Our marketing director, Luke Stapley, was asked at a Chinese online event to talk about bringing quality customer service to your game company before selling your game to the western market. He’s provided us the video of the talk and written out what he spoke on in more detail.
When we talk about the game industry, we can think of many giant companies that have been in hot water for their issues in customer service. As a business that directly talks with its customers compared to more traditional sectors of the entertainment industry, it becomes apparent to many that the game industry needs to take care of both the production of the game as well as the maintaining quality
Creating quality and satisfactory customer service in the game industry is very important for the game’s future as there are many examples and research done on customer service and its impact.
You can see that the sizable weight of finding new customers far exceeds the cost of keeping high-quality customers that will bring future opportunities for more money. The key is keeping everyone who is contributing positively to your game satisfied with their experiences and purchases. That’s why good customer service is needed.
Why have Customer Service?
Whenever I think of a game company, I think of a bustling restaurant. There are people in the back “cooking” and preparing the items they’ll be giving to the customer, and the front who share these “dishes” to the customers who “consume” it, review your work, and pay for what they “consumed.”
The back of the house is the developers, producers, and c-level people. They are the ones whom most people may never know about (though you should, they have their names in the credits of games) and look to improve products or make a new one. The front of the house comprises the marketing team, customer service, and the “head chef” who sometimes walks around talking to customers, giving the restaurant some star appeal.
If you’ve seen any of the shows about a poorly run restaurant, you’ll notice that not only does the host know there are issues at the restaurant, but the customers are very vocal about it as well. Customer service is this group that customers go to when there are issues with their orders, they are upset about the look or quality of the products, and they are the people customers will be interacting with the most.
At some small restaurants, you may get your food and be told to move on, having very little chance to show your issues, concerns, or requests for your money returned. But, you’ll see that with very high-end establishments, there are standards on what to say, do, and act upon with many of the situations they encounter with customers.
Because of this, they can keep customers happy, coming back for more, and even recommending a place for their service and the food. Good customer service in all businesses helps alleviate the issues you’d face while helping you research customers’ issues with your product. This enables you to find ways to improve, redesign, and omit items you sell equally or better than any data you receive in your analytics.
What makes great customer service?
Creating customer service for a growing game company can be difficult as sometimes it becomes an added job to the CEO, developer, or someone else in the company. But as a company grows, game companies find that they require a dedicated Customer Service leader that can answer all incoming issues.
So finding customer-centric people who can take criticism and build actual data can be researched and shared with the developers. As the team grows, having leadership will be necessary, especially if you go to a 24/7 customer service operation.
The primary skills in customer service come from how they deal with customers. There are two ways this happens and can be shaped by the audience you are working with and their best practices of communication:
|Public Customer Service||Private Customer Service|
Discord or Chat Rooms
Comment sections of Blogs
Contact forms on the website
Chat (Chatbot or Live)
Face to Face
With public customer service, it’s essential to know that what you say and do will be remembered and archived by customers. So responses need to be very direct, informative, and act as the company’s voice.
Private customer service is equally as professional but gives you a chance to talk in a more relaxed environment, giving you more insight from a player about the issues they have in the game. When these issues require monetary refunds or reparations for issues that harmed them, you will need to stay extremely professional.
What Should I Prepare With Customer Service
If you have excellent personnel with empathy, understanding of the games and company, and good communicative skills, it’s time you add tools to help provide better service, better knowledge of your customer, and analytics.
These tools can either come as “self-help” for customers, “direct-help” for customers, or “operational support” for your team. Each one helps keep the workflow more manageable, allowing your team to be smaller and more efficient.
These tools give your customers all the information they may need without having to contact you directly. This can be website FAQ, knowledge base in the game or website or wiki.
Depending on the size and quality of your team, you may have the ability to talk to customers directly. The easiest and cost-effective are forms inside the website and email. Both are easy to respond to with “canned answers” written previously and copied and pasted to simple issues. The next level being direct chat, either by chat rooms or phone calls. These help to give personable responses and more professionalism towards your company.
When you hire a new customer service person, there should be tools to get them quickly into their roles. Having documentation for training purposes is an essential item. This gives them time to read, understand and reference objects in the game or company standards when talking with customers directly. The more thorough the training, the easier it is to have them help customers
Operational support also includes training on the internal operational tools of each game. Each game should have a “support” tool that provides information to help find issues, how these issues occurred, and ways to create remedies. This could be a history of where the player was, their inventory over a period of time, location of goods if they were lost or stolen from hacking, and also a place that
Also, keeping track of the issues your team worked on, how long it took to complete a task, and what the customer service representative did helps improve the team by finding weak points and delivering KPIs that can be shared with upper management.
What should I do if things go wrong?
The biggest challenge is that the game will have problems, people will have constructive criticism or real issues in the game, and you’ll be the one to hear it first from gamers. That’s great in some ways because you’ll be the one thanked when you solve it, but it’s also terrible because you get some or all of the blame for the company’s issues.
When issues arise, you need to have a plan that will give the player a satisfactory result that both them and the company can approve of and have some way to fix the issue, so others don’t come to customer service with the same problems. There will always be unreasonable people, and there needs to be a reminder to the customer service staff that it’s ok to say no to the customer if their demands far exceed the needs or hurt the overall business. But this can be done professionally.
For those who are reasonable, you will need to have protocols setup for these items. One example that I use is having tiered apology gifts. These items have minimal effect on the game’s economy but are seen as a thank you to the customers. These can include in-game currency, items purchased with in-game currency, or small items of one-time use. These show your support for the customer coming for help and that their desire to help the game is positive.
For companies, it’s highly recommended to take issues that have a high customer service ticket amount to fix it quickly. A broken game is much worse than a game that doesn’t have enough things to do. So make sure companies have protocols to keep some development members setup for bug fixes or have more time set out for bug squashing.
As I have mentioned in my talk, I’ve done customer support for the biggest companies in the game industry, and they have very advanced customer service support groups. If you want to make money these companies are currently making; you need to either emulate or improve upon their work. Being complicit in your customer service or having none at one company I worked with can lead to massive money problems for the future and losses of high spend gamers, ending long-tail profitability of your game.