The 2020 Netflix documentary series ‘High Score’ was a real treat for anyone interested in retro gaming. It described the early days of companies such as Atari, Nintendo, and Sega and the birth of the home gaming console.
In one of the episodes there is a focus on early Player Support at Nintendo. The contact center operation is very primitive, with just a few phones inside an office to handle however many players were calling for help, but what was really interesting was the hiring process.
Nintendo only hired people to work the phones if they really knew how to play the games. In most cases they were expected to have completed arcade games before supporting them – hopefully the company supplied a bag of quarters for the training sessions!
This kind of dedication to the product being supported now seems unusual. If you talk to most companies that help your business manage customer support then they will talk about the resource they have almost immediately available. This is because these companies are hiring based on aptitude, a friendly manner, and the ability to learn. These contact center agents can be rapidly deployed to support retail brands, insurance companies, or energy suppliers with a quick introductory course into whatever product is being supported.
But as Nintendo knew back in the 80s, this approach doesn’t work as well for gaming. This is an entertainment industry. The players are fans of your product. They are giving up their spare time and spending it with your game rather than watching Netflix or Amazon Prime. They need help with something that really matters personally to them, not just advice on how to renew a motor insurance policy.
Kelvin Plomer is the Senior Director of Games Operations at Jagex. He is based in Cambridge in the UK and Jagex works with us to manage their Player Support. In a recent interview, Kelvin said: “I really wouldn’t want to go near any kind of generic customer service solution or provider that was not active in the gaming industry. It’s different. The fact that Testronic has over 20 years experience with games is great because it means they speak the same language and they know the right people to hire.”
Kelvin’s last point here is the kicker. We know the right kind of people to hire. We hire people that are passionate about gaming because they will be directly interacting with and supporting players. This kind of support isn’t generic–Nintendo knew it 40 years ago.
We believe that a passion for gaming is essential for everyone in our company, but especially the Player Support team because they have that intimate and direct contact with the players. But what is the business value of this passion?
• Motivation: how do you motivate contact center agents just taking complaints all day on behalf of a cell phone company? The experience of gamers helping players all day is entirely different–it’s satisfying and enjoyable. Motivation is far easier when people like what they are doing.
• Career: our company is deeply integrated into the gaming industry, with services including Player Support, Localization, and QA. We have great connections to games publishers, and this creates a pathway to different opportunities that a typical customer service agent will never see in a role outside gaming.
• Retention: most customer service operations struggle with retention – it’s typical for many contact centers to be replacing everyone on the team inside a year. This is directly related to interest and motivation in the jobs – when players support players this isn’t a problem.
Player Support is different to traditional customer service processes. Companies in the gaming industry have known this for decades. It’s all about the passion that genuine players can bring to the table when supporting other players. Creating that passion in a support process is step one of what we do at Testronic.
Follow the Testronic company page on LinkedIn for more insight and information on gaming and Player Support.
CC Photo by Screen Post and Jason Leung