Gaming Support is Like Hosting the World’s Biggest Party


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Game developer and publisher iWin likens its player service and support to being the host of a 24/7 party, where you need to make sure all the guests have good directions, are impressed with the venue and the service, and that there are no gate crashers or annoying folks ruining everyone’s good time. Markus Taylor and Ryan James, iWin’s Director of Customer Support and Community Engagement expert respectively, and Parature’s Chairman and Co-founder Duke Chung share seven tips for serving even the most demanding community of players. Meet Parature at GDC 2013, March 27 – 29 in San Francisco, to learn more about gaming support.

Hosting a party in multiple rooms with thousands of guests every single day is no light undertaking. You have to be prepared – like Martha Stewart prepared, only way more tech savvy and always on. For most game developers, your community starts out like an impromptu neighborhood potluck. But you quickly learn a lot from your guests on what they value in terms of service and you use the best tips to keep them coming back. Here’s what iWin and Parature have learned from their collective experience in both gaming and online customer service.

1. Put organizers at the door to keep things moving. When iWin first started out with its service offering, it was using what amounted to a glorified email system to answer all of its player support requests – but that was before the rapid rise of social and mobile which changed everything. The company quickly had to adapt, given the massive player numbers it hosted on its key franchise titles including Jewel Quest Mysteries, Mah Jong Quest and JoJo’s Fashion Show, as well as its major social platform games such as Family Feud and Deal or No Deal.

In the face of a quickly growing games list, each with its own set of unique players, iWin had to institute a way to ease the huge backup of those who were asking for support or simply asking questions – and organize and efficiently route all these requests to keep things moving. An online support portal anchored by a rules-based ticketing system gave the company the means to efficiently organize and deliver service to a massive number of guests utilizing a small support staff. Providing a self-serve knowledgebase at the entry point for service and support also helped with crowd control. iWin effectively doubled its subscriber numbers, but only had to make minor staffing adjustments to maintain its level of service.

2. Welcome everyone and make them feel comfortable. With social, iPhone, Android, downloadable, retail, Nintendo DS and online multiplayer games, multi-channel player service and support is a huge deal for iWin. “For players, quickly getting their support question answered and getting back to the game is their main goal,” says Parature’s Duke Chung. “You have to empower customers and players with the ability to easily reach you through whichever channel is most convenient for them on whichever platform they’re playing – that could be an online support site, Facebook, Twitter or what have you.

“One of the most important pieces of advice is to make sure that if you offer or add a service channel, that you maintain responsive service there, ” says Chung. “Not answering customers or players on email, online or others channels that you’ve offered is a huge turn-off – and will drive players to angrily complain on social media and other public venues because they’re having trouble contacting you. What other players say on social media can have a huge effect on a game’s reputation and popularity.”

3. Initiate a conversation. If you’ve developed a great game, players will quickly get invested in it. Initiate communication and conversation, whether it’s about a new game, a change in a current game or a support alert, advises Chung. “Proactively communicating with players on the channels they use most and through blog posts, e-newsletters and other venues will head off at the pass a lot of service and support questions, as well as comments and tweets from those constant complainers that can bring everyone’s game excitement and enjoyment level down.”

Adds iWin’s Ryan James, “Sometimes the quiet guy in the room is the one with the most interesting thing to say – and personal experience shows that the loudest voices aren’t always the VIPs.”

4. Invite others to join in. Inviting and promoting conversations from players can also be fantastic tool if managed correctly. Customer questions and comments posted on social media and in forums can lead to new ideas and improvements in games. “Longtime players often answer game and support questions that help out our support staff,” says iWin Director of Customer Support, Markus Taylor. “Those referential authorities define our various communities and sometimes these gracious guests help to pick the proverbial napkins up off the floor.”

In addition, customer comments or tweets can also serve as the canary in the coal mine, alerting support staff and developers to problems as they arise and before they become an issue for players on a large scale. Even complaints, while sometimes difficult to hear, can be beneficial in helping to improve service, support or the game overall.

