Putting the cart before the horse: Why betting against customer experience could cost you your job

William Hill

Last week, William Hill made an announcement that, after 31 years with the company, and two years as chief executive, it had ‘ousted’ James Henderson. The reason? Because he failed to capitalise on a growing online betting market.

A slightly sweeping statement I admit, especially when William Hill has announced it’s experimenting with VR to reinvigorate sports betting and aims to develop ‘ten new innovations a year’. This certainly seems like a strategy focused on using the latest technology and developing online innovations to drive a closer relationship with customers. So why are the dots not connecting with those customers from one new technical innovation to the next?

Bottom line - William Hill may have been putting the cart before the horse.

In betting it is tempting to gamble on campaign related opportunism; around sporting events, royal babies and the British weather. In probably what is one of the most competitive industries (fighting for an enormous £12.6bn yield in any one year, according to the Gambling Commission this month), a tactical approach often has ‘creative technologists’ and product marketers rubbing their hands with glee.

But, for any business, thinking that investment in new technologies will digitally transform a customer journey is like buying a remote control without the batteries. While the technology gives you the opportunity and tools to improve the customer experience, it’s the integration with mobile, the consistency of the user experience across new products, content creation and brand delivery that will ensure a business achieves cut-through with their desired audience.

Bringing all this together means any new technology must be built on a customer experience platform and embedded into an environment ready to embrace it and take a step forward. If the business is fragmented across a number of divisions or specific teams are not fully briefed on new innovations, an online customer experience will only achieve so much. Building on the right foundations with an empowered team is how increased digital performance will be driven.

Without the right foundations, rooted in insight and based on a thorough understanding of the customer journey - a website or VR experience may look fantastic and/ or be particularly novel, but it will have no bearing on the business objectives. Its vanity for vanity’s sake.

This is not to say that technology and innovation should not be explored and pursued by market-leading brands. It definitely should. In this case, however, it appears that the company has focused on this as opposed to a clear, customer experience that is consistent across all touch points.

As a result, the issues in this case were deemed to be problems with the functionality of the website and user experience, and growth in the online part of the business stalling, which accounts for 35 per cent of revenue.

Proof, if ever it was needed, that investment into customer experience platforms is no gamble.

Tom Dougherty is UX director at digital creative agency Delete

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