Monday, 15 September 2008

Big Questions


I could have written this post on Friday, but instead decided to wait a few more days to let the dust settle. I want this post to have some meaning so rushing in without fully thinking things through would have been wrong. Sleeping on my thoughts and letting the emotions die down a little seemed the sensible option.
.
Okay, I think I'm ready...
.
My initial reaction when Betfair announced the new premium charge was the same as many others that frequent the Betfair forum - utter disbelief! As a loyal customer since December 2001 I have championed the company's cause to anyone that would listen. This hasn't always been an easy task (especially to the non-gambling community) but despite this I've continued to enlighten those about the Betfair revolution as best I could. During this time I've also been happy to pay my way through commission charges. Afterall, Betfair have provided a fantastic service and without them there wouldn't have been the opportunity for people like me to 'trade' on sporting events. Granted, it's only within the last couple of years that these sums have become significant in value but even before this I was still making a regular contribution - a contribution that Betfair could rely on. This has left me baffled. Why would Betfair what to victimise their most loyal and supportive customers? What have I done to make them want to alienate me? Surely I'm a customer who (hopefully) inspires small time players that bigger things are possible and in turn this must benefit the exchange through more liquidity etc.? Shouldn't I be considered as a cost saving when it comes to marketing budgets?
.
Apparently not, and despite my best efforts I can't answer any of these questions with a level of confidence in what the answers may be. If you look at the replies during their recent Q&A session you'll see explanations based on the cost incurred in attracting new users to the exchange etc. but is this my problem? Why am I being penalised for working harder than others and winning as a result? I'm not a Bot user and I don't syphon Betfair data - it just doesn't make sense! The business model adopted by Betfair over the last seven years has been hugely successful and whilst I appreciate investments have been needed to cope with the increase in business levels, surely the interest received on loyal clients' funds must have helped soften the blow? As a whole, the Q&A session they hosted was a complete joke which raised just as many questions as answers but don't take my word for it, judge for yourself by going the to the Forum Chat section of the Betfair Forum. If you haven't already done so, I'd also suggest you look at Betfair's last set of annual accounts. This isn't a company that's struggling, far from it - this is a company that's growing quickly. Now that it's hit a certain size it would seem that the initial ethos behind the original idea has been lost. Is it a coincidence that the Betfair Big Wigs have decided to launch these changes whilst Andrew 'Bert' Black is on a sabbatical?
.
This leads me onto another point - change. As a rule of thumb not many people like it. Generally, people like routine and a feeling of stability, so introducing changes that would affect a gambler's 'income' was always going to be difficult. This bit I concede, but what I can't justify is the complete shambles Betfair have made in their attempt to communicate the concept. If any of you are familiar with the works of Kurt Lewin then you'll already know his thoughts on change needing to be a three step process - unfreeze, change, refreeze. The unfreeze stage here is crucial, as it tells the world about the 'need' and prepares those that will be affected. It helps break down defences and helps those involved see the bigger picture. Have Betfair missed this important part of the jigsaw? I think so. Emails and Q&A sessions will only work to a certain degree after the event, with confidence in the company already dented, how much damage will be irreversible?
.
I haven't even touched on the complexities of the premum charge - I'll leave this to fellow blogger Cassini - but in short, this has become a PR disaster with Racing UK discussing the topic at length, the Daily Mail reporting of 'crisis meetings' and some 'sharp minds' using YouTube to illustrate their frustrations.
.
I could go on but I won't. Hopefully you can see the points I'm trying to get across and even though this post was aimed at getting a reaction, most of all I want Betfair to listen. It's not too late, there must be a better way.
.

13 comments:

Anthony said...

Smart post. Heaven knows how many people I've put onto Betfair and the sums they've filtered into it.

leonthefixer said...

Mark - good post! This whole issue has been dealt with very poorly by Betfair. Very poor explanation given, though to be honest there was no explanation until the Q&A.

Andrew Black clearly was not aware of why these charges were being introduced. On his blog he said it was being aimed at the Bot users and the traders. However in the Q&A Betfair said it was aimed at people who were taking more out of Betfair than were paying in charges. So if one of the founders doesn't know why what chance have the rest of us got????

My biggest fear is that people just do what they usually do and moan about it for a while and then do nothing and just carry on. I have done a post about it over at my blog (http://dontgiveupyourjob.blogspot.com/)

I hope Betdaq or one of the other excahnges comes through as the market really does need some competition.

I had a phone call on Friday from Betfair about the charges and I spent a good while trying to get them to explain to me how they value my business after they said the line that costs them nothing 'We value your custom'. In my opinion they were unable to demonstrate it. I wonder if I get a mouse matt in the post as I said I have never even had as much as a mouse matt in the 7 years I had been with them...I doubt they will though!

Any Mark - here's hoping something good comes out of all this - competition!

leonthefixer said...

Mark I have just added this post to my main blog would be good if you could do the same:

DON'T SUBSIDISE BETFAIR
I have just found out you can call Betfair's helpdesk using a normal 020 number rather than their 0870 number that you get charged over the odds for (this is for UK based people, not sure about overseas)

Use this link: http://www.saynoto0870.com/search.php

Then type Betfair in.

It comes up with the number Betfair tell you to use, however, it shows the normal rate number as well!

020 88348060 is the number for the helpdesk. I used it tonight and it worked fine and I was not paying extra to Betfair.

P.S. It can be used for many many other companies!

slipperytoad said...

Betfair still in denial

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/sep/16/horseracing

Mark

The following book is recommended reading for managing change in life and work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Moved_My_Cheese

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix. Christina Baldwin

Ray said...

Hi Mark,

Good article and I look forward to seeing you on the new Betdaq Forum in the next couple of days.

I have resurected my blog and intend to do regular updates.

Good Luck

Ray

Mark Iverson said...

Cheers Anthony!

I've got a horrrible feeling that our opinions are falling on deaf ears though.

All the best,

Mark

Mark Iverson said...

Hi Leon,

I'm currently weighing up my options but I think you're right - the easy way out is to carry on as normal and do nothing.

BUT....I just don't think I can afford not to diversify a little.

I'll mention the phone number thing in my next post.

All the best,

Mark

Mark Iverson said...

Hi Mike,

I guess that's it then...the charge is here to stay and like you said, we either adapt or move one.

Thanks for the book link - I'll check it out.

All the best,

Mark

Mark Iverson said...

Hi Ray,

It's great to hear from you and even better to learn that you've resurrected the blog!

Hope things have sorted themselves out for you mate and I'll be bumping into you over at the purple sometime soon.

All the best,

Mark

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Given that most your money seems to come from televised cricket won't you find it fairly straightforward to get below the 250 markets mark and not pay any of it?

Mark Iverson said...

Hi anonymous,

Unfortunately not - with cricket matches I often have to take positions in the 'tied match' and 'completed match' markets because of close finishes and inclement weather. This makes it practically impossible to only trade 250 markets over a 60 week period.

I'm sure Betfair considered this when they came up with the 250 limit.

All the best,

Mark

leonthefixer said...

Mate I have just got word of some Betdaq software and done a post on it at my blog:

http://www.dontgiveupyourjob.blogspot.com/

The links for the software are:

Software: http://www.betdaqtrader.com/

User Guide: http://www.betdaqtrader.com/userguide.html

Barry said...

Leon,
Betfair's numbers all changed to 0844 several months ago...