GamesBeat

GameStop is improving its customer service to keep you away from Amazon, Walmart

One of GameStop's associates.

Above: One of GameStop's associates.

Image Credit: GameStop

GameStop is showing a renewed interest in improving the shopping experience at its stores, and it is already showing the results of that effort.

The world’s largest gaming-specific retailer is getting better at customer service, according to data firm StellaService. That company conducted a test and found that GameStop has improved its customer-service interactions in a number of ways. This includes quicker service in the store and over the phone. StellaService also found that GameStop’s associates have a higher degree of professionalism and knowledge than in the past. By improving the in-store experience, GameStop is hoping that gaming consumers will continue to choose its store over alternatives like online retailer Amazon or megachain Walmart.

“In consistently shopping GameStop, StellaSerivce [seen that it has] improved quality of its shopping experience,” StellaService vice president of research Kevon Hills told GamesBeat. “Metrics for issue resolution, professionalism, and policy knowledge have also experienced improvements in the first half of 2014. In particular, GameStop agents were found to be professional in 100 percent of interactions with StellaService analysts.”

StellaService gets its data by conducting secret-shopper tests around the country. When testing for issue resolution, it’s looking to see how often an associate answers a questions without the need for a followup. Professionalism is, as you would expect, a test for pleasant language as well as a sense of interest in helping the customer. Finally, policy knowledge is a test to see if an employee understands the question and fully explains it to the customer. In all these areas, GameStop is showing improvement.

GameStop also saw significantly reduced hold times for customers calling into stores. After putting people through long hold times last year, the company is now seeing waits that are shorter than its competition.

“We noted GameStop significantly trailed competitors in speed of answer over the phone from the second quarter of 2013 throughout the end of the year,” said Hills. “This means customers looking for info on new products or assistance throughout the holidays had to wait longer to speak to a GameStop agent than one of its competitors’ agents.”

In 2013, calling into GameStop could present you with average hold times as high as 11.4 minutes during the busy holiday season. While that is somewhat understandable due to the influx of shoppers, GameStop’s competitors managed to answer the phone after an average of only 2.9 minutes. For reference, StellaService tested GameStop against other retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target.

These areas of improvement reveal how GameStop is using its strengths as a retailer to take on the competition. It can afford to educate its employees on minute gaming details because that’s all it does, where a customer service rep for Amazon or Walmart will field questions for a number of other categories.

GameStop's hold times got out of hand, but it seemed to really get them under control in recent months.

Above: GameStop’s hold times got out of hand, but it seemed to really rein them in recent months.

Image Credit: StellaService

“The marked improvement in GameStop’s customer experience may suggest a renewed emphasis on service across the board [at the retailer],” said Hills. “Though it’s hard to say if these changes were a result of management asking more from employees or adding resources to the customer service team, it is clear that these changes are paying off in making GameStop a more effect competitor compared to other retail giants.”

GameStop president Tony Bartel emphasized the importance of his retail team in a recent conversation with GamesBeat. The company has seen its share of the gaming market grow as Microsoft and Sony have introduced their new-gen systems, and Bartel believes that the knowledge of his associates is a big part of that. Gamers may occasionally find better prices at Amazon or Walmart, but consumers know they can likely get the answers to their gaming-related questions at GameStop.

“Our associate base is incredibly passionate in two ways,” Bartel told GamesBeat in an interview earlier this month. “One, they’re passionate about gaming, but I think their passion for gaming is actually outmatched by their passion for seeing other people love gaming as much as they do.”

While Bartel might feel that way, that probably wasn’t what most customers were experiencing when they had to wait on hold for more than 10 minutes. While GameStop didn’t say what it is doing to improve the experience in stores, Bartel did note that he spends much of his time visiting the company’s retail outlets.

“I was just in New York, in stores there, for the last two days,” said Bartel. “We also have a very neat system that our founders started, when they first started this company: Any store in the system and any associate can write an email and it comes up to me, to [chief executive officer Paul Raines], to our entire executive management team. They can write about any topic, and I get about 100 of those emails a day, directly from store associates. That keeps me connected.”

Bartel notes that he spends about a week and half of every month in stores.

“It’s a lot of high-touch retail,” he said. “But that’s all we do. We’re a specialty retailer. That’s our business.”

Of course, while GameStop is striving to make the shopping experience better, not everyone will likely feel it’s an improvement. The associates may know what they’re talking about and execute speedy service, but they are still gonna ask you to preorder games when you walk in the door or call on the phone. They’re still gonna ask you if you want to buy the season pass for a big-name game’s downloadable content.

A lot of gamers don’t like those sales tactics and consider them pressuring, but GameStop, publishers, and developers all like it because it works. We’ve asked GameStop if it is devising ways to talk to customers without pestering them about preordering, and we’ll update this post with any new information.


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