At what point should you consider outsourcing your player support processes? The answer is different for each game publisher, but it will include variables such as quality of service and ability to anticipate player needs. If you are struggling to support players in-house then what are the most important factors to consider when planning an outsourcing strategy?
First, think about the terminology. Outsourcing is industry jargon for an on-going business to business relationship, but this is about much more than just finding a service supplier. The company you work with is going to be responsible for how your players see your brand. They will be interacting with players on a daily basis so start with partnership in mind, rather than a client/supplier type arrangement. This is the beginning of a genuine partnership.
You might be considering outsourcing because you need more scale and resource than you can handle internally or it may just be to improve the process and service quality. Whatever your primary drivers, there are several factors that need to be considered when comparing potential player support partners.
Video games are entertainment. Your players love your games and give their free time to them – it’s a very different proposition to design player support compared to building a banking call center. Video games are a special category of product so you need to think carefully about the partner you select. Are they firmly rooted within the gaming industry? Do they understand that players are not just customers?
This is perhaps one of the most important points to remember when selecting a partner. They will be interacting with your players. Do they understand game development and support as well as you do?
Size and Focus
When thinking about which player support partner to work with you also need to think about their size and culture. Does it match your business? If you are outsourcing player support for the first time then your requirements may initially be modest – a few support agents working in a single language. If you go to one of the customer service contact center specialists, with revenue measured in billions of dollars, then it’s unlikely that you will be a priority – if they even return your calls for help.
You need to find a partner that has experience of gaming, but also has the flexibility to take on a smaller partnership – with the potential to grow. Lines of communication should be short and direct. Processes should be agile. As a client, you should have direct access to your partner’s leadership team.
When you manage your player support in-house, you call the shots. If you need to change anything then it’s a simple case of telling the support team that everything has changed. Once you work with a partner then contracts are needed. You will need to agree on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Service Levels (SLs)to measure the performance of your partner.
Some outsourcing companies have very rigid processes in this area. How will that work for your company if your new game suddenly explodes in popularity? Ensure that your new partner does not require long-term commitments on service levels and has the ability to quickly scale up and down as your business changes.
This is connected to the previous two points, but is distinct. Even if you find a partner that is flexible and makes your business a priority, they can still let you down with poor communication. From the start you need to define clear lines of communication and how operational contact will take place. This can simply be using tools such as Teams or Slack, but it is important to at least agree on the approach from day one.
Agree in advance on how you will manage reviews and feedback. This could be as simple as a monthly business review (MBR) meeting, but once again, reporting and feedback cannot be left to chance. Discuss the approach and ensure you are comfortable with the agreed plan before commencing a partnership.
Some companies focus specifically on player support services, while others offer a range of complementary services that can potentially be useful. Consider this when exploring your potential partners.
Services like community management, game testing and localization could all be useful additions to player support. You can leverage knowledge and experience on different areas, and don’t have to spend your precious time managing different vendors.
Each business has their own drivers that lead to an outsourcing strategy. It might be a need to improve quality, increase flexibility or just scale up faster than is possible with in-house resources. Whatever the reasons are leading you to consider outsourcing player support, don’t forget these key takeaways:
- Handling players isn’t the same as handling insurance claims. Ensure you find a partner that understands the gaming industry and knows the specific requirements of player support – not just customer service.
- Flexibility is essential. Don’t ask a company with hundreds of thousands of customer service employees to take on your ten-person support team and expect to be considered a high priority client. Find a partner that values your business and is ready to scale up and down as your game requires.
- Think of the future. Think beyond your current needs. What other, complementary services do they offer? If your game takes off, can they scale? The right partners are your eyes and ears. They are proactive and make you aware of important events and trends. What are your players saying? Is there any change in behavior taking place? A successful partnership will enable you to enhance your player experience, now and in the future.
Follow the Testronic company page on LinkedIn for more insight and information on gaming and Player Support.