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News & Features Discussion  » General: MMOWTF: OMG CSRs!!

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30 posts found
  Dana

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

 
OP  10/30/06 2:57:54 PM#1

This week's column from Dan Fortier looks at the lost at of customer service in MMORPGs. MMOWTF is a weekly column/rant.

It looks like it's about that time for me to drag my sorry carcass to the keyboard and plug out another uninspired eyesore. What shall we talk about this week? Customer Service you say? Sounds good. I'll go first and tell you what I think, then you guys all chime in and tell me why I'm wrong.

It seems like designers are so focused on creating the game content, making it playable, and wowing us with their features that customer support not only takes a backseat, but was left at the last rest stop. They fill their staff with qualified artists, writers and coders and whoever can't do anything else gets stuck listening to us cry about how some guy is using speed hax. Like the lead singers in a band they are the ones the audience sees the most, but are usually the least skilled. The paying customers get the really short end when they have to wait days for a legitimate petition to get answered.

You can read more here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  User Deleted
10/30/06 3:57:18 PM#2

Here is where he went wrong in the first place.

Other than in game screens and the like, it’s not the job of game designers to create the CSR systems.

In fact, those in game screens are built to the specifications of the system,  not the other way around.

It’s the publisher and or managements job.

Don’t blame the game designers.

  Lightleaf

Novice Member

Joined: 10/31/04
Posts: 60

10/30/06 4:03:00 PM#3

In my -own- opinion, I think that most of this article is factional.

A lot of different MMO's I play seems to lack in quality customer service. (Ones that have good customer service: EVE, CoH/CoV[Again in my own opinion])

I personally agree with this, and good job.

raelos Xfire Miniprofile
  sartorius

Novice Member

Joined: 3/15/04
Posts: 200

10/30/06 6:04:38 PM#4

Originally posted by Mrbloodworth

Here is where he went wrong in the first place.

Other than in game screens and the like, it’s not the job of game designers to create the CSR systems.

In fact, those in game screens are built to the specifications of the system,  not the other way around.

It’s the publisher and or managements job.

Don’t blame the game designers.


QFE

The designers do just that - design the game.  If you want to point fingers in regards to lousy CS, then do so at the publishers as they are the ones who do the staffing post-release.  The designers/coders write the CS systems based upon the requests of the publishers, so lay blame where it is due.

Other than that, I do agree that CS is severely lacking in MMOs and only getting worse as more and more come out.


"Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received
with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him.
"
- Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

  Holyavenger1

Elite Member

Joined: 1/23/06
Posts: 423

10/30/06 7:35:46 PM#5
Good write up of the whole customer service issue related (although not limited to) this industry.

I'd be more than willing to pay more to get better CS, but hey, that's just me. *shrug*

Fyrr Deerdan - HolyAvenger
http://www.therepopulation.com - The Sci-Fi Sandbox.

  brostyn

Novice Member

Joined: 1/29/04
Posts: 3120

Cynical? Me? Never.

10/30/06 9:07:56 PM#6
When you go to <insert fast food place> what are you more concerned about? The food, or the little punk giving you an attitude over the counter? Your food is cheap, and fills you stomach, which is why you walked in there. If you want the little punk to kiss your butt you go somewhere that has a higher price tag.

Just like the fast food industry MMO's customer service takes a back seat, because what we really care about is the content and class balancing issues. You want better customer service you must pay more. I do not want to pay more. I am willing to sacrifice customer service for more content.

As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive.
  Lightleaf

Novice Member

Joined: 10/31/04
Posts: 60

10/30/06 10:01:03 PM#7

Originally posted by brostyn
When you go to what are you more concerned about? The food, or the little punk giving you an attitude over the counter? Your food is cheap, and fills you stomach, which is why you walked in there. If you want the little punk to kiss your butt you go somewhere that has a higher price tag.

Just like the fast food industry MMO's customer service takes a back seat, because what we really care about is the content and class balancing issues. You want better customer service you must pay more. I do not want to pay more. I am willing to sacrifice customer service for more content.

As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive.

