Posted July 26, 2016
This article originally appeared on GamesIndustry.Biz
While the state of in-house customer support may be less than ideal, it also signals big opportunities for those that view support as a brand differentiator.
There are games on Steam in unplayable states that have been abandoned by their developers. There are major companies whose customer support turns off at 5 PM. There are indie games with poor localization and a lack of related language support. There are even some companies who don’t do support of any kind. Successful brands would never dream of overlooking these critical aspects of the customer experience, yet many games companies leave so much player value on the table.
It’s not hard to see the revenue impact. Many games make their money after launch from downloadable content and expansions. If you want to replicate the post-launch success of Magicka or Euro Truck Simulator, you need to maintain all your products so that your customers feel positively about your company. Abandoning even one game may generate negative feelings that could trickle over to future releases.
In-house vs. outsourced support
When it comes to setting up a support team, it might seem that doing it in-house is the only way to go: after all, you want to keep tight management control of a critical function that directly impacts players. But support is something that requires a certain scale that companies can struggle to offer. Some don’t support all of the languages that the game is offered in, some don’t offer 24/7 support, some ignore social media, and some rely on community volunteers – which is great for community morale, but has its own set of issues including response times and information accuracy.
Outsourced support means you can rely on an existing structure, assuming you pick the right partner: it can be done by experts in the field; it provides timely player experience and there are substantial cost savings. We estimate that moving from an in-house to an outsourced support team can reduce costs by up to 70%.
Taking our own company as an example, at TELUS International we have 22,000 specialized staff across 8 countries, speaking 35 languages, available 24/7 if needed. That’s difficult and expensive to replicate for even the biggest games companies. We have dedicated gamer staff already trained to support game play. They’re experienced dealing with all sorts of players and with a variety of game engines. Our skillsets cover different games, regions and languages, and also enable us to launch and re-deploy local teams rapidly – something that’s often slower in-house. And we have proven processes and technology that would be difficult for any games company to deploy without huge capital expenditure in a number of regions.
There are secondary benefits too, which are important to consider. Your player support channel is a precious source of information, but can be compromised by internal perceptions of the product from an in-house support staff. While acting as your brand ambassador, external support representatives are also capable of stepping back, meaning they can collect and analyze real-time player feedback with an impartial lens to generate reports that reflect the latest player demands.
Outsourced support in action
As an example, one of our clients is a globally recognized PC games company. Our support team for one of their games started seeing a lot of tickets from a particular country, complaining about connection problems. The team conducted a thorough investigation, talking to the community and reviewing posts made on social media. It was quickly determined that the problem was with the local Internet Service Providers, who we contacted to resolve the issue. In our next report to the client, we were able to flag a problem that had been proactively solved.
Multi-language support ideally should be local and 24 hours – that’s a hard combination for any business, let alone a games company that has specialized needs. Social media management is vital. Negative comments need to be addressed quickly, or it just might become the narrative for your company. And it’s important to localize, not just to the language, but also to the country. For example, the difference in ethos between Canada, USA, Ireland, Australia and the UK is huge, as is the difference between Portugal and Portuguese-speaking Brazil.
Top-tier support involves continuously monitoring social networks for signals that could damage you game’s brand or lead to high volumes of tickets. We had an issue arise for one of our clients when a prominent leader in the community released a YouTube video that prohibited the use of the client’s game. Our staff worked with the client to put out a statement emphasizing that the game was not related to community issues, but was solely an entertainment product. Their local knowledge combined with careful social management increased both retention and the Average Revenue per User – being the two main KPIs set by the client.
All that said, we recognize some games companies prefer to keep their customer support in-house. That’s also why we act as consultants, to help games companies build the best team they possibly can.
The results of a good support team are plain to see: increased player value, satisfaction, retention, and recommendations. But to get the best support team for your game, one that can handle multiple languages, multiple regions, and is sensitive to local customs, outsourcing remains a solid option.