In Issue 18 of SBC Leaders Magazine, James McKay, Sportsbook Director at Virgin Bet, speaks about the importance of customer service and how Virgin Bet Fives is helping the “relatively new player” stand out from the crowd.
Can you tell us more about Virgin Bet and your role in the industry? How do you ensure that you stand out from the competition?
I’m the Sportsbook Director here at Virgin Bet. I’m one of three Directors we have based in Gibraltar and I help oversee customer service, sportsbook product and sports operations, which is essentially the running of the site, from banners to displays and score boards.
First starting out in the industry straight from university, I have been working in betting for around 15 years now, having worked at William Hill up until three or four years ago.
When it comes to Virgin Bet, we’re still a relatively new player in the sector. Our pillars are largely focused on the customer: the customer experience and customer service. What we’re trying to do is bring an excellent product to the market while also looking at breadth and content to become one of the biggest sportsbooks in the industry.
We’ve seen a lot of growth in the last few years by doing exactly that and delivering everything that the customer needs. What you can expect to see from Virgin Bet is extremely good service.
You mentioned that the last two years have been very busy for you as a company. What would you say have been the key driving forces behind your growth?
Firstly, the customer. Everything is focused on their needs and ensuring we are servicing everything that they want, whether that be the product itself, the markets available or the features that we have. It also includes the service received as a customer, from all forms of communication and retention.
On the other side of the coin, it involves resolving any issues, queries or complaints that a customer raises. The customer service we offer is second to none.
Virgin Bet has put significant investment in providing several measures to offer customer feedback opportunities. One of which is a Zendesk solution, which is critical in evaluating cases and ensures our highly trained customer feedback team can act as swiftly as possible.
The other key thing which has helped drive growth is the product itself. Something which we have been working on with our supplier, DraftKings, is fine tuning and perfecting our sportsbook.
We’ve been working incredibly hard to get the product offering to a level where we’re able to compete with some of the largest names in the industry and, so far, we are starting to do just that. I can see a lot of work going towards making that even better.
Over the last year, Virgin Bet has sought out increased markets to provide higher-quality betting opportunities for customers. We are extremely proud to have the largest total streaming portfolio of any non-Tier 1 sportsbook. A particular example of the brand’s investment in this space can be seen within horse racing, where we have consistently looked to add value for our customers. Within the past year, the entirety of the US, Australia and New Zealand racing calendars have been added to the platform, which has led to a hugely enhanced offering.
How has the return of major events such as Cheltenham Festival and Euro 2020 helped boost the number of bettors choosing Virgin Bet?
Even from outside of our industry, everyone has needed these live events to come back. It’s one of the things throughout the pandemic that we have all missed, particularly as a sports fan. The return of large events has been a massive driver for new accounts.
As we’ve seen, everyone has been incredibly excited for the return of sport. At Virgin Bet, something we have seen is that there’s not necessarily been an initial payback. There are many things that bettors haven’t been able to do that they could do before – people have had other things to worry about throughout the pandemic.
But what we’ve seen is that there’s been a marked increase in registered accounts following these events and we have seen people start to bet again. If you look at the pillars that we conform to, then they’ve been engaging a great deal more. We’ve then been able to see that growth in the long term.
I think Cheltenham has probably been one of the biggest events we can point to as one of our successes. With the horse racing market a significantly strong aspect of Virgin Bet, Cheltenham was an event where we were able to do a lot of good work.
Tell us a little bit about the ‘Virgin Bet Fives’ product. What does it involve? And how has it helped drive additional engagement with bettors?
Virgin Bet Fives is a free-to-play game for new and existing customers. Interestingly, I think there are a few drivers for reasons to bet and one of those is the star players that we see performing. Whether it’s in the Premier League, or in other big leagues around the world, we have certain players where everyone knows their names: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero. The game is largely based on the idea that customers follow a particular player as well and not just a specific team.
You are given a team of five players if you log in every single day of the week. If that player then scores at the weekend, you receive a cash denomination in your account. There is then a wheel at the end of the week which shows you just how much you’re going to get. This, I think, helps create an additional sense of mystery while also adding a degree of gamification.
I think it gives you something to concentrate on for the whole weekend and means that every single game matters. This is definitely something that we’ve seen with the numbers participating, and our customers have been telling us that they’re enjoying the game too which we’re really pleased with.
How important have Virgin Bet Fives ‘specials’, such as those rolled out for Euro 2020, been when it comes to creating a truly unique proposition?
We’ve seen success in the Premier League and it led us to ask, what can we do with the Euros? The hard part for us was that the tournament didn’t fall on a week-to-week basis, meaning it required adaptation, but we managed to do it and it worked well.
The final of the Euros is a good example. Everyone was watching and everyone was on the edge of their seat and Virgin Bet Five players would have their five players playing in the match, giving more opportunity of winning money.
I do think that these ‘specials’ are important, and something that is in the pipeline for the hugely popular Virgin Bet Fives is adapting into other sports as well.
And finally, can you give us a sneak peek into what’s on the horizon for the company in 2022?
There are many things which internally, we are extremely excited about. One of the most important things for us is to continue pushing the product, in terms of both breadth and depth.
We’ve now also got many more horse racing tracks and we’re going subcontinental, introducing tracks across Asia and the United States. We’re constantly assessing where there are gaps and which products can fill them, to ensure we’re on par with the leading competition. Our focus is on growth of our offering, while never forgetting the cornerstone that stands us out – the customer.