The video game industry has grown exponentially over the past 30 years; with that comes a multitude of new challenges and debate on how to handle new emerging areas within the industry.
One of these key areas is Customer Support; and how companies worldwide rise up to the challenge of providing a world-class customer support service can be the factor that sets them apart from the rest.
Customer Support can sometimes go unnoticed: “In many cases, studios put so much thought and care into development, design and the all-important launch date that (regardless of how amazing the team is) some things sometimes slip through the cracks.
"Customer support, in the early days of a game’s life especially, has the potential to be one such area which needs that little bit of extra love and attention.”
Customer support has come to be a more and more visible part of the video game experience - especially as we become more aware both globally and socially through our interactions with the internet and social media channels.
One look at a Twitter feed for any Internet, electricity, gas or public transport provider will show you just how crucial it is to keep on top of things - to be fast, helpful, to-the-point, and friendly in every interaction.
Sometimes one poor interaction can off-set months of hard work, making it all the more important for regular staff training exercises and determining of customer support best practices to be integrated on every level of your business.
Fortunately, this has also become an almost self-sustaining aspect of the business, as the life of a game and its development no longer stops the moment a game has shipped.
In a world where updates, online functionality, and DLC all require constant attentiveness, creative and confident customer support becomes paramount.
Particularly with mobile gaming and the F2P market, focus has shifted to user retention rate, i.e. keeping the player satisfied and playing the game for longer.
“As gamers ourselves, we can very easily empathise with the needs and feelings of the players. Our expertise in the field often allows us to anticipate problems before they ever become an issue for players, including changes in-game”, said Valentin Covilar, Head of CS Operations at MoGi Group on the growing importance of a strong customer support facility.
“Staying close to the game and to gamers is the only way to stay in touch with the customer base.”
Customer support for video games can often be a global challenge, not just a local one, as MoGi Customer Service, Mark, outlines: “I could be playing an online MMO at 3am (try not to judge me) and end up stuck in a wall.
"If my only way of resolving this issue is to contact a member of the support team then it can become a hazard to play if they keep to regular office hours that are outside my locale. A reliable network of teams operating in my relative hours of play is a really attractive prospect.”
Back in 2012, Sam Boonin of Zendesk spoke about two of the largest issues facing customer support: “[The first] is the massive scale of support incidents that gaming companies experience, as more and more consumers play their games on a daily basis […] The second challenge is the gamer’s real-time expectations. If they have a support issue, they expect an immediate resolution.”
From my own experience working in customer support on several games, players sometimes want me to have an intimate knowledge of the game in question, or at least be able to provide a satisfactory response to their inquiries, and more often than not they expect me to be able to respond back within a short timeframe.
When we think about what CS entails, we can break it down into several areas:
- Empathy - Direct interactions with players; giving a personal touch to their inquiries, rather than providing responses that feel cold or automated.
- Adaptability - Is there anything we can do to help the player past our terms/rules set in place?
- Turning a negative into positive - Heated players are passionate players! Finding the right wording to let players know we are on their side is sometimes more important than the ability to resolve their issue!
- Responsibility - Knowing when to admit an issue originates from our end and being able to handle the situation accordingly.
Another challenge facing companies today is multi-language support, and having the right team in place to tackle each arising issue. Context is key, simply throwing a question written in German into Google translate is not acceptable.
This also extends to countries speaking the same language. Knowledge of the local ethos and cultural sensitivity adds an extra level of complexity and a need for care when interacting with players - what may amuse a player in one country could greatly offend a player from another - even if they are speaking the same language!
Coming from a background in retail originally, I have always held firm the motto “put the customer at the heart of everything you do”, and making sure when I have reached the end of my journey with that customer that they can leave satisfied that I did everything within my power to help them.
And as the industry continues to grow, with a visible growth in mobile games year on year, it is paramount that companies look to invest in their customer support to keep up with demand.