video game character on level 1

Player support level one: The five basics of great gaming customer service

Gaming is more popular now than it’s ever been. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), over 214 million people in the U.S. play video games for one hour or more each week. The ESA also reports that gaming has transformed into a more than $35 billion industry, and it will only continue to grow.

A growing industry means greater competition and a fundamental differentiator between companies is their ability to excel at the basic customer service principles that are unique to gamers. “Gamers aren't your typical consumer,” explains Richard Banna, client relationship director and games expert at TELUS International. “You need to treat them differently: They have high expectations of your games, and the support that you provide for those games.”

Here are five basic elements any good player support strategy needs to have to stay ahead in the game.

1. Provide a human touch

Automated support, like conversational bots, are important in the modern day delivery of customer service, but according to PwC, 82% of customers have said they want more human interactions. Pairing human and automated support to work together side-by-side can help fill service gaps.

Madison Annibale, an assistant producer who oversees quality assurance and customer support at Australian game developer, Halfbrick Studios, believes a friendly human tone goes a long way to providing successful support. “We found our [customers] became a lot calmer, nicer and more polite when they realized they’re not just talking to a generic keyword bot,” says Annibale.

Hiring gamers who understand the passion of their fellow enthusiasts, and speak their language, can produce even more rewarding support and a more meaningful connection.

2. Ensure a quick customer service response time

Gamers’ playing time is precious. According to gaming market research company EEDAR, 40% of mobile gamers alone spend one to five hours a week playing. For many, it’s how they survive their commutes or how they unwind after work. That’s why the cornerstone of any gaming customer service strategy should be to get gamers back to playing ASAP.

First Response Time — and ideally, First Contact Resolution — need to be between 24 to 48 hours for email, with immediate response, and similar resolution time expected for other channels, according to Banna. Even a quick personal acknowledgement that their message has been received, and providing a deadline for a response in full, will do wonders. “Typically, [gamers] thank us for letting them know that they weren’t being ignored and they’re pretty much happy to just continue on with us trying to help them out,” adds Annibale.

Hands holding a gaming controller

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3. Provide added value by anticipating issues and creating self-help options

According to the Entertainment Software Association, players believe that gaming provides more value for their money than any other form of entertainment. Basic gaming customer support needs to maintain that value outside the game. To that end, companies need to invest in predictive customer service that anticipates gamers’ needs and queries before they ask for help.

“You have to know what the typical questions are so that you’re in a position to tackle those fairly quickly,” says Banna. Doing the legwork can boost multiple aspects of gaming customer service — for instance, more effective content moderation, more in-depth self-help sections and empowering community managers to be better equipped to address issues brought up on various forums like Reddit or Discord.

With 67% of customers saying they prefer a self-help option, it’s particularly important for any game-support initiative to include the creation of knowledge bases and FAQs in their strategy. “Depending on the severity of the issue, a good chunk of people are able to fix things for themselves, or at least start troubleshooting,” says Banna.

4. Let gamers know their feedback matters

Game-breaking bugs and corrupted save files are two common reasons why gamers give up on a game. Luckily, they’re both problems developers can fix if customer support is willing to listen.

Gamers want to know their feedback will have an impact on the product, and conveying this message is vital for any good player support strategy. “Anything they send to us, we take it seriously,” says Annibale of Halfback Studios. “If people give us feedback, it is heard by the people who make the game. I want players to know that we genuinely care about their concerns because that helps us shape the game.”

A sound strategy isn’t just being reactive, but proactive. “Collect player feedback in a qualitative way from the various tickets. For example live chat sessions, social media postings, and all other community channels that are of relevance to the company,” advises Banna. “Consolidate and filter that feedback back to your development unit.”

5. Help players even if there is no obvious solution

Not all game issues can be resolved. Some saved game data can’t be restored, and some side effects to software updates can’t be undone. It’s still vital in these moments to make gamers feel like they’ve been helped to the best of your ability. “Even if there’s absolutely nothing you can do to help someone, you can still find something to do,” says Annibale.

For example, sometimes when players lose their data in Halfbrick Studios’ game, Fruit Ninja, the company won’t just shrug their shoulders and say, “Sorry.” They will give customers in-game credit to shortcut their progress back to where they were before things went wrong. It’s a small gesture with a huge impact.

In this sentiment lies a core philosophy that should be part of every gaming customer support interaction: communication is key. Gamers are passionate individuals who are investing their time and money in your product. In return, gaming customer service needs to reflect their level of commitment by consistently delivering quick, personal and proactive player support.

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