Deshackling staff – Colm Finlay on how staffless shops can enhance customer service

The decline of retail commerce across multiple sectors has been well documented, Colm Finlay noted, but the BetXS Founder holds confidence in the sustainability of betting shops. 

After stating his case on the ‘Innovation in Retail’ panel at Betting on Sports Europe, Finally sat down for an in-depth discussion with SBC News about the rollout of his firm’s staffless betting shops in Ireland .

“Betting, as far as I’m concerned, will have eternal retail demand,” he asserted, whilst providing an overview of his company’s business model, and the benefits he believes it poses to bricks-and-mortar wagering in general. 

In Finlay’s view, retail betting’s popularity rests in its ability to keep a bet ‘one stage away from harm’ by limiting the time people can spend wagering, with the added benefit of a social interaction and financial anonymity. 

“In terms of access to financial instruments, credit loans etc, people prefer the anonymity of the retail transaction,” he remarked.

“There’s a certain fatigue about the accessibility of mobile betting. They want the bet, but want to keep it just one stage away from harms’ reach. 

“It gives an overlay of discipline to lads who want to have a bet, and then you have the social knock-on effects of a betting shop.”

BetXS’ strategy so far has focused on betting shops in rural locations across Ireland, where demand for betting services remains, but the need for large numbers of staff is minimal. 

The key to success in Finlay’s eyes is by separating the transaction from the customer service element of a betting shop, by incorporating a fully automated operating system.

Automation, he explained, is beneficial for both the customer and the operator – for betting firms, it decreases the risk of back prices, bets getting taken after an event has begun, fraudulent payments and slow counts. 

“In these smaller remote towns it is a fully automated experience, but in higher capacity shops it might not necessarily be a fully automated experience,” he continued.

“What I’m saying to bookmakers who are envisioning a model similar to mine is to at least de-shackle the staff member away from the transaction.

“If you have a staff member, say at Ladbrokes, who is mashing away at the keyboard, there’s no real customer service as far as I’m concerned.” 

Staffing is a phenomenon which has hit many economic sectors in the post-pandemic era, and is a risk that Finlay noted can also obviously be dealt with by staffiless shops, although in his firm’s case with a focus on rural areas. 

However, the rollout of such facilities will of course raise concerns around responsibility, an increasingly important topic in both Irish and British betting circles, with regulatory reviews taking place in both countries. 

The question is raised then – how can effective customer responsibility interactions be conducted in a betting shop where there are no staff? How can self-excluded customers be prevented from placing bets if there are no eyes watching the doors or machines? 

“As far as I’m concerned there is no more powerful tool in retail betting than facial recognition cameras to sift-through a database of self-excluded customers,” BetXS’ Founder responded.

Relating the topic back to staffing issues, the BetXS founder added that with such high levels of employee turnover, new shop workers will struggle to learn the names and faces of all self-excluded customers.

This, combined with the aforementioned topic of providing greater customer service and security through automation, underlines Finlay’s confidence in the long-term sustainability of his business. 

Colm Finlay spoke to SBC at the Betting on Sports Europe conference and networking event earlier this year. To check out the speaker lineups and agenda and book tickets for the SBC Summit Barcelona, click HERE.

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