William Hill

Why William Hill has bet big on customer feedback

2nd Dec 2015

Once upon a time, garnering feedback from trusted customers would be fairly simple. They could either write to you or call you with their suggestions and thoughts. You’d then pass that feedback to your product developers and let them handle the rest. Indeed, just two years ago in 2013, a Deloitte survey found that 55% of organisations believed call monitoring to be the most effective way to gather customer feedback.

The growing challenge of gathering and using feedback

Nowadays, the customer feedback process is swiftly evolving thanks to the proliferation of multiple digital channels, whether that’s via social media, surveys, email, phone — or even via third parties like TripAdvisor for restaurants or hotels, or the App Store or Google Play for smartphone apps. With such technology at a consumer’s fingertips, businesses have got their work cut out in pulling together data in an orderly and easy-to-digest way.

But that’s not the only challenge. With all that data to play with, businesses must carefully select the best nuggets of advice from their most trusted customers and work out an efficient way of using that information.

Since its inception earlier this year, the Your Stake community has regularly provided feedback and suggested changes to our new or existing technology products

To address these challenges, companies are now overturning traditional customer feedback strategies by moving away from these multiple digital channels to innovatively capture user-generated discussion within company-specific “online communities”. Within these private forums, businesses can use customer feedback in order to inform and refine its current and future product development cycle.

Crucially, in these forums the business can be deliberate in selecting samples from their diverse customer base. With a product portfolio and customer base as heterogeneous as that of ours, the gambling industry, it’s important to make sure that companies gather quality input, create conversations and really understand motivations rather than simply take face-value commentary.

Involving the right customers

So, the next step for online communities is crafting customer samples. At William Hill, for example, we are lucky to have an engaged customer base that interacts with our products frequently. People are passionate about the things that they spend their scarce free time on, which means that we can access emotive, powerful, insightful feedback — provided we create the environment in which to do that. That go-to place is our online community, called “Your Stake”. For our service, we have selected a diverse group of 1,000 William Hill customers who participate in their very own online focus group. These customers offer informed opinions and we can analyse the results to see trends and changes in response based on the stated product preferences, tenure and even preferred operating system of the customer.

Since its inception earlier this year, the Your Stake community has regularly provided feedback and suggested changes to our new or existing technology products, tested pre-launch products, answered survey questions and even helped to select the creative identity for the Apple Watch app that we created in our new technology innovation hub, WHLabs.

The lesson for other companies looking to follow a similar approach is that if you’re serious about turning to customers for ideas and feedback, this sort of flexible online platform means that once you’ve curated a great group of customers who represent the diversity of your base, you can create an accessible and friendly community environment to collaborate on ideas with them. It’s a world away from throwing surveys over and expecting the customer to click through interminable 1–5 scales.

Your Stake members get a blend of types of discussion, welcoming open debate and user-generated content, as well as trickling closed questions on time-sensitive topics. This variety maintains engagement levels, makes the interactions pacey and gives a high quality of feedback for our marketing team to mull over — and we’re seeing customers start their own threads of discussion with their peers, which is fantastic.

Use feedback to create change

Feedback, commentary and suggestions can be digested into a traditional PowerPoint deck that gets taken around the business — but we advocate getting stakeholders to log in, watch the debates, see things in real time and explore. This hands-on approach to customer dialogue suits us; we’re hungry for customer insight.

Clearly, this approach needs to be used in concert with feedback submitted from other digital channels, customer service,  owned data and in conversations with other, sometimes less engaged, cohorts. But we advise using the community as a first port of call for finding out what our most engaged customers are saying, and then from there, expanding the search to the other various channels.

A win-win situation for you and your customers

Online communities can prove extremely valuable during the very first stages of product development. Members can be invited to provide feedback on various ideas like a new website update or apps in beta stage. Getting customers involved as early as possible is vital as businesses can receive incredibly valuable information on how to improve the customer experience before releasing products into the real world, and valued customers get an early and exclusive look at new products.

An online community isn’t just about feedback and collaboration from behind the screen. Businesses can also use these dedicated websites to invite and select willing ‘mystery shoppers’ that can go into retail stores and test the outlets on performance and experience. Those mystery shoppers then report back to the community on what they liked and disliked — and can compare their experiences with other mystery shoppers.

A customer’s opinion won’t guarantee a solution for a business, and businesses need to be aware of the “faster horse” phenomenon and make sure that complying with feedback/suggestions is not done at the expense of creating room for genuine, paradigm-shifting innovation. High-frequency customers will understand the brand and its products inside out, so their input is critical in optimising existing products. Creating an online community is a cost-effective yet simple way to achieve this and something that William Hill has benefited from already.

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