Saturday October 8, 2011 : Customer service confusion makes the case for better CSR training
One of the hot button issues among online poker players has always been the possibility that website operators or software providers are using bots (robotic software play) to increase site player liquidity; an unfair practice, many feel.
These sensitivities surfaced again this week when poker players at William Hill and Paddy Poker on the iPoker network were mistakenly informed by customer service reps that "house bots" were in use.
Although both Paddy Power and William Hill were quick to explain the unintended misinformation on major message boards like twoplustwo, the incidents are perhaps a timely reminder of how important it is for operators to properly train and brief their online customer service representatives, and ensure that T&Cs are crystal clear and unambiguous.
Two live help customer service reps – one on the German chat service of Will Hill and the other in English at Paddy Power – reportedly "confirmed" that house bots were in use when players enquired about a suspect bot player using the handle “bot771107” whilst playing on MTTs.
The situation was exacerbated when players pointed to what turned out to be an ambiguous T&C at Will Hill (since corrected) that suggested to them that house bots were deployed by the operator, asserting: “…in games offered via the Website which benefit from more players or greater liquidity, the site may deploy electronic players (known as robots, and whose usernames will be ‘bot’) who are pre-programmed to play and join in with the game.”
Taking to the twoplustwo message board at http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showpost.php?p=29125554&postcount=218 as the week ended, the verified William Hill representative posted:
"We would like to take this opportunity to publish the network's policy and stance on automated "bots" being used on iPoker.
"We are sorry that it took us a while to compile the statement as we had to put a focus on our investigations first.
"Our policy is clear:
"1. A poker account is to be used exclusively by the registered account holder and the use of any automated "bots" is prohibited.
"2. In all cases where iPoker security department is satisfied that an account is being used in any other way than by the sole registered account holder the account is closed.
"3. This is done in every case regardless of how much rake the account has contributed, and forum posts that suggest iPoker ignores "bots" because of the rake they generate are very much wide of the mark.
"The network's security department regularly checks suspicious accounts at all stake levels and is freezing accounts for failing our "bot" testing procedures, as well as taking firm measures towards affiliates of such "bots" rings.
"The integrity of the network is our highest priority and it is essential that players know they are in a secure environment. We will always investigate any account that we suspect of using "bots" and if the members of the iPoker network have concerns over particular accounts we request to receive these concerns and inquiries for investigation.
"With regards to "bot771107" we can categorically state that the account is not a "house bot". iPoker, nor William Hill, do not and never have used house bots. The account in question is not a William Hill [house] player.
"With reference to the William Hill terms and conditions, the confusion has been caused due to their Terms & Conditions for skill games allowing "bot" players not being explicit. They have now rectified this."
Some players picked up on the T&C confusion, and clarified that the terms and conditions specific to poker room activity at all iPoker sites explicitly prohibits the use of bots.
The Paddy Power response was equally unequivocal that house bots are not used, with a spokesman pointing out: “We have information on our own players’ behaviour and activity and we pass suspicious activity/players on to iPoker security for further investigation.
“We feel extremely strongly that bots are not good for a network, and would be particularly bad for the experience of the kind of recreational players that we acquire on our site. To this end, we give iPoker as much help as we can in passing on reports, information and suspicious player behaviour."
The clarifications may explain the corporate confusion in this incident, but many players are still concerned at the use of bots – some by other players – and will remain suspicious and on the lookout for these questionable robotic opponents.