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Dev blog: Customer Support: Past, Present and Future

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C C P Alliance
#1 - 2016-08-17 15:02:47 UTC  |  Edited by: CCP Phantom
Let's have a look behind the scenes and discover what our Customer Support team has been up to!

In this blog we will review the previous 12 months from a customer support point of view, provide insight about the support ticket queue including reply times, and present future improvements.

Check out GM Ender's latest dev blog Customer Support: Past, Present and Future!

CCP Phantom - Senior Community Developer

The-Culture
#2 - 2016-08-17 15:12:36 UTC
im just going to say it before the frothing masses start raving

the GM's and Devs have always been prompt and spot on with their service in my experience.

best customer service i have had in a game pretty much ever.
thank you very much for the effort and goodspeed dealing with the whiniest community on the internet.

o7
Amarr Empire
#3 - 2016-08-17 15:18:26 UTC
Ralph King-Griffin wrote:
im just going to say it before the frothing masses start raving

the GM's and Devs have always been prompt and spot on with their service in my experience.

best customer service i have had in a game pretty much ever.
thank you very much for the effort and goodspeed dealing with the whiniest community on the internet.

o7

The GMs and Devs do a great job for the most part but I've waited weeks to get a response on a ticket more than once. The one thing I strongly dislike about Eve is the customer support response time.
CODE.
#4 - 2016-08-17 15:57:38 UTC
Hi and thanks for the dev blog, it was most enlightening.

My impression of any company has always been based on 2 things; price and customer service. To date, CCP has pleased me in both respects.

But the 2 responses, above, indicate what seems to be at the heart of this matter; good customer service is a hit and miss affair in EVE Online.

Even allowing for the possible differences in the tickets presented to the GMs, there are ways of engaging the customer in a way which mitigates disappointment - and I don't mean the awarding of benefits.

I assume that a single ticket will be handled by an individual GM, in most cases. That person should be in a position to stay in touch with the customer about time-frames, or whatever. Whether your plane is subject to delay, or your train service is cancelled, what gets to most people is not being given any information about it; being left gazing wonderingly at a mute airport/station display board.

You say that simply hiring more GMs is not feasible. How many do you have at present?

Perhaps it's not just about the numbers. In one of your examples you say that some problems (resetting missions?) can be achieved by a simple mouse-click (forgive me if I have that wrong). If that's the case then why is a Game Master doing it, at vast expense and after at least 6 months of training? Is there not room for employees of a less exalted nature to whom could be routed the less demanding tickets?

When I phone my utility companies with a problem, I don't expect to speak to the Chief Technical Officer.

No; however good or bad the game is, the company as a business is only as good as its customer service department - or as bad, of course.

You could do better, no doubt. You must do better if you want a more positive total customer experience.

As I said, I've had no problems with the system. It's clear however that the issue is a lively one. The dev blog and its nod in the direction of transparency were good starting steps. A beginning I'm sure you're committed to developing, with continuous improvement.
Goonswarm Federation
#5 - 2016-08-17 16:06:10 UTC
For what it's worth I've always had a good experience with customer support. Granted most of my problems have boiled down to operator error due to intoxication, but they were always handled with style and humor. Lower response times would be great, but please be sure to keep the bit of personality in GM responses. It sets you guys apart from other games where I just get souless customer support drone #34198.

Also, I suggest one of the new GMs take the name CCP Souless Customer Support Drone. Just sayin.
#6 - 2016-08-17 16:08:34 UTC
" One factor which affects reply times is how many tickets we receive. It should be simple in that the more tickets we predict to receive the greater the reply times will be. "

I'm lost with this one. When I submit a ticket, the replay time will not depend on how many tickets are submitted after mine, but how many are in the queue in front of mine. You know that at the moment I submit my ticket; no prediction is needed. Thus, a time estimate can be made (with variation for the time to do each ticket, and those quick turn around tickets that can get in front of me). But predictions are not needed. If there is a big queue in front of me, tell me.

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C C P Alliance
#7 - 2016-08-17 16:37:20 UTC  |  Edited by: GM Grave
Sasha Nemtsov wrote:
(Some fair points)

To focus on your points specifically about head count and efficiency.

Our team size continually scales with our support load and will continue to grow alongside both EVE & CCP. Specifically our customer support team currently have 45 staff who perform a range of CS services ranging from our core role in helping players via support tickets, to greeting new players, writing self help articles, co-producing the Co-pilot video series, supporting events such as the Alliance Tournament or FanFest along with day to day management and our dedicated CS tools team.

As for applying the right people to the right task, while we have had various call to arms and all hands on deck moments in our ticket queue over the years, we do triage support tickets in terms of player inconvenience and support difficulty to make sure the quick and easy cases are addressed as fast as possible while tasking tougher cases to our more experienced staff. Our tools team are continually working on improving both the customer and GM experience, which has lead to faster resolution times for certain tickets and will soon be launching a further improved customer interface when filing certain tickets, intended to help expedite our service SOON™.

Lead GM Grave | Senior Project Lead | CCP Customer Support | EVE Online | DUST 514

C C P Alliance
#8 - 2016-08-17 16:45:39 UTC
Vincent Athena wrote:
" One factor which affects reply times is how many tickets we receive. It should be simple in that the more tickets we predict to receive the greater the reply times will be. "

I'm lost with this one. When I submit a ticket, the replay time will not depend on how many tickets are submitted after mine, but how many are in the queue in front of mine. You know that at the moment I submit my ticket; no prediction is needed. Thus, a time estimate can be made (with variation for the time to do each ticket, and those quick turn around tickets that can get in front of me). But predictions are not needed. If there is a big queue in front of me, tell me.


