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Austin Game Conference 2006 in Depth

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | 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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The most powerful thing you can do (0, Offtopic)

heauxmeaux (869966) | more than 8 years ago | (#16104938)

Is place my nuts in your mouth and gargle

Re:The most powerful thing you can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105071)

You've come to the right place then, you should find more than enough Linux fags around here.

Oh, wait... gaming thread, forget I said anything.

Lick my ball sack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105215)

You will at least get salt if you do this.

Satisfied customers? (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#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:Satisfied customers? (2, Insightful)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 8 years ago | (#16106066)

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 something else (something about serve every customer or lose them), doesn't change it, nor is it justified.

Re:Satisfied customers? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#16106583)

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." [] 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 service to chat about how much fun they are having. They call up to have customer service fix a problem they are having, real or imagined. This includes 'expectations outside of the norm' and 'irregular event's.

If I buy a black toaster, and it arrives yellow... I call customer service.

If I buy a black toaster and the cord is 2 ft long and this displeases me and I think they should do something about it, despite the 10 inch tall letters on that ordering form stating this... I call customer service.

If I buy a black toaster and hate the 2 ft long cord and don't call customer service, this does -not- mean I am satisfied. Merely that I an unwilling to deal with the hassle of trying to get a better cord or my money back.

If I buy a black toaster and it's black and has a standard 4ft cord. I'm satisfied. I do not call customer service and tell them how satisfied I am.

Customer service for MMORPGs is no different. Just because they don't try the AOL 'you can't quit' crap doesn't mean it isn't customer service's job to do their best to satisfy this customer. (Who will now probably be both an ex-customer and a potential re-customer.)

If you are in the customer service industry and you honestly believe that customer service is not about satisfying customers, please quit your job and find something else to do.

Re:Satisfied customers? (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107968)

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.

Customer service is EVERYTHING (2, Interesting)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16105304)

"... 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 [] ! 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.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105422)

Yea QQ more that Bliz has 7 mil people to take of, and you aren't #1 on their list. It's ok, those of us that play wow don't give a shit that you won't be back, have fun in basement land playing your shitty mmo.

For more info, click on this link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105678)

Information [] . I would click it if I were you.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107853)

ArenaNet has 2.5 million customers to support and they don't demand a monthly fee.

WoW chokes $15/month from me and I'm not their number one priority? What kind of sucker are you?

The paying customer is ALWAYS #1 on the list. That's why I'm so impressed with AnenaNet's support. I bought the game for $40 and they've worked their asses off to keep me happy for about 14 months now. In that time you've paid Blizzard $190 so that you can upload patches to other paying customers, and you were locked out of the game until you were finished downloading 200MB patches at 10KB/s. THAT'S what kind of sucker you are.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105659)

Ah, I see. You must work for NCsoft. Bashing WoW only seems popular when other companies need attention!

In all seriousness, parent is trolling :/ I am sorry. I would believe he wasn't if it wasn't for the last 2 sentences. I mean you almost make good points before those last two, but you just seem like a shill and want to be cool by bashing Blizzard. So which of those two companies do you work for? NCsoft or Arenanet? Seeing as how both are doing horrible with their games compared to WoW, and WoW seems to be gaining more people then losing I call troll (you). Actually your trolling starts when you flat out lie about WoW support.

I've never had Blizzard take more then 24 hours to contact me (ingame), and you are full of crap about the customer service problem. You say you can't find a customer support link, yet looking at the MAIN PAGE and scrolling down on the left I see plenty of support links, and [] there it is. Blizzard is far from perfect, but don't spread FUD and lies about their support :p

By the way, that support page seems to work JUST FINE without being a subscriber, and um yes, you are not allowed to post on their forums unless you pay to play the game, they aren't the only company that does it. I am done looking at your Blizzard hate. Have a nice day at work making up more Blizzard FUD Sir. Whoever modded this trash up must work with you at NCsoft.