You don't pay $10-$15 recurring just to eat at some fast food place. (You might pay more, I guess, but, you do pay $10-$15 to play a GAME, and not to live, or to indulge yourself[Again, you might indulge yourself playing the game, but it won't make your thighs fat].)
raelos Xfire Miniprofile
  User Deleted
10/30/06 10:42:26 PM#8


Originally posted by brostyn
When you go to <insert fast food place> what are you more concerned about? The food, or the little punk giving you an attitude over the counter? Your food is cheap, and fills you stomach, which is why you walked in there. If you want the little punk to kiss your butt you go somewhere that has a higher price tag.

Just like the fast food industry MMO's customer service takes a back seat, because what we really care about is the content and class balancing issues. You want better customer service you must pay more. I do not want to pay more. I am willing to sacrifice customer service for more content.

As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive.


An mmo is a product and we are the consumer. I don't care if it's McDonald's, Circuit City, EBGames, or an mmo. When I pay my money, whoever I am dealing with at that moment works for me. With an mmo, I am paying for a month of entertainment and if something is wrong with that entertainment, I am not getting what I paid for. Therefore, I expect to have someone competent on their end to fix the problem with the product I have paid for. For that month that I have paid for, the customer service department of that mmo works for me and every other person who paid for the product. We are their paychecks. We are not happy, we go somewhere else, game goes to shit, and Dilbert at the other end has no job. To think otherwise is naive::::24::

  zwarrior

Novice Member

Joined: 9/30/06
Posts: 43

Tell me, why do you live?
Living is killing, killing is living.

10/30/06 10:47:47 PM#9

Oh man do I agree with this.

 " As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive."

I hate it when I pay for a game and yet the CS is just pretty much crap.......crap.... or plz wait untill we address this problem in about.. oh 2 more of your paying months ><. Its true that the games developed are more about show and to wow us than to actually satisfy us after we pay for the game... and pay the subscription ^_^

  OnyxBMW

Novice Member

Joined: 7/22/04
Posts: 208

The most common of logics is often the most flawed.

10/31/06 3:34:58 AM#10

Originally posted by brostyn
When you go to what are you more concerned about? The food, or the little punk giving you an attitude over the counter? Your food is cheap, and fills you stomach, which is why you walked in there. If you want the little punk to kiss your butt you go somewhere that has a higher price tag.

Just like the fast food industry MMO's customer service takes a back seat, because what we really care about is the content and class balancing issues. You want better customer service you must pay more. I do not want to pay more. I am willing to sacrifice customer service for more content.

As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive.



The flaw with this logic is that you are comparing apples and oranges, so to speak.  You are comparing a low-quality product in the grand scheme of things (fast food is the low-end of the restaraunt business) with a high-quality product in terms of an MMO (the highest echelon of gaming, you pay innitially for a product and then pay to play the product repeatedly).

Now, say, if you compared a low-end service where the customer service is directly proportionate to the quality of the product, then saying that bitching at the guy in the fast food restaraunt is acceptable.  However, even in a fast food restaraunt, if the manager has any semblence of good business practices, the guy who did the bitching will be reprimanded or possibly fired since they lose business over that matter.

I'd say a fast food-level analogy in gaming would be a $20 bargain bin product from wal-mart.

Move up, to a lower-end restaraunt with actual waiting and up, and you suddenly realise customer service is a very necessary thing.  In a restaraunt, lower or higher end, a customer service representative (this time a waiter) is your direct link to your product (which is, in this case, food) so if they perform poorly, then you recieve a poor experience and you're more likely to just avoid eating there again.  Waiters are more likely to be disgusted, but they still smile through gritted teeth.

Move to mid end (maybe 40 bucks for the game and the game is of decent quality) and you'd expect better service.

High end? yep, you're expecting someone to kiss your ass.


Now, lets compare an MMO versus a standard 50 dollar game versus a 40, 30, and 20 dollar game.  A 20 dollar game is bargain bin.  If I find a bug or have a CSR complaint, I don't expect good service as I payed little for the product in general and am not expecting a decent game.

