Play, Support, Repeat: How Gaming Companies Can Design a Winning Customer Experience

Written by Dylan Max on Apr 19, 2022

The Importance of the Customer Experience (CX) in Gaming

Back in the year 2000, there were 3 major players in the gaming space worldwide. Today, there are over 55,000 gaming companies in the United States alone. The barrier to creating games has been lowered, thereby elevating the importance of customer experience to new heights.

To offer a sense of the sheer size and exponential growth of the gaming market, in 2021 it was valued at USD $198 billion, and, by 2027, it is expected to reach a value of USD $340 billion. Moreover, increasing adoption of smartphones, as well as the arrival of high bandwidth network connectivity such as 5G, have increased the demand of this booming market across the world even further.

Proactive and supportive customers, gamers are extremely loyal – to others in their community, and to the games they know and love. This strong sense of being part of a like-minded community and social element is what draws many to the pursuit, all while being afforded the freedom to take risks, progress towards set goals, and a chance to fail, while in a safe space.

For avid gamers, time is of the essence, and urgency is high – when an issue is disrupting gameplay, they expect quick and immediate responses, and if something goes awry, they will be quick to complain. For players who have spent countless hours constructing their characters and universes in World of Warcraft, if a technical glitch destroys all of this hard work and effort, they will be wanting help ASAP. If an in-game transaction to purchase an additional feature is not going through, and is time-sensitive, a gamer will likely not be pleased.

What’s more, outages and game lags can generate tens of thousands of support requests all within a short period of time, and things can exacerbate quickly. An example of this is September 2021’s widespread outages of Microsoft’s Xbox Network service, which affected thousands of users across the globe. Thousands of commenters chimed in, and many posted harsh comments related to the gaming company’s customer service.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

When it comes to customer support in the industry, many gaming companies don’t think they have the adequate bandwidth or resources to provide continual player support, which encourages gamers to turn to other members of their online community (via comment boards, social media forums or Reddit) to troubleshoot their problems. However, gaming companies need to consistently monitor these external forums for complaints that may not be easily visible in their support queues. Such conversation threads can also quickly garner media attention that can both limit player participation and impact the reputation of a company/game.

Even though these community forums are popular, in many situations, gamers still want to interact with the publisher themselves via chat or email. By providing support on these private channels, gaming companies can have both more control of and awareness over issues, as well as improve customer satisfaction.

The answer here, one may think, is for companies to simply bolster their workforces so they are better equipped to handle increases in ticket volume that accompany a growing customer base. However, scaling a human-only support team is more expensive and trickier than ever, with 25% fewer agents than there were pre-pandemic due to cutbacks, staffers quitting and a lack of resources for agents to work from home. How can companies deliver more effortless and timely support, across channels?

Reimagining the Gaming Experience: An Gamer-Centric Approach to CX in Gaming

Customers today desire self-service options, many preferring to resolve their own issues without involving customer support agents – and gamers are no exception to this trend. Exiting their favorite game in order to conduct a web search or call a customer support number may very well be the last thing on player’s minds.

In today’s digital world, the solution is for gaming companies to harness digital tools to modernize how they deliver support, all the while keeping players in the game and engaged. Significantly elevating the player experience, in-game support offers just-in-time engagement and faster response times – no more wait times, and no need to leave the app. Additionally, for those games that earn money with in-game purchases, there is the potential for upselling (encouraging players to spend more, and upgrade with additional features), in the exact moment of relevance. Players are often quick to abandon games that fail to engage them, and higher retention makes for a more vibrant community, especially in multi-player games.

An in-game support experience also involves communication that is both synchronous communication (real-time) and asynchronous (time-lapsed- think of responding to a message after finishing an important project). Armed with these two messaging options, players can fluidly move between engaging in real-time, and leaving a conversation until they are re-engaged with a push or email notification, alerting them of a critical update or resolution.

For businesses today, providing customers with an omnichannel experience is critical – a seamless journey that enables a customer to interchange devices and fluidly move between channels, carrying context forward with every interaction.

In Netomi’s Customer Service Benchmark Report: Gaming, we found that, in our analysis of nearly 3,000 of the world’s top gaming companies, only 54% of them have an easily accessible email address. Additionally, of the companies that do have an email address, nearly 76% ignore simple customer service emails. As email stands as the preferred channel for customer service, for many, offering support over this channel is critical.

The Role of Chatbots & Conversational AI in Gaming

With modern AI that is continuously learning and improving the ways in which it responds to customer feedback and requests, these newer AI systems can provide assistance immediately to the gamer in the moment of need, thereby keeping them fully immersed in the experience.

A robust customer support strategy should follow such an approach, beginning with self-service knowledge bases and AI-powered chatbots that can tap into insights gleaned from questions and concerns brought up on popular forums such as Reddit. Upon identifying the customer’s intent, these bots can assist players by suggesting relevant articles from a knowledge base and in some cases summarizing only the most relevant info, encouraging self-service and offering gamers immediate help. Automation tools can then help with escalating issues from these channels into an instant messaging environment, in which players are able to chat directly with a support agent (human or virtual), to receive the assistance they need.

Offering always-on, always-available support, AI can respond to customers around the clock (which is extremely useful, as many gamers are known for their late-night gaming tendencies, and for publishers, as they reach a global customer base).

Automation of basic and repeatable player issues, such as modifying a subscription plan or directing gamers to the right forum, frees agents to focus on more complicated issues, such as bugs and system outages. Agents are free to spend more time with players, building rapport and sharing tips for better gameplay – serving as invaluable referees. With intelligent support ticket routing and analysis, complex issues are escalated to human agents, immediately.

Taking a proactive and predictive approach, an AI-powered chatbot can also update gamers on bugs and issues that they might encounter, recognizing when users are approaching key milestones and warning them that a certain aspect of the system is being fixed ahead of their game path. It would also leverage background information about unique player, device, and platform to update only those who might be affected. Then, as soon as a fix has been deployed, it can proactively communicate the update with each user that initially reached out.

Whether offered in-game or over channels such as email, it is clear that, in the world of gaming, customer support is falling short. As gaming only continues to grow, the opportunity for gaming companies to deliver excellent experiences is there.