Pieter Hall: How Delasport is keeping checks on the customer service pulse

Sound transfer of knowledge, an effective CRM solution and a streamlined team are three elements which Pieter Hall – Head of Customer Support at Delasport – highlighted as being key to ‘raising the bar’ for customer service and monitoring the pulse of B2B customers.

Speaking to SBC, Hall reflected on his journey through the gambling industry, explaining how Delasport has allowed him to breach the glass ceiling and help ensure that customers’ voices are heard.

SBC: You have been involved in the betting and gaming industry for 15 years now. How did you become involved in this sector?

PH: From a punters point of view, really. You could argue that sports and gambling is inherently part of the British culture growing up andI used to enjoy both – going to the bookies to put my accumulators on for the weekend, and then going to watch football.

So that’s pretty much been the status quo for me. But back in the day, my hit rate was pretty poor but I enjoyed gambling and I enjoyed sports so it made sense for me to join the betting and gaming industry. As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them!

So when I moved into the industry, I started at the frontline, moved into the operational customer support element. I was watching sports, talking sports, talking about betting and helping people all day long. I was a real people person and thrived in that environment. I fell in love with the industry and have never looked back.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of different businesses, from start ups, small to medium businesses, and some of the goliaths in the industry. And my journey has taken me all over the world. I’ve worked in the UK, Ireland, Gibraltar, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.

SBC: You mentioned that you have had the opportunity to work with a range of different companies. What is it that made you want to join Delasport?

PH: There were a few factors actually. So, if you spend 15 years or so working predominantly in operations working for single or multiple b2c businesses, the challenges become routine. You reach a glass ceiling, so to speak.

From an operational capacity, I wanted to learn more. I’m still very passionate and customer centric, I still want to be engaged with the customer on every touch point. But then I also wanted to utilise my skill set under a different paradigm. So the B2B element that Delasport offers and the framework at the company poses these new challenges that I’m looking for.

Another factor was that Delasport has been well established for a number of years now. They offer a strong product. They’re also very diverse and development orientated, building that product from the ground up. So it’s a very exciting time to be there because you can learn from the best practices that you’ve had along this journey, give recommendations based on customer feedback such as what customers enjoyed and what they didn’t enjoy.

SBC: So what is it exactly that your role involves?

PH: Being head of customer support, I need to deliver and develop a customer service function that can operate with multiple B2B customers. Now, the magic here is that you need to incorporate all the specific needs in our daily work life, so I deliver on the short, medium and long term strategies which could vary from improving productivity and coverage depending on what markets the B2B customer is looking to target.

We can improve and maintain the quality from product knowledge, processes, and communication – the communication not only interdepartmental, but also direct communication with B2B customers and third parties.

Obviously, we also need to ensure that we’re in line with the regulatory obligations because, depending on the B2B customer, we have a number of different licences so we often need to give customer advice. This gives us the chance to improve on the products through recommendations.

With all the different touch points, you can improve the customer journey. Ultimately, being in a B2B role as opposed to a b2c pushed me much more towards creative thinking to find solutions to problems that I may have encountered in the past, but the solutions to these problems come in a varying degree.

This could include managing and keeping the teams up to speed across multiple call centres, from training obligations and rolling out best practices, what the B2B customer wants but also quality assurance, quality control and meeting the different reporting requirements.

SBC: With the gambling industry continuing to grow rapidly, how is Delasport using customer service to stand out from the competition?

PH: Well, I’ve seen the industry evolve from what it was to what it is today – and to be quite frank, that evolution has been breath taking. I’ve seen so many products coming out onto the market which engages customers. Obviously, the businesses that are first to go to market with these new products are taking the lion’s share of the customers wallet.

Let’s take cash out as an example. That was a real game changing experience that gave the customer the opportunity to cash out a bet when they thought that something may not go their way in their favour. But it also gives the operator two margins to work with. So it’s a win win for all.

Now, the thing with innovation and developing new products is that it’s not long before these products are replicated and most of the bookmakers will begin to offer the same thing. But as time goes by, from a customer’s perspective, nobody really remembers who it was that released these revolutionary products. They come to an operator and expect a certain standard almost as a prerequisite.

I’m very, very big on word of mouth, and we shouldn’t lose sight of the customer recommendation. This is why customer support can really have an impact on making sure that customers are happy – after all, we can all agree that a happy customer equates to a loyal customer. In turn, this equates to a longer account lifetime which delivers higher player value.