30? (non-expansion) now I'm expecting slightly better, but if it takes 2 days for a response I care not.

40?  I should get a decent answer within a day, but I still don't expect it at a high-end level.

50?  If a game costs 50 (the current average for a maximum game cost) then I expect at least a forum or a formal ticket system for issues and, most importantly, high quality tech support.


However, once you move into MMO's, you realize the product when weighed against every other game, it's not just 50 dollars.

It's 50 with a recurring 10-15.  Over the course of a year, the average cost of a single MMO is 170 dollars in entertainment (assuming 50 on aquisition and 10 a month) and it can cost 230+ annually for modern MMO's (WoW, anything SoE, etc).

Which, to say, is like buying 4 seperate games over the course of a year plus a 5th crappy one.

Due to this simple fact, you expect a higher quality of service, and it is not merely a bitchy fast food employee anymore, but you're suddenly at a much higher echelon of restaraunts.

For comparison of CSR's.  From directsong.com (y'know, to buy music composed by jeremy soule) I had an issue with the music not aquiring the license properly and sent in a ticket at 10 PM.  I got a response within an hour at 10pm on the west coast.  I didn't even expect a response 'til the following day.  Over the course of 2 hours I worked with a person to fix the problem and correct it, in 2 hours, for a product that barely costs 10 dollars for me to own.

Now, don't you dare tell me that an MMO is a fast food restaraunt when some company houses a CSR staff for their site that sells mere music at 10 dollars average and gave me a response at what is considered night within an hour and the problem fixed in 2.


An MMO, when weighed against every other game on the market, is effectively the highest echelon available right now, so quality customer service is expected.

However, I'd expect an MMO made by a small handfull of people in their mother's basement to have worse CSR service than one designed by a high-end company like blizzard, who are then backed by an even higher company like vivendi universal.  However, for some reason, I have found that in many cases, the "worse" MMO has better customer service.

As I see it, it is a simple matter of greed why CSR's in most MMO's just aren't good.  Whether it's due to needing to pay off a publisher for fronting the money to support an MMO, or because the higher-ups don't have thick enough wallets, it's still greed in the end.
  hunzacc

Novice Member

Joined: 6/14/06
Posts: 1

10/31/06 3:41:32 AM#11
And cheap is a relative thing, a no-name shoe is cheaper than a Prada, and you can expect lower quality for lower price.

But mmos are around the same price 10-12 € per month. So what is the cheap here? If all of them think that this price should be enough for what they provide, we can't talk about cheap mmo, it is the market price of this product category.

And you can believe me, the cs wont be better for the double price. 6,5 million accounts are in WoW. So it is about 65+ million € in a month. And they costumer service is almost the same like in RFonline where the developers will be very happy if they will have the 10% of wow players ever. Or there is lineage2 where the cs is zero.
  boinged

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/18/04
Posts: 161

10/31/06 5:21:28 AM#12

I agree with most of this article having not been impressed with support from EVE (small but large enough to know better) and Roma Victor (so small that employing any CS would probably double their staff :p). However, there is one exception - Ryzom. This is another small company with not a huge playerbase, yet through volunteer staff as well as outsourcing to Jolt you always feel looked after. They are obviously concentrating on the social side of MMOs (especially with a clued up live events team) as much as development of the next update.

Of course the other side to this is why do we need CS at all? Should more care be taken engineering the games in the first place?

  rakshasha

Novice Member

Joined: 7/11/05
Posts: 15

10/31/06 6:13:37 AM#13
This is a multi-tiered problem. Theres no question in my mind about that. I have yet to get consistent support from any MMO out there. Somedays i get decent service while others i could be waiting 12 hours for some no name person to hit 3 macro buttons. Everyone has the quality of service they expect and the quality they end up settling for. An example of everyone having different qualities of service would be something like this.
I was a alpha/beta tester for The Saga of Ryzom. They decided they weren't going to have certain areas and player character races available in North America and that only the french were going to get it. Well their boards got slammed hard. They proceeded to ignore the forum posts and their expected 40 shards was down to i believe 5 in a matter of months. They would have been bigger but their customer service as well as the developers just didnt listen.
  drizzt1666

Novice Member

Joined: 9/23/06
Posts: 62

10/31/06 10:24:44 AM#14

Originally posted by Zorvan


Originally posted by brostyn
When you go to what are you more concerned about? The food, or the little punk giving you an attitude over the counter? Your food is cheap, and fills you stomach, which is why you walked in there. If you want the little punk to kiss your butt you go somewhere that has a higher price tag.

