Online gambling is at an all-time high in accessibility and popularity. But many betting app developers are rolling the dice blindly without addressing users’ customer experience (CX) concerns.
More states in the U.S. are legalizing sports betting with legislation pending in many others. Major sports leagues such as the NFL and the PGA Tour are adding legitimacy to the organized sports betting space by securing high-profile gambling partners. Sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars are expanding in concert.
With money on the line, literally, with betting apps, these companies have a heightened burden to provide customer support. That could well be a survival requirement since many of their online bettors have never previously gambled on sports, let alone placed bets via mobile apps.
So far, sports betting platform rollouts in new states have been relatively seamless. Yet some obvious CX issues must be addressed before watchdogs and regulators step in.
Sports betting companies need to tackle four potential stumbling blocks:
- The product is still new to many customers. Gambling companies need to clear up confusion on the legal methods of sports betting and drive confidence that bets will be paid out.
- Most sports betting companies are pushing mobile apps for daily usage and interaction, leaving a strong need for tech support to help with logins and payment issues.
- Geolocation issues are a major factor. If users are near bordering states where sports betting is illegal, their phones might mistake them for being 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 betting activity. As a result, gambling companies must have robust CX infrastructures in place to handle increased seasonal demand.
One of the biggest challenges is volume projection and staffing due to the sector’s rapid growth and lack of historical data, according to Chris Crowley, chief commercial officer for CX provider Alorica. A significant and continuous increase in users is coming from existing states, as well as new states legalizing sports betting apps.
“As the user base increases there is an increase in transactions across voice, chat, and email — especially from new users and novice users of sports betting apps. The ability to develop the appropriate staffing models and to train the staff effectively is crucial to delivering an exceptional customer experience,” he told CRM Buyer.
Betting on Digital-First Stability
Another big test for the sportsbooks, noted Crowley, will be finding the bandwidth to handle peak seasons when major sporting events drive a flurry of betting activity.
To withstand scrutiny from regulators and watchdogs, these companies require trained staff who can work with customers across voice, chat, text, and email.
“Like other digital-first companies that are born highly focused on product, sports betting companies may not yet fully appreciate the need for tech support and account management,” he cautioned.
For example, most sportsbooks rely on website FAQs to support their customers. Many of the new customers are gambling on sports for the very first time.
CX is critical to handle these concerns because money is involved. Customers rightly want access to a support person when they spend money to get something in return, such as a bet to win or 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 mistakes, warned Crowley. That is why it is crucial to have knowledgeable and readily-available support offerings from live agents and automated channels.
Fierce competition to develop repeat customers makes CX crucial to this emerging market. Companies such as DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, and others are currently spending tremendous amounts of money to rapidly grow their user bases through aggressive marketing.
“To get the necessary return on this investment, they must develop user loyalty as it is so easy for users to jump to another app. One poor service experience can turn a novice bettor off forever,” said Crowley.
Another reason CX is important is sports betting has its own community and lingo. It can be unkind to newcomers who do not have a firm understanding of betting odds and how promotions work.
“A big issue surrounds where ‘free’ does not always mean free. Having a customer service team backed by a real CX strategy gives new users a lifeline to figure out the nuts and bolts of sports betting,” he explained.
Social acceptance of sports betting is now common. State governments increasingly are becoming supportive of the industry.
Additionally, with the rise of second screens, sports fans have found new online communities that share their love of the game, Crowley noted. Fans today are often on Twitter and Reddit while watching their teams play, reading and reacting to 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 an extent, cord-cutting, which has evolved the way we consume sports, Crowley observed.
“As sports betting gains wider social acceptance and state legalization continues, the industry will rapidly grow. For many, sports betting has become synonymous with watching and attending sports events,” he said.
In a short period of time, this will be an ingrained part of our social norms. The number of American adults betting on sports doubled in the last year alone. It is crucial that companies in this sector invest in a robust CX operation and explore strategic partnerships with vendors that can keep customer engagement impactful, secure, and scalable, urged Crowley.
Morphing World of Rules and Regs
The regulatory environment is rapidly changing in the mobile sports betting industry and online gambling.
Overall, online sports betting platforms are progressing with new functionality at breakneck speeds due to the fast changes in state regulations and requirements. Most of the major sportsbooks and online sites are still in the process of obtaining required licenses in recently-legalized states.
The Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA gave states the ability to pass their own sports betting legislation. Some 30 states — plus D.C. — have legalized sports betting with 22 legalized for mobile and online sports betting. Twelve states have active or pre-filed legislation on the ballot for 2022.
State laws vary greatly. Regulations range from betting in onsite casinos versus mobile/online to the age of bettors. Restrictions cover the types of bets, such as collegiate sports versus pro contests. Tax rates vary by state also.
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 betting.
“Like any consumer-facing industry, there are also protections around personally identifiable information,” Crowley said. “As sports betting and mobile/online wagering become more common across different state jurisdictions, the landscape will only continue to evolve.”
On Deck, Real-Time Customer Service
Online sports betting requires unambiguous fairness and transparency. The entire customer journey should be shepherded by a customer support offering that can resolve issues in real time.
The typical response time so far is 24 to 48 hours later for some betting companies, according to Crowley. This process includes accessing relevant information, placing bets, and collecting the winnings.
“The industry would be wise to establish a new CX standard, one that will give confidence in the integrity of this emerging business model,” he recommended.
Plenty of disclosures, FAQs and robust “help” systems with omnichannel functionality will become the norm in the mobile and online sports betting experience, he concluded.