Posted April 12, 2017
Almost half of all American adults now play video games on consoles, computers and especially on mobile devices, transforming the U.S. gaming industry into a $23.5 billion behemoth.
Naturally, when half of the country and a large chunk of the world are plugging away at the latest Zelda, Call of Duty or Uncharted game, there are a lot of players to keep happy should a problem arise.
Gamers in particular can be a unique demographic, and managing their distinct customer support expectations is easier said than done. While there are many ways to go about the task, there is one approach that promises rewarding benefits: Hiring gamers for games customer support.
What’s at stake
Gamers aren’t typically one-time customers. If a developer earns their loyalty and enthusiasm with a great game, they can become longtime supporters. For example, a fan of Destiny will eagerly pay for additional downloadable content including new story missions, character skins, and more. In fact, The Taken King expansion pack set a new record for day-one PlayStation 4 digital sales.
In the process, gamers won’t just generate ongoing revenue from personal purchases, but will encourage others to play as well. “Your players, your community, are often your best tool in terms of advocating for the game,” says Emma Siu, a community engagement manager at Electronic Arts, who has worked on franchises like Need For Speed. “You need to look after your communities, because they’ll look after you.”
What gamers expect from customer support
By the time a gamer reaches out to a contact center for assistance, they have likely exhausted all other forms of support. As huge proponents of self-service, players often turn to members of their vast online community (via FAQs, comment boards or Reddit) to troubleshoot problems. When they need help to log into their World of Warcraft account, resolve a payment issue with their Overwatch downloadable content, or troubleshoot a mid-game crash in the Telltale Games series, it’s important that player needs are met quickly and that they exit the customer support interaction happy.
Beyond having their problems resolved, one of the main factors in the delivery of exceptional customer service for gamers is also being understood. “The nature of the call might be ‘Hey, I can’t connect to World of Warcraft’ but the customers real motivation behind it is ‘Hey, I’m not going to be able to spend the weekend with my friends,'” says Randolph d’Amore, who has worked in video-game customer service for 15 years.
It’s important for customer service staff to know that a game issue isn’t like a broken printer to players; a game is part of who they are as a person, and it often represents a connection to a whole online world of friends. This is why Siu says one of her chief philosophies is to connect with gamers as peers. “I want to build meaningful relationships with people,” she says. “You want to connect on that basic human level and relate to them.” And when it comes to customer support, nobody can connect better with a gamer, than a fellow gamer.
Speaking the same language
Hiring gamers who can deliver empathetic and specialized support will help the customer feel comfortable communicating their frustrations in gaming-specific language — easing customer effort and creating a powerful connection to the brand. “Gamers talk to each other as though they’ve known each other for years. There’s very little formality, and there’s no need to break the ice,” says Sethlans Vayu, a customer experience manager at Australian video game developer Halfbrick Studios. “A gamer in support can provide that.”
That deep understanding of the game can’t be learned through training alone – it must come from experience as a gamer. Players will know whether the customer service agent is part of the gaming community right off the bat. “You’ll hear it in their tone of voice or lingo. Things like that indicate that you’re speaking from the same place,” says d’Amore. “You’ll hear a level of awareness and an immediate understanding of the types of challenges you’re facing and why that challenge matters.”
Hiring and retaining gamer customer support agents
How do you go about finding and hiring passionate players to work in customer support? The truth is, they’ll often find you first. Gamers are typically eager to work in the gaming industry, checking job postings on developer pages or popular gaming sites on a regular basis.
Word-of-mouth from existing agents can also be highly effective. “The person-to-person referral rate is really high and gets you really fantastic candidates,” says d’Amore. “When I was at Activision doing the hiring and training for [customer-support quality assurance], it was not uncommon during the busy seasons to see that 25-plus percent of applicants were referrals from existing employees.”
Once the applications start rolling in, there are certain qualities to look for in a candidate. “Someone applying for a support role should be inquisitive about the different disciplines and areas of game development,” says Vayu. If gamers apply a passion to learning beyond what they already know, they’ll develop a broader knowledge base they can draw from to provide more complex help.
And while passion for a game does matter, it’s still important to consider customer service fundamentals when hiring. “You can’t just say ‘Okay, this person plays a lot of Destiny, so they’re hired,'” says d’Amore. Finding candidates who are innately interested in helping others is critical for great customer support.
Vayu believes that a passion for serving others is not just important for the delivery of good customer support, but employee retention as well. “If you have someone who wants to help people, and who experiences that rewarding feeling when they have, then they’re a candidate that won’t be hard to retain,” he says.
Why hiring gamers matters
Gamers want exceptional customer support and no one is more invested in delivering that promise than other gamers. “I have seen gamers be more invested in entry level call center positions, that other people might think of as a speed bump before their next job,” says d’Amore. “They really care and they get much more into it because it is not only their livelihood; it becomes an extension of their culture and their passion.” That’s a powerful and unmatchable force when applied to customer service.