Just like the fast food industry MMO's customer service takes a back seat, because what we really care about is the content and class balancing issues. You want better customer service you must pay more. I do not want to pay more. I am willing to sacrifice customer service for more content.

As customers we aren't allowed to complain if we aren't willing to pay higher monthly fees. You get what you pay for. To think otherwise is simply naive.


An mmo is a product and we are the consumer. I don't care if it's McDonald's, Circuit City, EBGames, or an mmo. When I pay my money, whoever I am dealing with at that moment works for me. With an mmo, I am paying for a month of entertainment and if something is wrong with that entertainment, I am not getting what I paid for. Therefore, I expect to have someone competent on their end to fix the problem with the product I have paid for. For that month that I have paid for, the customer service department of that mmo works for me and every other person who paid for the product. We are their paychecks. We are not happy, we go somewhere else, game goes to shit, and Dilbert at the other end has no job. To think otherwise is naive::::24::


Amen
  VanaaBegra

Novice Member

Joined: 3/06/04
Posts: 24

10/31/06 10:29:03 AM#15
The author makes several good points.  And the author is specifically adressing MMOs.  Now, most adults can say with good authority that poor customer service is not limited to MMOs.  Customer Service and CSRs have taken the back seat in far too many organizations.  This has been best illustrated (IMHO) by the banking industry.  Charging for ATMs and some of them charge for talking to a human teller.  It has gotten so bad that there are website dedicated to "cheating" IVR systems to get routed to a human in a timely fashion.  MMOs are just following the industry when it comes to customer service.  In a previous job, I evaluated at least two Help Desks (in my current position, our Help Desk does a fantastic job).  In both cases, the problems were not related to the people, but rather the policies in place the management of the Help Desk.  The workers there really wanted to help people, and did their best.  However, they were encoumbered by poor process, poor metrics, and poor tools.  It was a bad situation in which a couple of them left and the rest were fired.  The manager and his boss were both poor managers and did very little to support their groups.  My most recent experience with a non-MMO CSR was exteremly frustrating, as it took three calls and two separate escalations to managers to get the right answer.  Again, not the CSRs fault - poor communication from their management, and little support.  It is not a surprise that this happens in the MMO world as well.  I will say that the times I have needed a CSR ingame in AO, the response was in a decent time and the problems resolved, or at least some solution/workaround presented.

  CastorHoS

Novice Member

Joined: 3/20/04
Posts: 54

10/31/06 10:39:57 AM#16
    I read the article and I have to ask if Dana had any input into it as she has some connection to the folks over at The Themis Group. Some actual facts to support some of the things said might have helped.
    One average it costs between $25,000 to $50,000 to pay one person wages and benefits to work customer support. It takes, at the least, 5 people to fill one full time position that covers support on a 24/7 basis. With these numbers you have already paid out something close to $100,000 and $300,000 per position per year. (numbers found from gamedev.net and axiomfactor.com)
    For a small, single title developer these costs could break them before the end of the first year. For a publisher the costs are not much but as most publishers run more then one game the lack of any kind of experienced or knowledgeable staff is at a minimum.
    These are key reasons why companies like Alchemic Dream, Axiom Factor and The Themis Group are around. To my knowledge these 3 companies all price their services differently but they are all able to take advantage of a few key factors and actually do more for a game through customer support services then what could the company who operates the game.
    Outsourcing companies survive on one thing, being able to provide services cheaper but at ahigher level than the actual game company can do it. They do this by bringing in people who know as much if not more, in some cases, then the actual developers do. These are the people who spend time writing guides or walkthroughs for games and know classes and races inside and out.
    When customer support lacks, it lacks because companies are either ignorant to problem areas or just do not care. Farming, exploits and cheats have hit almost every game regardless of genre and many companies like NCSoft and others have turned a blind eye to most of what has killed the games off.
    There are also companies like Turbine that have outsourced for customer supprt services but did it to a consultant instead of an actual company that provides services. If you look at DDO and what services for support exist out of the game you will find nothing that even remotely has anything "support" to it.


