Gamestec - Evolution of Operations
One of the key components of the transformation of Gamestec Playnation has been its ‘engine room’, the operations team, as Operations Director, Huw Lewis, explains…
Q: Other of your senior colleagues have spoken of a period of almost total ‘transformation’ across the entire business. In what ways has this applied to, and impacted upon, the operations team?
Huw Lewis: “It has certainly been an exciting past 18 months! Late 2017 saw the shift to polymer notes and the new one-pound coin and these changes generated unprecedented levels of activity across the entire company. The knock-on effect was felt well into 2018 and at the same time, the wider Transition Plan, in which we play a pivotal role, was being driven. As Gamestec has evolved into a truly digital business, so we have reshaped our engagement with customers and the ways in which the operational team engages and interacts with the other elements across the Group.”
Q: Powerful statements, but in terms of meaningful actions, how have these admirable theories actually been put into effective practice?
Huw Lewis: “In 2018, we established a dedicated LBO Service Team. Midway through the year, the volume of self-service betting terminals we service across the LBO sector was doubled. This new business literally came on stream overnight, so the challenge was huge. But with every challenge comes opportunity and that was exactly how we approached it. We already had a dedicated multi-site team in place, so we knew that a more specific approach would create greater focus. By supporting this team with better information and better equipment at every opportunity, we now deliver a significantly improved customer experience. Within our Gamestec Assist Call Centre, we implemented an agile dashboard for LBO customers, and, for the first time, we were able to study live data and use this to immediately improve performance, rather than waiting until the following day to see service delivery metrics. The impact upon SLA performance was both immediate and dramatic and we have now adopted exactly the same approach across all sectors with similarly positive results.”
Q: What, in your opinion, were the main catalysts that prompted this need for change?
Huw Lewis: “The proliferation of digital gaming in the pub sector has been a primary facilitator for us. Early on, Gamestec identified that a connected estate would deliver significant benefits for our customers and for ourselves, both commercially and operationally. The creation of a dedicated team within our service structure ensured absolute focus on delivering the levels of connectivity required to realise these benefits. Having now grown our digital estate to a point where it makes up the greater part of our total Cat C holding, and with the majority of those machines connected, we are in a position where customers already benefit from rapid remote deployment of new content and this capability has a clear and immediate impact on our customers’ cashbox performance. The second major catalyst for change was currency changes. When the new £20 polymer note is released early next year, we will update the firmware on coin mechanisms across the bulk of our estate remotely. We did not have this capability when the new pound coin and £10 polymer notes were released in 2018, but the learning points applied from those exercises have been incredible.”
Q: This has obviously been a challenging year-and-a-half, so how have these radical changes in approach been received by the wider team, and the customers?
Huw Lewis: “Each challenge that we have overcome has resulted in a huge increase in confidence, and also in a collective desire to seek out the next opportunity to add value. The pace of improvement experienced over the past 18 months has re-enforced a determination across the senior operations team, to not only embrace change, but to actively seek it out. We are in the games business, and content is obviously ‘king’ in the minds of players, but the operational benefits of this connected estate go far beyond more efficient deployment of content. Our customer contact centre, Gamestec Assist, now includes a second line support team who, thanks to connectivity, are now resolving a significant number of service calls at first contact with the customer. This is another massive ‘Win-Win’. Our customers benefit from swifter resolution, Improved machine uptimes and so increased cashboxes. And we become even more efficient and effective within our field service teams and so a more appealing and dependable business partner.”
Q: So, as the head of this vast team, how have you managed to elevate the operations function above its conventionally perceived level of ‘fire-fighting’?
Huw Lewis: “One of my earliest lessons in the role was that while I had a team of experienced and creative individuals at my disposal, one of the greatest challenges was to extract the maximum benefit from the ideas they generate whilst managing the sheer intensity of day-to-day operations. My solution was to separate the two aspects out by creating a dedicated ‘Service Improvement’ role, with the clear remit to turn strategy into action. Unencumbered by daily ‘business-as-usual’ activities, this function now drives the full delivery of strategic initiatives and projects, designed to develop and optimise operational activity. The results speak for themselves; it is clear for all to see that a more efficient and focused operation is now supporting increased revenues and greatly improved customer relationships. Maintaining this equitable approach is central to our ongoing success and I would like to think that we are now seen as good people to do business with, in every sense.”
Q: Speaking of people, ours is always described as a ‘people’ business. To what extent is this the case within the vast organisation of which Gamestec is part?
Huw Lewis: “It’s 100% the case, we are a service business and as such our people are everything. We have been able to use technology as a fantastic enabler, but every single initiative we have implemented has been underpinned by an engaged and motivated workforce. Our people are better equipped than ever to deliver on the strategic objectives. Having this clear strategy has led to clear and communicable intent and we have made great use of new methods of communication, introducing eLearning for field-based staff and enabling live communication forums to share best practice and ensure rapid identification of issues. Our people understand what we aim to achieve and are now fully engaged in the company’s wider goals.”
Q: And the final word…?
Huw Lewis: “The evolution of operations within Gamestec has been brutally intense and has happened at a relentless pace. But I have no intention of allowing it to slow down. The entire team now has a relentless discomfort with the ‘status quo’ and a huge appetite for identifying the next opportunity to improve and continue driving our business forward. The ‘buzz’ about the place is amazing and who doesn’t look forward to going to work in the morning when you have that?”