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Austin Game Conference 2006 in Depth 21

Posted by Zonk
from the retro-specting dept.
New games site OGX has up an overview of last week's Austin Game Conference. The piece touches on the big talks (Rob Pardo, Jon Landau, Vernor Vinge), and gives some informational tidbits about the always-interesting panel discussions. From the article: "Community was also a topic that was frequently the primary driver behind a panel, or as a secondary topic that rose up in relation to the topic at hand. Gordon Walton, Studio Director for Bioware Austin held a particularly radical presentation entitled 'Rethinking Service Offerings.' Walton noted that the player perspective about customer service amounted to 'No matter how we do service, we suck.' and questioned why companies spend energy on a perception based challenge that they have not been able to overcome. Walton's premise was that since the customer service infrastructure for a MMORPG eats the most revenue and generates less than favorable results, it may be entirely possible to cut customer service offerings down entirely to a set of automated tools and save the money spent designing for satisfied customers."
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Austin Game Conference 2006 in Depth

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  • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @11:58AM (#16105227)
    " it may be entirely possible to cut customer service offerings down entirely to a set of automated tools and save the money spent designing for satisfied customers."

    Customer service's job is to turn unsatisfied customers into satisfied customers. Since everyone will eventually have some issue they need customer service for, and most everyone hates automated systems, this sounds like a great way to guarantee failure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jack9 (11421)

      Customer service's job is to turn unsatisfied customers into satisfied customers.

      As a matter of fact, it isn't CSR's job to turn customers. I'm not sure what industry you are talking about, but this is about MMORPG CS. MMORPG Customer Service is about mitigating customer expectations. Outside of a cancellation call, a CSR is dealing with a satisfied MMORPG customer that has expectations outside of the norm or is dealing with an irregular event. This is what MMORPG CS data has shown. Saying reality is someth

      • by Aladrin (926209)
        A 'satisfied' customer has no need of 'customer service'. I suspect your definition of 'satisfied' is something like 'well, life sucks, you know, but that's the way it is, so I'm content' where the actual definition is "Filled with satisfaction; content: a very satisfied customer." http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=satisfie d [reference.com] If you are 'filled' with satisfaction, you cannot be more satisfied.

        The satisfied customer does not feel the need to have any issues solved. They do not call up customer serv
        • by Jack9 (11421)
          and the result of the study is that a more expensive human CSRs are just as inadequate as automated services. I disagree with your red-herring of defining "satisfaction". Unsatisfied customers are the norm, which means they are satisfied within the SINGLE RULE "are they still using the product/service", not some arbitrary abstract definition you dug up.
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday September 14, 2006 @12:06PM (#16105304) Homepage Journal
    "... since the customer service infrastructure for a MMORPG eats the most revenue and generates less than favorable results, it may be entirely possible to cut customer service offerings down entirely to a set of automated tools and save the money spent designing for satisfied customers."

    This sucks! When it comes to customer support for online games I am very enthusiastic about the human touch.

    The first MMOG I played, There, sported truly revolutionary customer support - players could summon a support technician to "physically" appear before them and help guide them through their issue. People could volunteer to be virtual caregivers to help those with more common and non-pressing issues. Talking to one of these individuals really made me feel like my business was appreciated.

    Guild Wars, with no monthly fees, has the best customer support of any software product I've ever owned. A human always gets back to me within 24 hours and their reply always contains personal assistance from a named and individually accountable person, accompanied by 5 automatically chosen "best fit" FAQ links that are suggested by some kind of algorithm (hit and miss). On more than one occasion they have thanked ME for bringing my issues to their attention, and thus, on several occasions I have taken the time to write back to express my great satisfaction with their business model.

    Conversely, I required technical support from Blizzard for an issue in WoW. I couldn't find a customer support link anywhere on their site. All I could find was a user forum. I went to the forum and attempted to ask a question but I was prompted to create an account first. I looked and looked for a link to create an account when I finally glanced in the corner to see that the logon server was completely offline [blogger.com]! My issue was eventually resolved by a friend that I conversed with over my cell phone at my additional expense. That's what you get for $15/m from Blizzard. That and slow-as-molasses Bittorrent P2P distribution of mandatory patches.

    I will not resubscribe to WoW due to Blizzard's atrocious service. However, I will very gladly and readily subscribe to ArenaNet and NCSoft games now that I see how dearly they appreciate my business and how important it is to them that I get the most out of my gaming experience at all times.
    • by BDZ (632292)

      I have to agree with the parent that the human touch in customer service is a big deal.

      Aside from a (hopefully) active group of developers and designers on the game's boards, customer service and support is the public face of the people/company running the game and taking your hard earned money each month.

      My main experience is with City of Heroes. In playing for about 10 months I only had a couple times in-game where I needed to contact support and deal with a GM and both were very positive and left me sati

      • Very well stated.

        There [there.com] knows its clientelle well and devised the perfect way to ensure people are nice to noobs - they created a "Noob Helper" skill that you can level up in! It simply checks the seniority of the person you're talking to and looks for keywords, and if you talk to new people long enough you gain experience in the skill. Gaining a level earns you free stuff like clothing and hair styles. Positive reciprocity is the way to go, not cutting costs on a percieved lost cause.
    • "people could volunteer to be virtual caregivers"

      A stupid ruling against AOL practically made this illegal. After said ruling, the owners of Ultima Online were sued for a very similar thing to what you describe. However, there is hope because I believe both entities were sued for providing some compensation but not treating them as employees. So, a new company could do it, but they couldn't compensate at all (I think all UO did was let the people play the game for free). Oh well, that's what you get in
  • Any tech support for an MMO could, in my opinion, be handled via message boards. Everything should be handled on the website. Not only would the community be supporting itself in some regards, but any official tech support team members could be easily added/replaced as needed. This also eliminates the need for any official tech support office, unless you wish to bring a couple in-house just to administrate the whole process.

    This does require a little more attention be paid to security, however. Not just sec

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