     Many companies have failed to provide adequate support. SOE if you look at the history they have is one of the worst rated companies for customer support and they do it almost entirely in house. Turbine has nothing outside of its games and it shows. DAoC by Mythic spent millions per year on support and from all press regarding them it was money not well spent.

    What it boils down to is not where the support comes form but how well built and set up for support the company is that is providing it. If even the smallest problem is ignored and in turn customers are ignored you have already lost. With companies liek the ones I mentioned around and pushing at what is acceptable and what is not it only means that yesterdays stadards of customer support will change. If two games are only seperated by a small margin from each other because of graphics or content but one has superior customer support from top to bottom then people will see this and float in that direction.
  lorechaser

Novice Member

Joined: 9/11/05
Posts: 124

10/31/06 10:40:10 AM#17
Holy cow.

Again, I am boggled.  I think I need to just stop reading editorials.

A few particular points:

Most successful companies that have large amount of clients who pay to use their service every month have huge centers full of agents to fix any problem they might have within minutes, so how are MMO players any different?

I'm going to assume from this that you don't have a lot of experience with these huge centers full of agents.  You seem to think that the majority of customer support are a cadre of highly trained, well paid, extremely satisfied people that make it their life's joy to fix problems.

That's not the case.  I wish it were.  But it's not.  CSR is a thankless job.  It's a low paid job.  It's a job where you spend 8 hours a day on the phones, listening to someone yell at you, because of something you had no control over.  People curse at you.  They attack you personally.  They accuse you of incompetence, fraud, laziness, and flat out evil.  And yet, you spend those 8 hours trying to fix those problems.  Typically with less support than you need, incomplete documentation, an upper management that is disconnected from the realities of support.

In corporate america customer support is an expense.  It's not a service, it's not a valuable product.  It's something that the company grudingly pays, because they have to have it.  To imply that MMOs are somehow special is foolhardy. 

And consider the volume of issues that come in to MMO support.  I can only imagine the number of petitions that come in reading "yeah i was attacking this boar and i know it was gonna drop like fat lewt or somethin and then uberduber came and he attacked the boar and he killed it and it was so totally mine i mean i hadn't actually hit it yet but i had my arrow thing on it and i was totally going to attack it and i know it was gonna be awesome so i want my $15 back this month cause your game sucks."

Am I saying they should get away with bad support?  No.  I'm saying that your assertion that customer support in general is a pristine wonderland, and MMO support is some great conspiracy is patently false.

With the fat paychecks the top dogs in the industry take home

Yeah, most designers live the pimp life.  I know the ones I know certainly did.  I mean, one dude had a house, a car, *and* two dogs.  Well, until, you know, activision closed down and he got booted in to the street. 

Maybe a few people - Carmack, Feargus, Garriot - make fat paychecks.  Most of them are schlubs working their asses off to pay the rent. 


I'm also not sure how it is that CSRs should leap to the immediate and factual results with ease, but GMs are unable to handle the difficulties involved - either it's a job any monkey could do, or it's a highly skilled position.  Again, the average CSR isn't a well-educated, highly intelligent person.  Those folks get off the phones, and get in to real jobs.  A CSR is effectively a fast food worker, to tie to a previous analogy.  You're *never* going to attract great people to CSR, because you spend 8 hours a day talking to angry people who abuse you.  So you do the best you can with the people you get, try to keep them happy, and make sure you train your new group in two weeks to be as good as possible....

