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Al Rose is the VP of retail and Internet properties at Telus International
Product development and player support have not always gone hand in hand. In fact, exceptional customer service from a gaming company might be surprising. Considering that the online gaming economy relies heavily on attracting and retaining players, and then moving them to recurring monthly or micropayments, the lack of good customer support is even more surprising. A growing player base requires happy players. Recurring payments requires recurring customers. Customer service should be a given.
On the flip side, the digital entertainment industry is experiencing massive growth. In times of hyper-growth, companies can only manage a certain pace of expansion. During the startup phase, game development is the main focus – it’s all about the release of the game, the company’s core business and raison d’etre. Player support is often a secondary concern, edged out in favor of the frantic pace of design and launch of new games.
Adding to this, some studios still view players as commodities, not customers, which may in part explain why players have low expectations when it comes to receiving support. This is set to change as many studios realize that providing exceptional customer interactions, alongside popular games, can directly impact the bottom line.
As customer service becomes another battlefield for winning over players, how can developers enhance their own game plan for customer support?
- Understand your player: Studios need to develop emotional connections with players, particularly millennials, and match gamers with like-minded customer service representatives. You should staff your customer service team with gamers who are continually leveling-up in the game and able to understand the needs of the players they support.
- Platform-specific service: Customer care needs to suit various types of players. PC game players are often proud of their technical abilities and are more inclined to work with websites or download patches to fix their own problems. In contrast, console game players are convenience-driven and typically prefer having easy access to customer support.
Free-to-play players are used to finding support in community forums or on the developer’s website. This provides a real opportunity for game studios: enhancing the experience of non-paid players will increase their likelihood to recommend the game, potentially moving them to paid player status in the future.
- Capitalize on player feedback: Sophisticated game studios spend considerable resources analyzing player feedback on their games. Analyzing player feedback via customer support channels and funnelling it back to development teams ensures that games reflect the latest player demands. The result is increased player value, playtime, satisfaction, retention and ultimately their likelihood to recommend the game to friends.
- Real-time, multichannel support: Many in the gaming community rely on peer-to-peer player support, but there is a real advantage to offering good customer service directly. Providing 24/7 multi-channel support via voice, email, online and social networks enables your players to interact with you whenever and however they want.
- Social media: Social media is becoming a key outlet for players to battle other players. A social media presence also allows players to engage with developers in real time, in their preferred communication channel. For smaller game studios, it’s an effective way to reach a targeted and relevant audience to and increase their player base.
- Team up: Studios who don’t have the customer service expertise in-house should consider partnering with a contact center provider that does. The company then can focus on their core business, while their partner takes care of the player support infrastructure and delivery. These same providers can also scale up or down their personnel to suit the development and growth of the game.
Maximize player lifetime value
Game studios have a massive opportunity right now. Game players, particularly in the free-to-play sector, may not expect the best customer experience. As the industry becomes increasingly fragmented and competitive, smart game studios can extend their game lifecycle and improve the value of their brand by providing better customer service. A good player support strategy can be a game-changer – where fostering a culture of care will improve the player experience, resulting in player retention and ultimately, player recommendations.
Al Rose is the VP retail and Internet properties at Telus International – a provider of customer care support solutions to global clients including social media and MMO gaming companies. He serves as an advisory board member to several independent software providers providing social media, MMO gaming, and digital entertainment products. You can reach Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.