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Level up: How games companies are embracing the surge in player support

Posted June 9, 2020 - Updated November 15, 2021
Gaming support - controller

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the games industry has seen unprecedented growth.

A survey in the U.K. found that over 80% self-declared gamers are playing more, and over a quarter of them have been spending five or more additional hours on games every single day. Since the end of February 2020, players have broadcast well over 2 billion hours of footage on Twitch. What’s more, The NPD Group shared July 2021 data demonstrating a 10% year-over-year sales increase in the games industry within the U.S. And the growth isn’t just coming from existing gamers; all the big games companies have reported increases in new user numbers, too.

With new and seasoned gamers spending so much time playing, there’s been an increased need for player support teams to help sort out glitches, password resets, billing issues and other customer experience requests. And like those they’re serving, the majority of support teams are now playing — and supporting players — from home.

Operating in this reality has created a unique set of challenges for everyone. But it is also an especially important time for game publishers and platforms to maximize the opportunities by pushing for greater performance, establishing connections with a new crop of players and cementing relationships with existing players through an adapted player support model.

Seamlessly moving to a work-from-home player support model

Successfully moving to a work-from-home model kept games and their support systems up and running, while keeping customer care agents safe and healthy. Mobile games company Jam City, maker of Panda Pop, Cookie Jam and others, pivoted to a work-from-home model in just a couple of days. “Once we got the green light to get computers, our team ran around and delivered them to agents,” says Bill Galey, senior director of player support for Jam City. As well, his team’s customer relationship management platform (CRM), single sign-on (SSO) and communication platforms are all cloud-based, which facilitated the transition. “We barely skipped a beat.”

Galey says online communication tools have stepped in to take the place of the in-person meetings the team would have had, including training. “Some companies are stuck on needing a classroom environment, but we shifted to virtual using Zoom or Google Hangouts for training,” Galey says.

Other support teams have followed suit. At TELUS International, the pandemic accelerated the successful launch of Cosmos, an internal social media tool, to provide optimized communication during this time of remote work.

Without the benefit of physical proximity and the opportunity to swing by and check in or catch up at the ‘water cooler,’ virtual team meetups and individual check-in opportunities through chat, audio and video calls are now more critical than ever.

While weekly coaching continues, daily touchpoints are more critical now, especially for new team members fresh out of training. By conducting virtual shadowing sessions where supervisors can work on a player support ticket side-by-side with a team member over a screen share and offer very specific one-on-one coaching and feedback, supervisors can help keep team members engaged and show that the company is invested in their success.

Additionally, ticketing systems and real-time workforce management dashboards enable managers to keep a pulse on productivity when team members are remote. These tools help to quickly identify any trends that may indicate specific accounts or regions in need of additional support or different resources to be optimized and effective.

Using smart remote talent acquisition efforts to scale up support

Due to the pandemic, some companies are facing historic demand for their products. This means quickly recruiting and hiring team members is essential to their survival — a task that is challenging enough when it’s ‘business as usual,’ but is a whole other beast with so many additional considerations and restrictions in today’s ‘new normal.’

Fortunately, many companies have been able to benefit from established relationships with partners who can rapidly deploy existing support agents across new global locations. And to further ease the pressure on talent acquisition teams, robotic process automation (RPA), self-service bots and real-time translation capabilities are supporting increased volumes and easing some of the burden of staffing.

Still, such huge volume increases require more staff in most instances. In a remote environment, however, that means hiring managers no longer have the benefit of meeting candidates and new employees face-to-face.

For many companies, it’s times like these when the ability to acquire, onboard and train talent remotely has been crucial for business continuity. TELUS International’s Remote Talent Acquisition solutions enable brands to do just this. From virtual job fairs to digital interviews to online hiring, remote training, coaching and workforce management, candidates can be fully onboarded from home. The entire process is completely remote, from end-to-end, ensuring the safety of all individuals involved while enabling businesses to meet growing consumer demands.

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Preparing for a slow return to post-pandemic normalcy

With gaming customer support, it’s important to know why people are gaming more to be able to better understand and predict staffing needs. Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Floridas Stetson University who studies video games, says people tend to be motivated to play games to meet social needs, needs of autonomy and control and competence needs. The pandemic has made it very hard to have those needs met in real life, he says. “Sure, it’s all fantasy of course, but that’s the whole point — being able to find a space to address these important needs when it’s not possible in real life,” Ferguson explains. As the news changes, for better or worse, people may be more or less driven to turn to gaming for comfort, validation and to maintain their mental health.

Just as the general public have embraced essential and frontline workers during the pandemic, they are also a special group of gamers with specific needs. Galey says Jam City has made their games more accessible during this period. “Nurses and doctors write to thank us for giving away free play time and lives,” Galey says. Instead of tightening controls on game play and increasing objects for in-game purchases in order to maximize profit, many games companies have developed a new sense of mission, empathy and understanding for their players that will undoubtedly continue to serve them well.

This overall shift in mindset — to authentically connect with and be responsive to the gaming community — alongside operational adjustments to accommodate gamers’ needs in real time is helping industry brands adapt to the surge in demand for player support. By evolving work-from-home resourcing for support agents and embracing emerging technologies, brands will help redefine and augment the gaming customer experience in our post-pandemic world today and into the future.

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