What DraftKings & Aaron Rodgers Taught Us About Customer Returns

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Clint Fontanella
Clint Fontanella

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Aaron Rodgers played a total of four plays for the New York Jets.

online app issuing a customer return

One of the greatest talents in the NFL was wiped away in an instant, leaving sportsbooks like DraftKings with a tricky customer service decision to navigate.

Should it refund the thousands of dollars customers lost wagering on Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets? Or, should it enforce its company’s policy and hold customers accountable for the risks they assumed when submitting their bet?

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Some sportsbooks like FanDuel refused to reimburse users, but DraftKings took a customer-first approach that led to other businesses like MGM and Ceaser's to follow suit. Let’s review:

Recap of Events

If you don’t follow football, don’t worry. Here are 3 details you need to know about what happened:

  1. Aaron Rodgers plays for the New York Jets. When he was healthy, his team had a 16-1 chance of winning the Super Bowl. When he got hurt, those chances dropped to 50-1.
  2. Aaron Rodgers played only 4 plays this year and is now out for the season. That means that most people who bet on Aaron Rodgers likely lost their bet.
  3. DraftKings and other sportsbooks are not required to refund these bets, but DraftKings decided to do it anyway.

It's common for injuries to ruin bets, and typically sportsbooks are not empathetic to these customers. However, with the growing popularity of online gambling apps, customer service is now a competitive advantage for sportsbooks looking to acquire and retain users.

Twitter allowed us to watch this situation unfold in real time. First, let’s look at how consumers reacted to the situation then review what DraftKings and other apps did in response.

How Consumers Responded

Two groups clearly emerged from this controversy: good-faith gamblers and risk takers.

Theme 1: Good-Faith Gamblers

These folks believe sportsbooks should refund their bets because it would be the empathetic thing to.

Theme 2: Risk Takers

This group feels that this is part of the risk of gambling and that the sportsbooks should do nothing – they also may have bet against the Jets.

Here's where things get interesting. This poll suggests that most Twitter users side with the risk takers, which makes DraftKings’s response all the more suprising.

How DraftKings Responded

About a day later, DraftKings tweeted this:

This put pressure on other sportsbooks to do the same. Those that did were praised and those that didn’t were criticized.

This an interesting conundrum because it challenges two core principles of customer service: consistency and empathy. 

Customers feel shorted, so they think the company should refund them in good faith. At the same time, DraftKings and other sportsbooks are well within their legal rights to claim earnings from customers who agreed to the inherent risks of gambling. Refunding them could also set a dangerous precedent for future bets, causing the company to lose out on potential earnings.

This situation happens with almost every business. Customers want a refund while businesses aren’t necessarily required to issue it. These organizations then weigh their options between upsetting their customer base and losing future earnings.

3 Customer Service Takeaways

DraftKings stands out because it responds to the situation in a customer-centric way and here’s what we can learn about customer service from it.

1. Take a customer-first approach.

DraftKings handles the situation with a customer-first approach. Rather than prioritizing short-term gains and company policy, it's focusing on customer retention.

That’s a really smart play because mobile gambling is still a new market in the United States and online sportsbooks need to build their brands as big as possible before state-level gambling restrictions are lifted across the nation.

2. Use customer service as a retention strategy.

DraftKings is making a long-term investment by refunding its customers. This keeps existing users happy while also attracting new customers from apps like FanDuel, which did not issue a refund. Even though DraftKings is losing money it should have won, it’s gaining the potential winnings it will earn from customers who will become more loyal to DraftKings.

3. Reimbursement doesn’t have to be a refund.

While DraftKings users can sleep peacefully knowing that their bets were refunded, there is a fine print that’s easy to overlook.

DraftKings isn’t refunding money back into bank accounts. It’s refunding customers in the form of a credit that can be used with the DraftKings app. This means that DraftKings is not really losing anything by offering this refund. Users will either forget about the credit or gamble money they would have wagered anyway.

In the end, DraftKings comes off as the noble sportsbook offering bets in good faith while bookies like FanDuel stick to old-school, Vegas-style tactics.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a sportsbook, a souvenir shop, or selling hotdogs outside the stadium, putting customers first will always make people happy. And, the more positive experiences you create, the more people will come back to your business.

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