Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Customer Service by Macro Bot

Have you ever felt that you were interacting with a macroed bot instead of a customer service rep?

Amber relates this story of trying to cancel her subscription to Matrix Online:

And so I called customer support, and after waiting for (if memory serves) a goddamned ice age, I spoke to a really nice woman. We’ll call her Trinity. Upon hearing my request to close my account, Trinity robotically professed her disappointment that the game hadn’t lived up to my expectations, and she was authorized to give me a free month of play if I would stay. No? Are you sure? How about a Lexus? Still no? Okay, but before I close your account, I need to ask you these eleventy million fucking questions. And so because Trinity was my only hope to “unplug,” I answered her questions over the next (if memory serves) Pleistocene era. And finally the deed was done.

The take-away here was that Trinity really could have given a shit if I stayed or went. She got paid her state mandated minimum wage either way. She had a script, and she followed it to the letter, because the call was undoubtedly recorded for “quality assurance.” And although the game was so fantastically awful that I don’t think even my wild imagination can conceive of a scenario of return, any customer on the fence would have definitely been pushed out of the yard after running that hellish gauntlet.

Who hasn't had that experience? The point being that the CSR's are being trained not to make the customer happy, but to follow the script. But Amber has found a company, Zappo, an online shoe-seller, that does things a different way. From the Harvard Business Publishing website we read:

But here’s what’s really interesting. It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for.

Wouldn't that be wonderful to find in a MMORPG company? A company that thought of customer service as a priority rather than a cost that needs to be held as low as possible?

My best customer service experience (for my mundane human alter ego, that is) came with an airline. I was on a multi-leg flight to Detroit, with a plane change in Phoenix. No, that doesn't make sense when you're flying from the Bay Area, but there it is. There was no e-ticket, and I lost my paper ticket somehow on the layover. Rather than try and sort it out in the very limited time available, I pulled out my credit card and bought another ticket.

Then after we landed, I went to the airline counter, and waited for the rep, who was off dealing with something else, to come help me. As she walked up, I said, "I lost my ticket!"

Her reply was, "That sucks!!!". And immediately my mood lifted. I knew this was going to be ok. And it was. It turns out that a careful search of my briefcase found the old ticket and my money was refunded. Everything was fine.

No customer service script is EVER going to contain the words, "that sucks!" Nor could it capture the exact way in which she said it, both sympathetic and confident. I gave her my best shot, the worst news I had, and she just smiled at it, and said, "we're gonna fix this."

Amber wishes that MMO's would think of this.

So think about this the next time you start lamenting the churn rate in your CS “pit.” (Amber’s tip ‘o the day: If you have a customer support “pit,” ur doin it wrong.”) The same goes for community support people. They work hard for you, and you know they’re clawing at your door just to get a foot in, so you you know you you could get them to pay you if it were legal. Which is why many of them stick around just long enough to say they worked for your prestigious ass, and then they go and get jobs in the real world.

And if you’re going to tell me “it just won’t translate to our industry,” then I call bullshit. Because the way you’re doing it now doesn’t translate to your industry. If you can’t make the numbers work after trying to make the numbers work, then fine. But a shoe company figured out a creative solution to their customer service issues. Certainly a company that makes worlds can do better.

Me too.

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