What Game Communities Really Want From Player Support, and Why it Matters – Peter Gerson, Keywords Studios

This is a guest post from Peter Gerson, senior manager player support solutions at Keywords Studios.

Launching your game has taken huge commitment and lot’s of hard work. Now that it is “live,” players are happy and are spreading the word. However, as with any game launch, issues can happen, and support incidents may increase. Planning and building your player support service is a critical element of your player acquisition and retention strategy. Having great player support that can scale, will not only prevent players from churning, but it will help your community and game grow.

Half your players will likely switch to a competitor’s game after one instance of a poor player experience according to current research. If your support team cannot deal with increasing inquiries, it’s time to scale. Here are 6 things to think about, that will help you achieve this.

  1. Strategy

It is always best to strategize about customer support as part of the overall player experience, as early as possible in the game development cycle.   This will definitely make life a lot easier in setting up your team. Customer support is not rocket science, but it does require some planning. A simple document outlining your player support vision and goals will ensure that you achieve the service you want to deliver, in line with your game or brand’s vision and goals. 

When setting out these goals, remember that player satisfaction and reduced wait time should always be the main considerations in any good player support system. Many consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide a great customer experience. As a general rule, according to Zendesk, 12 hours is a good first response time for email, two hours or less for social media, and an hour or less for chat.

Other goals and guidelines you may wish to consider include reduced costs, agent happiness, demonstrating empathy and brand awareness/loyalty, among others.

The final scope of your strategy document will help to determine if you keep the service in-house or need to outsource with a BPO provider. Having a strategy will set clear guidelines either way.

  1. Self Service

A knowledge base is not going to be enough as your volume grows. It makes sense to look at more advanced ways to let customers self-solve their issues. Look at your top 10 reasons players reach out to you and determine what could be solved with self-service without negatively impacting the player experience. Like using

  • FAQ’s
  • Automating simple processes
  • Bots
  • Video tutorials

It will be key that  the customer always has the option to easily switch to a “live” agent to contact you if they prefer to get help from a human.

  1. Reporting

Basic reports showing volumes and service levels are a good starting point, but as you grow you want to make sure to get more comprehensive and relevant reports and analytical feedback. 

Metrics like First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Contacts Per Case (CPC) are important indicators you want to report on. Also, the ability to spot new issues early in the process ensures that you can act and prevent (or at least reduce) issues and volume spikes. 

Combining data from your ticketing system with data from other systems will give you more insights and will allow you to translate the effect of customer service issues to other departments. 

Using reporting tools like Tableau or Power BI to create relevant dashboards will help visualize these insights.

  1. Support channels

As you are growing, you might want to consider opening additional support channels. What is important is that you adapt the channels to the demographics of your players. 

This is especially true for studios with worldwide audiences. In a customer service benchmark report by Netomi, 3,000 gaming companies from 75 countries with 43 native languages were surveyed to determine their player support capabilities.  The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region performs the best, with an average response time of 10.3 hours, while companies in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regions responded in 2.4 days, on average. 

It’s clear that Player Support between regions can vary drastically, especially as each market may demand different communication channels, such as Twitter in the US versus WeChat in China. 

Therefore, when you start with Player Support, it may be more streamlined to use email or a web-form to begin with. This approach is easily accessible by most demographics. 

Whichever communication tools you use, make sure it is always clear to the consumer how to get in touch. Only 53% of gaming companies worldwide have a readily accessible email address, and of those, 76% ignore a simple customer service email asking for a game recommendation.

It’s therefore vital to strengthen this first point of contact, ensuring player requests and expectations are being met, before branching out into additional channels.

Now is the time to determine if an omnichannel strategy is needed. If you do choose an omnichannel strategy, make sure that you can manage interactions in one single tool, players tend to switch channels, and nothing is more frustrating to them than having to repeat their issue repeatedly.

  1. Staffing

Self-service will absorb some of the incident  volumes, but you may have to grow your support capability. This can be triggered by growth of your game, unplanned volume spikes and also by geographical expansion (additional time zones and/or languages). 

This is usually a good point to determine whether you manage this expansion in-house, or look to outsource, even if it is only a part of your team. While outsourcing can be a good option, it requires planning. Finding a partner that becomes an extension to your team will be challenging. 

The next challenge is, ensuring your support structures can support and work with an external team. Think about things like access to platforms (ticketing systems), on-boarding, training, procedures, security, privacy and partner management. 

  1. Invest in Training

Adding new agents to the team shouldn’t mean a drop in customer service standards. When canvassed, more than half of  new agents were complaining they need better training to do their jobs well. To avoid this happening to your team, you want player support quality to stay high even when adding new people.

Set goals so you’ll know when onboarding is successful. Onboarding goals should include:

  • In-depth product knowledge. Do they know the game well? Can they diagnose and fix common problems?
  • Handling requests. Do they know how to prioritize? Do they understand how to escalate when things get sticky?
  • Customer service best practices. Do they understand empathy and active listening? Do they know how to respond on social media and other public platforms?
  • Brand values. Do they know your brand values? Do they bring those into their customer service interactions?

To maintain quality service delivery, keep your onboarding process consistent by ensuring all new hires get the same information and training. 

It’s also important to ensure you have an up-to-date playbook. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is the rule book of your customer services team. The SOP gives your team established rules and procedures to follow and covers all daily activities.

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