How games companies can transfer their culture to their CX partners
In the games industry, there's an intrinsic link between a company's culture and the player support experience. Gamers build deep personal allegiances to brands and their titles, which demands that player support teams need to be authentic and rooted in the brand's culture.
"A player can tell within one sentence whether the person they are speaking to gets them or not," explains Hristo Vasilev, a client relationship manager at TELUS International who focuses on the games industry. "Games tend to have their own language and culture, and if you're a invested in that as a player, there's nothing worse than a support person not understanding why something matters to you."
Player support or customer experience (CX) agents are the voice of a studio. They're the link between the company culture and player expectations. Support teams need to not only be experts in the games themselves, but also the culture of the studio behind them — and that presents a scaling challenge for many in the industry.
The importance of culture in the games industry
According to a survey from Future Publishing — the media company behind gaming publications Gamesradar+ and PC Gamer — 68% of Americans increased their game time over the past two years. And the growth isn't just in the US either: Globally, there were under 2 billion gamers in 2015, and by 2027 that number is expected to reach 3.8 billion, per Statista.
With this boom in gaming comes an increase in demand for player support. However, this increase, plus labor shortages in the space, are making it hard for companies to scale in-house CX. To help deliver a consistent experience through periods of growth, many studios are looking to partner with companies that can help them scale their support and services, but not at the cost of their culture and values.
"A great partner in the games industry will prioritize the culture of the games company — and of their players," says Vasilev. "They'll embrace that culture to help the studio deliver the same unique, high-standard experience that players are used to."
The key to bringing culture to life lies in the language you use, the processes you put in place and the environment you create.
The language: Defining your voice and tone
When it comes to delivering excellent player support, how you speak to your players is just as important as what you say, explains Vasilev. A company's culture manifests itself in language.
"The way you communicate at work, how you talk to each other, how you provide feedback and even corporate hierarchy – or for a lot of games companies the lack thereof – is based on authenticity and informality," says Vasilev. But translating that genuine understanding of the games and the studio culture into interactions with players requires intention.
Brand voice guidelines can help inspire inclusivity and engagement when it comes to customer interactions. They can also give voice to brand values and help form a foundation that empowers player support agents to repair connections with customers. This information is especially critical when it comes to partnering with an outsourcing provider.
"At TELUS International, we have recruiters and trainers who really immerse themselves in the client's culture and the culture of the wider industry," Vasilev says. "That way, when we hire and onboard, the focus isn't entirely on headcount and procedural knowledge, but rather how we can turn your culture into a great experience for players. There's a level of empowerment."
If your studio doesn't have formal, documented brand guidelines for voice and tone, a good outsourcing partner can tap into the studio's aspirations to tease them out, with the goal of bringing your culture to the forefront of each customer interaction.
Processes: Intention builds culture
Beyond language, culture is also highly linked to organizational processes.
In some cases, too many processes can lead to something called organizational drag — needless interactions and bureaucracy within a company that slow down productivity. When the drag, well, drags on, it undeniably affects culture by making accomplishing things harder than necessary.
Some companies are trying to fend off organizational drag by drawing on values and culture to define ideal outcomes. For example, Netflix's expense policy is five words long: "Act in Netflix's best interest." And Vasilev points to Pixar, which has built its culture around the adage, "All for one and one for all."
"Culture comes from values," he adds. "We work with our partners to create value-based environments and to coach people to make decisions, rather than blindly following rigid processes."
Vasilev suggests that organizations recognize the constant evolution of culture by revisiting values yearly to see what's changed, and then analyzing their company's business processes through their filter of values. This exercise is especially important when working with a player support partner. "The games ecosystem is extremely dynamic," says Vasilev. "You want that partner to be an active and flexible participant in what's going on day-to-day."
Through reflection and analysis, you can identify inefficiencies in current processes and make changes that get you closer to the culture you aspire toward.
Environment: Immersing player support team members
Work environments are reflective of culture, especially in gaming.
For many games companies, particularly big-name studios, their spaces often incorporate design elements plucked directly from their key titles. For example, the reception of Ubisoft's Düsseldorf office greets employees and visitors with a life-sized rabbit-like creature from its Rabbids series. At Activision Blizzard, a large-scale orc statue from its World of Warcraft game stands tall outside the building. These design elements set the tone for the environment and help perpetuate brand affinity.
For outsourcing partners, Vasilev says it's common practice to create a designated environment for player support team members to immerse themselves in the brands they're representing. But, he cautions, there's more to it than just creating a physical environment for agents that looks and feels like the companies they're representing.
The people representing your studio need to embody the same values and behaviors — which starts with hiring, but continues on into the environment you create for them. Culture is brought to life in what people do and say, and it's vital that these things are the subject of critical thought, says Vasilev. Of course, an extension of the environment you create involves deepening their understanding of the industry, titles and their players. This could mean bringing agents to an esports event or a games launch, for example. It's also important to make sure agents have plenty of time to play the games while at work and get to know the products. Finally, great progress can be made once you've established a feedback loop between your players, your player support team and other components of your wider operation. Your agents should be able to identify and share concerns, and improvement ideas, in order to create a better environment for your players.
By focusing on language, processes and environment, games companies can ensure culture transfer goes smoothly when working with an outside team. The right player support partner will not only understand the value of your culture, but will have the capabilities to replicate, sustain and even enhance it.