As a good host, it’s incredibly important that companies remain interested listeners and positively participate and respond. It’s all a part of maintaining loyalty and overall satisfaction, which ultimately builds and shapes your reputation among gamers and your industry peers.

5. Provide terrific service. The audacious goals iWin has set for its support is that it be accessible, prompt and timely, providing information which is clearly stated, relevant and thorough – and most importantly, empathetic and relatable. There should be no roped off areas at the party in terms of providing service and support information that can benefit everyone.

Notes Taylor about individual support, “When we are summoned by guests for individual attention, there are some general practices which are directly applicable to our goals. Acknowledging the request early and often is crucial to prevent multiple and increasingly hostile contacts.

“The server who makes eye contact and acknowledges players’ requests is far more effective at keeping a happy atmosphere at the fete than one who strives to avert his eyes from guests until the shift is over. If we can’t provide an immediate and thorough answer that solves a question or concern, maintaining personal contact throughout the support process lets the player know that they aren’t being given the cold shoulder.”

It should come as no surprise for gaming companies that the most critical component of a great support experience is the fidelity of communication between the agent and user. While response time is an important barometer of successful handling, it’s not nearly as important to users as the quality of the dialogue.

For this reason, the process of information gathering at iWin begins at the moment contact is initiated. The goal is to ask the right questions at the beginning, even before an agent enters the conversation. Providing options for users to pinpoint their pain points with a few short clicks can capture and define root issues and gauge the severity of the concern. Additionally, free text fields provide a more qualitative supporting version of other information collected and allow agents with finely tuned antennae to pick up on nuances of a particular problem that might otherwise be missed.

Once direct contact is initiated, iWin implements a fairly extensive routing process that evaluates the user identity, the specific nature of their concern and its related dependencies and conditionals for assignment, either to queue or agent. And while auto-responders are a great time saver for some issues affecting players en masse, says James, “We prefer to have a well-trained set of eyes validating any response sent. After all, a good host doesn’t just shout out that dinner is served. They should employ a responsive catering staff with watchful eyes and a lot of tools tucked inside their jackets to handle unique situations.”

In the realm of social media, iWin utilizes various means of keeping its customers engaged and informed. Through constant monitoring of the social games’ Facebook walls via its Robert Delaware persona (created for the purposes of user interaction and to maintain the anonymity of CSRs), iWin is able to keep the walls clear of any spam, offensive language and combative users, while at the same time keeping users engaged via trivia contests, informing players of new features, and interacting with individual customers about issues they are experiencing.

Another vital aspect of enhancing customer interaction is automatic filtering of objectionable content or language that allows iWin’s support staff more time to meaningfully interact with its customers. It’s like the party bouncer that pulls out hecklers before anyone else becomes aware of the annoyance. A support tab on their Facebook page also gives iWin the ability to automatically generate support tickets from social media posts based on keywords and thereby quickly react to any issues that may arise.

6. Ensure everyone leaves happy. While not all guests are terribly polite, most are and just want to come and go quietly without telling you about their experience unless asked. iWin makes extensive use of surveys to gauge individual and overall service and support on a dashboard level, polling factors such as availability of self-service information, the ease of making contact with our support team, quality of support by issue type (Are users with billing questions as satisfied with their support experience as those with technical concerns?), user perception of response time, and the company’s thoroughness in addressing concerns in a single pass.

7. Always be thinking about how you can make the next party even better. “For us there isn’t one next big thing,” says Taylor, “but there are many different things that will continue to raise the bar.

“Certainly we’ll keep an eye out on emerging technologies and practices which will enable us to scale appropriately to our existing services – and the never ending rollout of new games in development. But all development must correctly answer a fundamental question which applies to the products themselves: ‘Is it relevant to our audience, and does it bring us closer to satiating their interests?’

“For us, customer service is a forward-leaning posture with an emphasis on actively listening and responding to those guests who have chosen to attend our party. So far, it’s been a legendary event that by word-of-mouth keeps growing.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


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