Who am I?
@Lorechaser on CoH
Badjuju, Splinterhoof, Plainsrunner on WoW (Moonrunner)
Shyy'rissk on SWG (Flurry)
ClockworkSoldier, HE Pierce, Letnev on Planetside
Gyshe, Crucible, Terrakal on DDO
And many more.

  brianman

Novice Member

Joined: 2/12/04
Posts: 11

10/31/06 2:33:11 PM#18


Originally posted by Holyavenger1
Good write up of the whole customer service issue related (although not limited to) this industry.

I'd be more than willing to pay more to get better CS, but hey, that's just me. *shrug*


How often do you really need to interact with the customer service? When you experience a bug? I'd say the money should be spend on working out the bugs in the game instead. Bringing a bug to their attention can be done through a form, so already you're saving money that would otherwise have been spend on CSR.

Ofcourse, the perfect game with the perfect administration interface and perfect billing system wouldn't have a need for CS. Except for the users that are too lazy/blind/stupid to spend 5 minutes of their time to find the answer in a knowledge base.

  franksalbe

Novice Member

Joined: 2/23/05
Posts: 228

10/31/06 3:54:04 PM#19

I am a Senior Analyst for A Helpdesk that services the Pharmaceutical Industry. I have been working as an Analyst for 5 years now.

I would like to stop some of the misinformation being throwing around by both sides of the line.

1. CSR for the most part a not uneducated, hapless people as some of you suggest. True CSR are very articulate and very detailed oriented as all interactions with customers are record in one way or another.

2. Training CSR to fulfill their role in a given company takes time, Period. They don’t know everything over night. They don’t know the in and out of the entire company and all its policies. These are misplaced assumptions by the customer.

3. CSR is not actually a customer service function there to serve the customer as most people think. The Jobs of a CSR is not to cater to the customer but to reduce the overall lost of revenue. A CSR's first loyalty is to the company that hires them not the customer. But is true that in serving the customer to the best of their ability and resolving the customers request or problem as quickly as possible is the proper function of a CSR as to help in cutting cost that effect the bottom line. CSR is one of the many tools a company uses to reduce cost.

4. The cost to implement a CSC (customer service center) is not as high as it used to be. VoIP and other such technology have given companies many options. People can work from home as a contractor which is a much more viable option. Calls can be monitored over the VoIP software from the office which is a great reduction lost. Now days you can get the VoIP software and the ticketing system to record problems all in one package. A 24/7 CSC needs a minimum of 13 employees to running it effectively this is a breakdown of like 5 during normal business hours, 3 for the night, 2 for the late night till morning shift and 2 for the weekend and this is not in taking into consideration people who call out sick, vacation, etc.

Last but not least if you take into account that the average MMO that has some success is raking in 100.000+ subs a month at $10 dollars a pop. The MMO is generating 1,000,000 dollars a month.

If the average CSR is making about 35,000 (believe me when I say this is generous)

That is a about $2900/monthly per CSR x 13 which is $38,000 monthly to staff your CSC.

So you can play with the numbers and adding 2 managers to that payroll you are looking at $50,000 a month.

What does this pay for? Well it should at the very least provide the following 2 outcomes.

1. Reduce the amount of DOWNTIME caused by break/fix issues. By being able to analysis the tickets being entered the developers spend that much less time tracking the root cause of the problem. This cuts the amount of time being spent on any particular problem and the amount of man power. If you don’t know that can turn to be a HUGE savings.

2. Increase the longevity of the relationship with company and its customer. Customers are being responded to in a profession timely matter. The overall look of your company will be that much higher.

3. Provide tracking methods for feedback and communication between the company and its customers.  

(The stats on minimum staff requirement of 13 and the 35,000 annual aver salary are all facts pulled from my HelpDesk Manager course I am taking with HDI one of the leading institutes and co-publisher of the standards of modern day IT Support/Call Centers)

 

 

Faranthil Tanathalos
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  dodsfall

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/28/04
Posts: 166

10/31/06 3:57:35 PM#20
City of Heroes/City of Villians and Legend of Ryzom have the best customer support I have encountered in playing MMOs. The rest of the industry should take a look at what they are doing right.
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