So I’d say that it’s mandatory for any successful business to have good customer service, and all that comes with it.

You also need clear direction, good leadership, and an overall goal of where you want to be. It’s very important to understand that every single customer communication is a touch point which is an opportunity for us to learn what we’re doing right, learn what we’re doing wrong, learn what we can offer a customer and take the best bits and incorporate this all into one product.

It is therefore of critical importance to deliver the highest levels of service to a customer and make sure that customers’ voices are being heard. We’ve got so many operators out there nowadays that use customer service as a sweep function, if you will, as opposed to us in what it could be. That, I would say, would be a differentiator in how to conduct business with your everyday contact.

SBC: You said that it is fundamental that all customers’ voices are heard. What role does Delasport’s call centre play in this?

PH: This is fundamental. This is down to communication. When we onboard the B2B customer, the most crucial element is to make sure that we are completely open in regards to what they want – for example, what markets they want to target, what specific requirements they have.

What we then do with this information is we develop a strategy of how to incorporate this into our day-to-day lives. This is actually one of the biggest challenges we face, because what you’ll have is you’ll get a lot of customers coming in and asking the same question. Two B2B customers may ask the same question but will want the scenario handling in different ways.

Iit is very important that the guidelines that you set out to the customer support team are very clear or very defined and the transfer of knowledge is sound. We use a powerful CRM solution, which helps us to direct and segment traffic, to make sure that the customers go to the right people, depending on the brand, depending on the market, depending on the value.

SBC: Touching upon the CRM solution, in what ways is this helping your B2B customer support services as a whole?

PH: It’s helping massively! When you’re looking at CRM solutions, each one you look at has got its pros and cons. Now there’s two ways to implement a CRM solution. One could be that they’re very highly recommended, and maybe you bite off more than you can chew in regards to making sure that this particular element is looked after and that you’ve got the resources to be able to scale up.

It’s not based on the day-to-day activity but we need a platform that we can scale both horizontally and vertically. So the CRM solution that we use not only helps us feel the pulse of the customer, but also helps us feel the pulse of the customer service division in ensuring that we are on top of engagement, we’re on top of reporting, and we’re on top of feedback. It helps us to establish customer procedural problems and pain points which opens up very important avenues for discourse amongst the relevant stakeholders in mitigating those pain points.

Through reporting, we gain very necessary insights into the individual and overall customer satisfaction. Then we can identify areas in which we can improve processes that we can optimise.

For example, we’ve got the reporting facilities, again on every touchpoint whether that be live dashboards or shadow reports. This is not only used for top level overviews, but we can use the CRM and the reports that it generates at a granular level that incorporate a number of scenarios.

So, for example, we can have live reports, which help management push the productivity levels. Or we’ve got the quality assurance element which picks up on both individual and team trends that need addressing such as issues that customers have raised.

In summary, the CRM is our lifeline to monitor just how we’re performing on an overall level. And this is obviously conveyed back to the B2B customers we have and helps us to maintain the high levels of service that they’ve come to expect.

SBC: And finally, COVID-19 has obviously had a massive impact on businesses all around the world. In what ways has it affected the customer service division at Delasport?

PH: As you say, the pandemic has not just affected the gambling world, but has impacted all businesses – and we’ve heard a number of heart wrenching stories.

Looking at how it has affected Delasport in particular, for me, it was the logistical element that was most challenging. Depending on the guidelines which were given by the government, we have had to move back and forth from the office on a regular basis.

To be quite fair, this actually really hammered home the points and really showed the business, not just it from an internal point of view, from a B2B point of view, as well, just how resilient the team was.

In the customer service team, we work on schedules, we have to be in the office and we have to be there on time to make sure that there is a continuation of business. But the pandemic highlighted just how devoted and focused the team were to ensure that through these difficult periods, the customers didn’t lose out.

What we’ve seen is that towards the end of last year, and throughout this year, we are still going through a significant period of growth. It was really encouraging to see that during the uprooting, not only did the team deliver on the customer-facing service levels, or internal KPIs, and the SLAs, but they actually set departmental bests. We actually raised the bar.

So I’d actually like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the guys for overcoming such difficult obstacles through this very challenging period of time. To have this mentality and culture is something that I think not many businesses have so I feel it’s only appropriate that our work is commended in a public space on such a public forum.

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