Category Archives: Online Games

Customer Service – Customer or Process Driven?

Here is a very interesting thought for all of us. If you ask anyone if they thought “customer service” is important, the answer would be an emphatic “yes”. After all, you don’t want to lose your job, or your customers.

Now, the interesting question is this: “How sincere are you about serving your customers?”

There are plenty of sites and blogs that talk about “lousy customer service” or “excellent customer service” and so, I will not even want to go there. But I would like to present a case study here, and you be the judge – is the company sincere about customer service.

Actually, it is not just a company. It is almost an industry practice. The example I want to bring up here pertains to the very hot, very popular online massively multiplayer games industry. Some background for those not familiar.

The MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) market is one of the few successful online revenue models (other than eBay and other strictly eCommerce stuff). But with games at this level of scale and complexity, one of the biggest headache would be bug fixes. Not only that, but improvements and tweaks are a constant.

Here is the scenario that you see repeated from the early days of Asheron’s Call, to World of Warcraft and even to the latest Warhammer Online. When the game is launched, almost daily there are what is known as “down time” where the servers are taken offline to be patched (fixed). This goes on quite intensely for a while, then slows down to a patch every week or so.

Nothing wrong with this. The problem is quite subtle. You see, what do gamers want to do most? Play the game. What do companies want to do most? Retain customers. In this case, that means keeping the gamers happy.

You keep gamers happy by making sure you fix the bugs, upgrade the gamer’s experience and constantly keeping the game content fresh. Hence, regular updates, patches and enhancements. Now, when should you do this? You see, games are created by programmers. Game companies employ an army of people who understand gamers to make sure they are happy. Community managers, game masters, and of course, customer support. But who runs the servers?

Engineers. Management.

Here’s a pop quiz: “When is the best time to bring servers down for maintenance?”

Here’s the clincher – “When no one is using the servers.”

So, this leads to: “When will there be “no one” using the servers?”

And here’s the obvious answer (to some people): “Why, after office hours, of course!”

Well, that will work with your office mail server. Your file servers. Your huge and really nifty databases. But stop to think, please. When do gamers play games? During office hours? Which office do you work in?

So, they play AFTER office hours. But you see, most MMO servers are updated in the “traditional” manner. Some companies have figured it out. So, the more enlightened companies are now shutting down their servers DURING office hours to patch. Hurrah. Problem is, such games are now international. So, morning to you is night to me and you say to-Mah-toes and I say to-Meh-toes.

The irony of it all is this, even when they split the servers into North America, Europe and Oceania, they still down all the servers at the same time. Hence, peak gaming hours in Oceania and Europe is…? You guessed it, office hours in the good ole United States.

What would you do?