Training operations on esports, the ‘effective and efficient’ way

TAGs: Editorial, eSports, Rocket Station, Romil Hombrebueno

Does anyone else remember sports? They were these games, often involving balls, that grown adults would play, and so many of us would gain enjoyment from them by watching and betting on them. Whole gambling operations would revolve around providing a service for customers to do exactly that.

training-operations-on-esports-the-effective-and-efficient-wayUnfortunately, most sports ended quite some time ago, but those same operators have ingeniously turned to alternatives for their customers to bet on. While zanier options, like betting on the weather and marbles, have taken plenty of the spot light, esports has started to really prove itself as an opportunity for action.

I can tell you from experience though, when you gear your operation around basketball and various types of football, suddenly expecting staff to be knowledgeable about what was once a niche product like esports can be challenging. Sure, the basic concepts of the betting mechanics and odds involved don’t change much, but running a superior shop means having agents who can speak to their customer about the product being offered.

So right about now, some operations might be thinking about giving their agents a crash course, or a refresher, to their agents in esports. To best understand how to do that, I reached out to Romil Hombrebueno, Director of Philippine Operations at Rocket Station, a virtual business processing outsourcing firm, and was a former colleague of mine in gambling operations.

Developing your esports training material

First, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do any kind of training. Simply pushing agents to read up on the topic during their downtime won’t do it. “In my more than 10 years of experience in the field of training, including my experiences as a business consultant, the most common pitfall that I’ve observed is when companies try to take a short-cut in the process without going through the fundamentals,” he told me. “These are steps such as; having a thorough Training Needs Analysis (TNA), understanding the target audience prior to development of the program, allowing the facilitator to have a few test runs prior to the first training class, and having a calibrated plan in place post training in operations. Never sacrifice effectiveness for efficiency. These two things always have to coincide with each other. A good training curriculum always has to be both effective and efficient.”

But with operators scrambling to make up the handle they had just a few weeks ago, time is of the essence. I asked Hombrebueno how training developers could get something out more quickly. “Attending to short deadlines is almost more normal than having more than enough time to work on a project,” he responded. “With that being said, my personal strategy is to never change the approach in the creation of effective training. In shorter timelines, this is where an efficient leader comes into play. You’d then need to be able to divide the tasks to specific team members based on their specialty in order to reach the same goal in a short period of time. This is also why having an actual training team, composed of both facilitators and training developers, is a good investment in any company regardless of industry type.”

Training esports for those who know it, and those who don’t

Many operators likely have the benefit of a younger frontline staff, who might be knowledgeable with esports products like DOTA, League of Legends and Fortnite already, but others might have staff that are clueless about these games. This is important to take into account. “As with any kind of training curriculum, you first need to understand the demographics of the trainees you’re going to facilitate the training with,” Hombrebueno said. “Then you’ll have to find the right balance between the need of your trainees, and the kind of knowledge you need to deliver to them. Without the consideration of the target audience, and diving too deep and specific about eSports; I’d say that the large part curriculum would have to focus on practical training involving the trainees to actually play what they have to support. It goes without saying that you can’t support what you don’t understand.  When we created training for online poker, for example, we equip our trainers with actual poker chips and cards and have small tournaments inside the training room.”

As a millennial myself, I can tell you that it’s wrong to generalize that any age group or generation is guaranteed to know this stuff, because I certainly didn’t know DOTA before this week, while I know Gen-X’ers who play it all the time.  “In this day and age, what we consider as the older generation would still have a good number who belong to those who have been exposed to computer games during their young age,” he told me “The same thing goes with the people who belong to the younger age group. Some of them may have zero knowledge or exposure to eSports. Hence, an effective facilitator never bases his judgment on age, they base it on day-to-day or hour-by-hour observation during the course of the training program. Then they use that observation to adjust their approach as necessary.”

The bottom line here is, make sure you know your agents and training teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and train to that. “Existing knowledge can either help make or break your onboarding process. This is where investing in a good training team becomes important.”

Making the training stick

One of the lessons I learned from my time in operations is, if you train someone on material that they might only use once in a blue moon, they’ll forget it by the time they need it. The training team won’t always be there to answer questions, so employing the whole organization to reinforce lessons is important.

“I always tell my trainees that ‘you only learn 30% of the knowledge you need in training, the rest of the 70% is learned through constant practice in operations,’ Hombrebueno said. “A good follow-through is as important as an effective training program. This is why the partnership between Operations and Training needs to be established before the actual training goes live. Depending on the performance of the newly trained team members, support staff can perform refresher courses, provide job aids, and most especially conduct coaching sessions. I personally would recommend bringing the same trainer back every now and then to conduct huddle sessions or refresher courses to the newly trained team members.”

Although I jest that sports is gone, we know it will be back soon enough. With that well in mind, many agents might not take esports training to heart, brushing it off as a fad. That’s not good in the moment, and it’s even worse for the potential growth an operation could see with esports long term. “Establishing credibility also comes into play,” Hombrebueno said. “Based on the demographics of your trainees, you can establish the credibility of training a topic like eSports by using references such as people of influence who are in the same industry, testimonials from people from the same demographic as your trainees, and even sharing numbers that relate to the value of that industry as it stands.”

Our training team just isn’t equipped to do this

For a variety of reasons, some operations just won’t be ready to upskill their agents on esports right now. Maybe they are small, new firms focused on the basics, or maybe their training team is just too swamped to focus on a specific product.

Never forget that outsourcing is always an option. At our old outfit, when we needed to quickly upskill agents on non-gambling skills, like sales for example, we would sometimes bring in outside help to get it done. It’s not necessarily a long term solution, but it solves an important need right now.

Thankfully, Hombrebueno and Rocket Station can help with this kind of need. “Rocket Station has invested in building both a strong Process Development and Training Development team,” he shared. “All our clients go through a thorough Process Mapping meeting as soon as they begin their partnership with us. What this allows us to do is have an understanding of the client’s business which will ultimately help our Process Development team to map-out and document their business approach and where they need support. This will then lead to the creation of training materials that can either be self-paced online courses, or programs that would require an actual facilitator to be present.”

Even if you’re not looking to train agents for esports long term, Rocket Station has a short term solution for you. “As a virtual staffing company, Rocket Station also provides our clients with the chance to hire people to support their business virtually. This includes, but not limited to, call center agents who can do both technical and customer service support. As we always say, our virtual team can do anything and everything that can be done in front of a computer or a telephone. You can learn more at our website.”

We’ve been waiting forever for esports to step into its promised role as the future of sports betting. Every single conference has had some kind of talk about how we just need to wait a few more years for esports bettors to find iGaming. Well, we probably never would have guessed a pandemic would have been the motivating factor, but we’re here, and we might as well make the best of it. Get your operations geared for esports, and take advantage.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of