collegiate sports versus professional matches. Tax rates also vary by state.
Some states allow tribal and commercial casinos. Others like Oregon, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island only allow one or the other, or a state lottery commission runs the bets.
“As in any consumer-oriented industry, there are also safeguards around personally identifiable information,” Crowley said. “As sports betting and mobile/online betting become more prevalent across jurisdictions, the landscape will only continue to evolve.”
On deck, real-time customer service
Online sports betting requires unequivocal fairness and transparency. The entire customer journey should be led by a customer service team that can resolve issues in real time.
The typical response time so far is 24 to 48 hours later for some gambling companies, according to Crowley. This process includes accessing relevant information, placing bets and collecting winnings.
“The industry would be wise to adopt a new CX standard, one that gives confidence in the integrity of this emerging business model,” he advised.
Numerous disclosures, FAQs and robust “help” systems with omnichannel functionality will become the norm in mobile and online sports betting, he concluded.