PS GuildWars is barely a MMOG and again, read up on subscriber base, Blizzard keeps people because they in fact do not suck at support.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107734)

Blizzard sucks ass. They are a shadow of their former selves. Now you have to pay them for the privilege of regular and unscheduled downtime, sending patches to other users, installing re-re-reissues of broken patches, waiting for over an hour to start a PVP game, and most off all, NONEXISTANT support. Lately the game has been stable for me but previously I had a terrible time getting anything to work.

I'm speaking from my own experience. I am not wrong, you are just a skeptical fanboy.

And for the record, Guild Wars is the second biggest MMORPG out there with over 1/3 WoW's population. Their support is incredible and I don't have to pay extra for anything.

In my opinion Blizzard has no respect for their subscribership. If you feel like you're getting your money's worth please give me your billing address so I can charge you the next time you connect to my bittorrent seeds.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16105702)

I find it humorous you support NCSoft's customer support. I recently picked up a series of trial keys at GenCon and I decided to try the games out. One of them was City of Heroes. I downloaded the application, but in order to sign in I had to create an account on their site. When you sign up, it is supposed to send you an email to activate your account.

All is well and good, except their email they sent contained no link or activation code. So, in the email it helpfully suggested if you have problems, send a request to (I believe) Well, 48 hours later, I got an automated reply saying "SUPPORT REQUEST DENIED". "We no longer accept support requests at this address, please check the forums for further help".

Uhmm....yeah, like I'm gonna go wading in to some game's forums to try to figure out a problem with their email system.

So, NCSoft loses out on me as a customer, and everyone that I tell this story to.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107874)

I can't speak for NCSoft as a developer, only as a support agency, since Guild Wars is only published by NCSoft. However, it seems incredibly dumb that they would give broken invites to a superhero game at GenCon of all places. You have every right to be incredibly pissed about that.

But that's your experience and I've told mine. Our stories together paint a picture of the company and we have therefore assisted others in their purchasing decisions. Good for us!

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16107081)

Well, if you figured out how to use "", you'd know that you can download the patches much more quickly from, oh, say, about 10 other sites. But that would require effort and a braincell.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107772)

You pay Blizzard $15 a month so that you can use Google to resolve your own technical issues? Because Blizzard's built-in system that YOU PAY FOR is inadequate? And I'm the one lacking a braincell?

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

BDZ (632292) | more than 8 years ago | (#16107782)

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 satisfied and talking well of the experience to other players. In both these cases there was a problem with a mission I was on. In the one an object we needed to get was actually embedded into the floor and wasn't visible or targetable. The GM moved it up out of the floor for us. The other was when a door wouldn't open when the trigger event fired (taking down a group of bad guys). The team and I went out and came back twice and still we couldn't get the door to open. We put a support request in and a GM promptly showed up and popped the door open for us.

I doubt either of these experiences would have turned out the same if support consisted of a "smart system" of some kind in place of a living, breathing person.

I also needed help from support on a couple other occassions where I couldn't log in to my character or favored server for some reason or another. Getting a response from a real person certainly made me feel a lot better about "server issues" as it left me with the feeling that someone was actually tending to the problem. Some boiler plate text sent to me by a bot wouldn't have left me with the same feeling.

Human run support/customer service is much better I believe than some automated system. As for people never being totally satisfied, welcome to the world of dealing with customers. Think customers in other settings are often 100% satisfied with the customer service they get? They aren't. People like to complain. Human nature.

Cutting customer service won't help in my opinion. If it's a matter of cost a game company could always try a mix of paid staff and volunteers. Though I believe with volunteers you would need to keep an eye on them and maybe integrate a post-customer service moderation system for your customers to use in an effort to weed out the power hungry jerks.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16109817)

Very well stated.

There [] 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.

Re:Customer service is EVERYTHING (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 8 years ago | (#16109794)

"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 a world full of lawyers.

Who needs phone support? (1)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 8 years ago | (#16112975)

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 security of the accounts, but security of the community. Thats a different topic though, more relating to message board management.
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