When asked what their companies do on a day to day basis to succeed, very few managers mention their customer support operation. Too many companies view support as less important, a department that only ‘saves losses’ rather than maximizes gains.
What we’ve learned while working with gamers from across the globe is very different — at least in the gaming and software ecosystems, a good support operation can mean the world.
A well built support team with the correct strategy and practices can turn haters into your biggest fans, build up your brand and empower your partner relationships. In this article, we’ll break down some of the best tactics we’ve discovered while tackling thousands of support cases over the past couple of years.
Know Your Product
Before even relating to your relationships and communication style with your customers, it’s crucial to make sure your support staff has perfect knowledge of your product and common issues. While making sure your staff has thoroughly read relevant product documentation is a great start, we found a couple of great ways to improve on it:
In our company, support staff have several time-slots each week dedicated to replicating bugs and using our products as users would. In our case that means spending several hours a week playing PC games and running new apps our creators have released. This first-hand experience has proven itself time and again and helps our specialists relate and communicate with gamers better.
Many online businesses and gaming platforms, Overwolf included, operate over existing games and products made by others. When providing support for layered products which include parts not developed by you, building bridges and communication lines with past and present product stakeholders can help a lot, even if solving these issues is not within our purview by default.
Another great way to get to know your product better is connecting support staff to feedback funnels. Many companies deliver incoming user and partner feedback to their product and development teams — we make sure our support team gets the same access and are aware of user experience and current sentiments on a daily basis. Moreover, our support team has regular meetings with the product team to learn about new features, updates and changes to our products.
Help Users, Don’t Give Them Homework
Pretty early in every support case, you’re going to need more information from your user — whether it’s crash logs, dxdiag output files, screenshots of a reported issue or something else. We find that automating these tasks instead of giving your users homework can go a very long way to increase satisfaction and improve our support operation’s performance. Implement product features that assist in information gathering, producing logs and/or capturing screenshots — they’ll pay back for themselves quickly.
Another aspect of creating a comfort zone for a user is in how you communicate with them when responding to their support ticket or social media complaint. Make sure to remember who is in front of you, what they have reached out for, and what their background is. In our ecosystem, that means speaking to a gamer in terms that relate to their favorite games or genres, using online slang and prioritizing the things they would care about based on what they play.
Sending in a support ticket is the culmination of a user’s lack of satisfaction or need to improve the product they are using. But we do not have to wait for this to happen — users appreciate attention and respond when you go the extra mile to create a great experience for them. One of the best ways to do so is to reach out to them proactively, even if they haven’t yet submitted a formal support ticket.
We do that by monitoring social media, reddit, emails being sent to our platform’s feedback box or feedback we get through app developers who communicate with those who use their apps. After spotting a complaint or a technical inquiry our specialists contact the user having trouble, offer their assistance and suggest solutions for what is bothering them. Users getting help proactively are MUCH happier with their support experiences on average.
Be an Advisor, Not a Bot
Support specialists sometimes fall into an overly robotic, technical pattern of communicating with users, which is understandable since they have to effectively get information from dozens or hundreds of people each day.
It’s important to remember a positive human experience is always better than a preset response when it comes to how users perceive your business. Remind support staff they are human, talking to fellow people encountering difficulties. Talk to users as you would talk to a friend you are explaining a solution to, and be patient.
It’s also important to communicate via channels your users prefer — in our ecosystem filled with gamers that means Discord chats, Reddit and various gaming forums, but in other verticals it could be other IM platforms or web portals that are favored.
Lastly, if you realize the user you are communicating with hasn’t got the minimal technical skills required to follow your instructions, don’t give up and be proactive. For example, we usually suggest sharing their screen with Teamviewer or similar software to get the information and logs we need or implement a fix directly, with as little fuss as possible for the gamer who reached out to us.
Don’t Compromise on Solutions
When tackling a particularly difficult support case, one can sometimes think that it’s not worth it — the potential benefit of one happy customer cannot possibly outweigh many hours of work that could support hundreds! Right? RIGHT?
Wrong. The way you commit to solving issues and the dedication you show across support cases filters out into the world and affects how users perceive your brand. Some of the best PR done by gaming companies in recent years has been done inadvertently by their support teams in a seemingly ‘unimportant’ interaction, one out of many that week alone.
There are two practical tips towards that end we can share beyond not giving up. The first — treat product reviews as support tickets and always respond to users relating to your brand and product. While negative reviews are more important to follow up on, positive ones also provide a great opportunity to start a valuable conversation with your user.
The second practice we recommend is putting aside a support budget meant to power through difficult cases. That budget can be used to compensate a user we failed to support or to soak partner-side expenditures caused in the process of solving an issue. When there is a conflict between our users and our partners, we make sure the user walks away happy, even if we have to spend resources to make that happen.
Stay on the Ball
On that same note, it’s best not to roll the ball away from your own hands in complex cases — even if a user reaches out with an issue that is in fact supposed to be solved by a different party, you should stay on top of it and assist in getting the help the user needs if you have the resources to spare. Users reached out to YOU for help, they don’t necessarily care that their issue isn’t your responsibility, and going the extra mile will be rewarded with lasting loyalty.
We had an interesting case that demonstrates this principle a while ago — users started creating custom crosshairs for Fortnite, including some that gave actual advantages the default crosshairs didn’t. Epic Games eventually noticed these players and issued a policy preventing any 3rd party changes to tactical UI, and we had a choice to make — whether to get involved or let app creators deal with the new policy alone.
Our choice was to stay on the ball — we worked with Epic Games to clarify app policies while helping each creator fix their apps to meet the new rules. While it did cost us some time and attention, it was worth it! We were able to provide the best possible support for our creators while safekeeping partner terms of service and strengthening our connection with both parties.
Never Scale Alone
Even if you created a fantastic support operation, as your company grows and your audience with it you’re going to have some problems to solve. The level of attention that a CS specialist can devote to each case drops while the number and complexity of support cases generally rises.
One of the best ways to future proof yourself and scale your support operation is to grow a supportive community, a team of dedicated users who get rewards and become a part of the brand’s journey. This tactic can go a long way to prevent support overload — a user who feels empowered will gladly share their solutions and try to help others, and that way many issues need only be solved once by your team directly.
This spills over into community management, since this is all about creating a safe, positive and respectful place where users can share their difficulties with no fear. A discord channel with attentive moderators can do the trick, and in our experience, it only takes a few weeks for users to start helping each other out and filtering off low-level issues from ever reaching your staff.
That’s it for this one! We hope our experiences will help you face down your own support challenges down the road, and thank you for reading it through. If you have great tips of your own for fellow CS professionals please share them in the comments below!