Six Tips for Leading a Successful Player Support Team

The number of gamers has grown exponentially during the pandemic and has increased the most in the United States (46 percent), followed by France (41 percent), the U.K. (28 percent) and Germany (23 percent) since March 2020. According to a new survey by TELUS International, 77 percent of Americans said they will continue gaming in a post-pandemic world, with 90 percent of Gen Z gamers being the most likely to continue. This growing number of players inevitably goes hand-in-hand with an increased demand for customer support. Studios and publishers need to have a digitally enhanced, experienced, and scalable player support team that integrates with the rest of the company.

As an industry veteran, I have seen the importance of ensuring that your player support team is not siloed from but a seamless extension of the client it serves, including its brand, culture and values. Below, are six tips to help make sure that happens.

1. View yourself as an extension of the games studio and a player advocate.

Understanding working relationships and learning the ins and outs of the various teams, such as game design, engineering, legal, information security, community, and PR, is critical to making sure that player support provides relevant, valuable feedback quickly and effectively. Players interact most directly with companies through their support and community teams, so it is important that this information be collected, organized, and presented to help the entire company solve the right problems at the right time. Bill Gates once suggested that if you listen carefully to customer feedback, they'll tell you how to make a better product. In the same manner, the best player support teams must continuously advocate for a better player experience, as other teams tend to focus on one aspect at a time due to the nature of their jobs. The feedback for everyone's collective efforts, however, all funnel back through player support.

2. Get to the heart of the gaming company's culture.

Identify the studio's culture and what makes it distinct and then make sure every layer of leadership deeply understands this culture. This will take time and effort, especially since cultures are usually significantly different from traditional customer service operations. Also, know that the culture of your customer service teams does not need to perfectly match the game company. Instead, attempt to make the culture and values come to life through the tone of the interactions with customers and players, including the problem-solving approach, escalations, and decision-making processes. Introduce new hires to the studio's culture as part of the onboarding and training process, using their value statements to inform real parts of work, like performance management and coaching. When key parts of the gaming company's culture are appropriately applied in your team's day-to-day work, it carries over to how the players are supported.

3. Help your CX team feel connected to the games they support.

If you're going to support players, you should know the games inside and out. Provide team members with time dedicated to playing the game they support so that when they are faced with an in-game question, they can give an informed, first-hand response using game-specific lingo. Not only should this be a part of their regular responsibilities but also an important element of the onboarding process.

But living and breathing the brand doesn't mean just playing the games, it can mean wearing them too! Celebrate your player support team with branded swag (if it's support-exclusive, even better) because many of them appreciate the love. Sometimes, we tend to take cool swag for granted, but agents really do get a huge boost from thoughtful, quality goodies. Tournaments are another fun way to build stronger bonds.

4. Align on strategy, desired outcomes, and KPIs early.

Any team can track metrics like customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score, but game studios and publishers are looking for a support team that can do much more. Historically, customer service teams have imported the standard corporate model, which has its merits, but there are many other approaches from which studios can benefit. The result is that many teams think they're doing great, while the studio might think they're mediocre.

Additionally, things change very quickly in live service games, so flexibility is key. Sit down regularly, and certainly at the start if you can, to talk about desired outcomes that can't be easily measured and the KPIs that they really care about. Whatever is agreed upon will change and drive the nature of the relationship.

5. Get your data straight.

Review the tools setup and all of the data connections from the studio, including operational customer service metrics as soon as possible. There's a high possibility that the data isn't well connected and that you were contacted after an operational fire. Crisis is often the reason game companies reach out for help. Fix those data problems ASAP to ensure your team is set up for success.

6. Hire the right people.

Our recent survey found that only 14 percent of gaming app users reported having an empathetic experience. This demonstrates that bringing on the right team members is the most important step in building a successful player support team. Gamers are by default engaged customers and generally those who contact support are the most engaged by all business measures. While many will look to exclusively hire gamers into gaming accounts, it is not the secret sauce to stellar player support.

While the gaming context helps increase speed-to-competency, there are other important attributes that indicate who can consistently deliver a better player experience. One example is what can be called a controller personality type, which demonstrates proactiveness and personal ownership. Many studies around customer effort score (CES) also support this idea, so it has found relevance in many industries.

Take the time to build profiles more scientifically and you will reap the exponential benefits. Hiring is hard, so don't underestimate it by throwing bodies at the problem. For key leadership positions, work closely with the studios and publishers.

These ideas are all crucial to consider when looking to successfully onboard your player support team if you want to become the ideal partner to a gaming studio. When executed in tandem, these tips will ensure that your player support team not only becomes deeply integrated with the games studio but that your partnership continues without serious glitches.

Tony Won is vice president of games at TELUS International.