By Mike Arnold
Godwin’s law tells us that the probability of somebody making a reference to Adolf Hitler reaches one the longer the discussion lasts. As soon as this reference is made, the thread dies. This is also called Reductio Ad Hitlerum. The law of MMOs says: the longer a game lasts the higher the probability that you lose subscribes to other games, if you do not provide either innovation – very scarce, most games are clones of clones of clones – or excellent customer care with an edge. Most providers use proven and running systems, like tickets or e-mail or live chat, forums. The question is, will these measures work with common service level agreements (SLA) applied to MMO customers? The answer is NO!
Subscribers are costumers
Most publishers strive for return of investment (R.O.I) first and customer satisfaction last, no CRM system can cope with that or mitigate the ramifications. Just take a look at the game SEED that featured a non violent approach to MMO-RPG with a very unique AI and NPC concept. After three months the developers were forced to shut down the servers due to multiple bugs and a lack of funding rooted in a lack of subscriptions due to multiple bugs. Do you see the circle of doom? I do!
Solution: Quality first, Innovation first, Customer Satisfaction first!
Regard your subscribers as what they are: Customers!
Result: Good practice and happy customers and R.O.I
Innovation and generosity
MMO players have got the propensity to be distinctive. “. There are “your” game IP aficionados how will be all claws and teeth for it. On the other side there are those how are “just dropping by” coming from the “other” game – namely, World of Warcraft – which they left due to [insert problem / boredom / disgruntlement here ]. They will stay with the subscription month as a stint of “Ok, let us see what this is all about.” These are the crucial ones. If those customers do not have the feeling to be treated differently or that the game mechanics of “your” game echoes those of “the other game” or that you are not particularly generous or not extremely service oriented within the first four weeks, they return to “the other game” full stop.
Solution: Innovate! Additionally, CRM should include a sort of early training at beginner’s level that not only introduces the gamer / subscriber to the gaming world and its different characters itself but also gives him or her a tutorial on;
Known issues to that ( e.g. ELV in Germany )
technical issues AND their solution – use youtube tutorials made by your techies in your own channel and NOT your subscribers!
How to find help and where,
live chat, VoIP services etcetera
What to do with your character,
Different skills, different tactics, wikis designed and maintained by YOU!
Forum how to’s:
e.g. how to upload pictures, include documents, forum etiquette
Result: informed customer, cared for customer, happy customer, retained
Educate your staff
Education is key to everything. Trained Customer Service Representatives (CSR) will be able to resolve intricate situations with ease. Untrained or semi-trained staff will jeopardize your relation with the customer and fulfilling or complying with SLA’s will be almost impossible. Thus, you lose your already gossamer bond with your subscribers.
There are two core elements you should pay the greatest attention to:
Communicate by arguments
An argument follows a very easy structure that helps understand your game related decisions, e.g. roll backs, new talents, pvp adjustments etcetera. First you need a Statement, then a pertaining reasoning and then solid, unyielding, relentless, adamant proof for your claim. This is a very challenging task but worthwhile the effort. Once you have established a culture of arguments are there to explain why and arguments can only be answered by arguments and not personal insults.
Train your CSRs in Mediation techniques
I know what you think: Why would I do so? Very easy: Every single MMO/RPG that is, was and will be is competitive and faction based as well as character based. Groups built faster than you will be able to say “wellhowdidIendupbeingnotcool” and groups have got an outside distinctiveness ( Horde vs Alliance, Midgard vs. Albion, Terrors vs Counters, Rebels vs Empire ) and an inside distinctiveness ( Tank and Healer vs Damage Dealers and Crowd Control ). The best way to resolve issues rooted in this disparity is to employ mediation. Your staff must [sic!] have the vantage point and must [sic!] be perceived as independent and neutral. Finding common ground, repeating arguments, phrasing solutions and finding a way to come up with a win / win solution is not the easiest task. Only trained staff is capable of using these techniques successively.
Result: Customers that understand! your decisions, fewer forum feuds and FOTM ( Flavour of the month ) rages
Last but not least, I want to tell you two things that are woefully neglected by so many computer games developers and other fields of business world wide:
Twenty Dollar spend on Customer Relation Management is 2000 Dollar earned!
Your CRM must be based on three core Ideas
Investment, Innovation, Interpersonal Skills
And your SLA’s on
Reliability, Validity, Transparency
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