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[personal profile] achtungexplosiv
Following on from my last post regarding Star Trek Online, I've hit a snag with one of my characters being completely broken and unable to log into the game. I've attempted to contact customer support with PWE/Cryptic and the frustrating experience I'm currently going through have left me wondering why CS has to be so shockingly bad across the industry.

Poor Service

When something goes wrong for me in a game, I see if I can fix the problem myself first of all. Was I being daft? Was it a minor glitch or bug? Does zoning/relogging/unequipping and so on help? Does it randomly go away on its own* ? If that fails, I ask friends and check for solutions online. If it turns out that it's a problem I shouldn't be having ('shouldn't' defined as something rare or unusual as opposed to yet another well-known bug introduced with the latest patch) and there really is nothing I can do about it but it's putting a serious cramp in my style, then as a last resort I will turn to Support. For games I have fleeting dalliances with, it never usually gets to this point: either I haven't delved in deep enough to get hit by a bad issue, or else I'm not impressed enough with the game to bother.

My experiences with various game companies over time has run the gamut from fast, efficient problem resolution to outright being called a liar. Sadly, I've tended to find the whole spectrum within each game or game company. I can't honestly say that any one company has all-round great customer service.

It leads me to the question: how many customers are these companies losing because of awful CS experiences, rather than because the customer does not like the game itself? In other words, how much is a player going to put up with before they take their time and money elsewhere? I've been thinking about this for myself the last couple of days.

For that matter, have I just had duff experiences? Are there game companies out there that provide better service?

Cool stories, Bro

Everyone's experiences will vary, and my own have been to the extremes of the curve. The best CS experiences I've had have been when a petition/ticket I've submitted is picked up quickly and a knowledgable representative has contacted me, having read the detail I've given and either being able to resolve it there and then in a few minutes or else works with me to find a solution. The worst have involved long waits, petitions vanishing or being closed without explanation, getting into arguments and being insulted.

I'm a fan of putting plenty of detail into the petition in the first place, laying out everything that's wrong and what I was doing etc. If it's a bug I've come across before or otherwise understand how it can be fixed, I'll include that as well. A good example of this is the old 'vanishing twinking pillows' bug that struck with depressing regularity in Anarchy Online. If you were trading an Explosif's Polychromatic Pillow to another character, it sometimes vanished in the trade. It's happened enough times to me that I've had GMs explain exactly the logging bug that causes it to glitch and to go invisibly into a forced extra inventory slot, and nothing can be done about it except for a GM to delete it and spawn a new one. There's more techspeak involved but when it happens to me I just blurb it all into the petition so that the first person who reads it (most likely a volunteer in the ARK program) knows to pass it up to a GM and that it'll only take a couple of minutes to fix.

On the other side of the coin, it gets to be rather depressing when the response one (eventually) receives to a detailed petition indicates that the CS rep hasn't actually read it. Maybe you're fobbed off with 'have you tried turning it off and on again?' or sometimes even find that your petition has been closed and marked off as Resolved without anything happening at all.

So far with PWE/Cryptic I'm on my third support ticket. The first one got me the standard automated reply to let me know I'll hear from them within 24 hours. The ticket promptly vanished from my account support page. After 2 days of nothing I sent another one referencing the first. The same automated response, the same vanishing act in my account page. The Support sections of the forums proved to be of no help, and today almost a week later I received another automated reply email asking in a long winded way if I'd turned it off and on again, and then marking the whole episode as Solved. I received an identical reponse to my second ticket. Clearly no one had looked at either of them and the stock responses were generated because the petitions had been classified as 'Technical Issue'. So, a third ticket referencing the first two has been sent. Considering I put the effort into acquiring an Odessy-class limited edition ship on the broken character in question, I'm not keen to just delete it and re-roll from scratch.

I've hit that point where whether I stay or go in STO comes down to how their Customer Service treats this support issue, and me. If they continue to ignore me until I go away, then I most certainly shall.

* You'd be surprised how often that works.

Date: 2012-02-20 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
Compared with developing software or running computers (unless you're paying government rates), customer service is eyewateringly expensive - you need a bunch of people who are knowledgeable about your product, enough so to be able to start the triage between client-side bugs, chancers and server failures, and who have good phone skills, and are prepared to work out of hours.

It's no wonder that most companies don't bother, especially when hardly anyone else bothers either.

Seems to me the worst of all is the half-hearted effort, that's meant to make it look good but lives or dies by meaningless stats (e.g. "number of tickets closed").

Date: 2012-02-20 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
'Number of tickets closed' has been explained to me as being the driving factor behind at least 2 game company CS indicators, only one of which specified 'resolved' rather than closed (though the manner in which it is resolved isn't asked about).

Games companies can't afford to not have support at all these days, but sometimes I feel as if it's all a ruse to make it look like there's something going on when all that's there are some automated mailservers and someone who checks up now and again to see if anyone's trying to sue.

If the competition isn't any better, however, what's the motivation to improve again? There's such a high churn rate in games these days that retention of customers is being ignored in favour of attracting an constant influx of new players. Naturally this short-sighted approach is biting the arses of several companies, most of whom are ignoring it and continuing to push for new players at the expense of the old ones. And then great games die because they're being run by what amounts to idiots.

CS is a crappy job, I know, but there are some mitigating factors such as working 'out of hours' being easily solvable by having at least 2 teams in different parts of the world, thereby ensuring that whenever people are playing there's folks with normal(ish) working hours to respond to issues as they crop up. The various games I've had dealings with also tend to do their support primarily through in-game petitions, accounts page forms or emails to the support department. Phonecalls are more of a last resort. Depressingly, expertise witht he product in question is a rarity in my experience. The number of times I have had to explain to the GM how to fix the issue is staggering. I have a funny story about that in Anarchy Online at christmas time in fact...

Date: 2012-02-20 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wonder if an MMO company has ever cross referenced their CS DB with people who stop subscribing?


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