That point could indeed have been a bit clearer. A reply time on a ticket is heavily influenced by how many Game Masters (GMs) are working in the category (Technical, Gameplay, Billing etc.). If we see a spike in tickets it generally means that we have to reallocate GMs to different queues to deal with the spike. Thus even if you tickets location in the queue did not change it can be influenced by tickets submitted after yours.

We think that aiming to send a first reply to a ticket within 36 hours is better overall that providing what could be a changing or inaccurate estimation. If this does not work out we can certainly look into more individual reply time estimations.

Lead GM Arcade | Customer Support Manager

Curatores Veritatis Alliance
#9 - 2016-08-17 17:00:18 UTC
I want to add here that recently I had a "silly" issue that was resolved in a very timely manner in which I couldn't remember my user ID on another account, and after providing the information requested I was able to login to that account! Irregardless of all the complaints about the quality of service from Customer service I was very well pleased in the manner of professionalism shown, you all rock!
REFORD
#10 - 2016-08-17 17:14:27 UTC  |  Edited by: Sergey Hawk
How can you write about customer support if you can not answer simple questions?
Six f.cking months no one has fixed camera work.
And do not tell me that the camera is working as intended. If it was intended as "piece of shїt", then yes, it works as intended, like sh.t.

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CODE.
#11 - 2016-08-17 18:14:18 UTC
GM Grave wrote:
(Some equally fair responses)


Seriously, thank you for your detailed responses.

My perception may not tally with the real situation, of course. I've noticed an increased tendency for CCP to move away (in its communications with the players) from 'don't say anything until you're asked', to 'give them as much information as possible'. This can only be a good thing.

Thanks again; I'll mull over what you've written.
Blue Sun Interstellar Technologies
#12 - 2016-08-17 18:54:48 UTC
First of all let me say that like many others my experience with CCP support has ALWAYS been excellent in regards to the ultimate resolution.

Also like many others my issue is with the lack of communications / time to get a resolution.


While support queues can certainly get out of hand, if the GM's handling a given queue were to take 30-60 minutes each day to send a quick response to each new ticket with the following info, you could probably save yourself a LOT of heartache.


  • Hi, we got your ticket. I am GM [insert name] and I will be handling your ticket.
  • The queue category for your ticket currently has X requests ahead of yours
  • (If possible a rough non committal guestimate would be great)
  • If a user has submitted a ticket missing critical info, a quick note with the above and the basic info needed would be great.


Another possible idea is to have 1 or 2 GM's assigned as "screeners". Their job would be to do just the above steps. They could make sure that when the tickets get to the GM's handling the request, all the info that is required to solve the issue is there. They can also re-categorize improperly filed support requests to ensure they get the proper attention from the correct GM's.

The main point here is that a simple "We got your request", "give us this info to make the process go quicker", and if possible at least an idea of where in the queue people are would go a LONG way to not making people want to slit their wrists Lol

Even something as simple as a DMV style "take a number" system where people can see the number of requests in their particular queue and where they are in it. They could check back each day to see how close to the front of the line they are.

People feel like their requests are going into a black hole and they do not know when to expect a resolution.

Communication is key.

Thanks,
Acks
C C P Alliance
#13 - 2016-08-17 20:28:50 UTC
Acks wrote:

Another possible idea is to have 1 or 2 GM's assigned as "screeners". Their job would be to do just the above steps. They could make sure that when the tickets get to the GM's handling the request, all the info that is required to solve the issue is there. They can also re-categorize improperly filed support requests to ensure they get the proper attention from the correct GM's.


In the blog we mention a mini-queue which deals with time sensitive cases (offensive player behavior, agent mission resets, player harm reports etc.), this queue is manned 24/7 and one of the duties of the responsible GM is to filter some incoming tickets into the correct category. Having a ticket in the correct category really helps us to manage staffing levels and also helps that ticket get seen by the GMs with the training to deal with it.

You are entirely correct that If a ticket is submitted with all the required information for a GM to handle it then means that GMs don't have to spend time asking for the information. At the end of the blog we mention some changes that may be visible to players in the future. One of these changes we have in mind is to prompt players for information at the time a ticket is submitted.

Your idea that the filtering GMs should review a ticket and ask for any missing information before moving the ticket to the relevant category has merit. We could perhaps also send a acknowledgement reply when we receive an email ticket asking players to check that they have submitted everything we need to handle the ticket as soon as its picked up.

We genuinely do appreciate this kind of feedback and ideas.


Lead GM Arcade | Customer Support Manager

Caldari State
#14 - 2016-08-17 22:46:42 UTC  |  Edited by: helana Tsero
You mentioned the problem of getting GMs in Iceland. Why dont you hire (more) remote GMs ?

You have a incredibly loyal and long term playerbase. Players with more knowledge about Eve than 6 month GM training could ever hope to give. Could easily source some great GMs from among the playerbase.. just dont force them to move to Iceland. There are some players who just love helping others.

I understand you probably dont want players handling sensitive things such as account security / exploit and reimbursements but their are a huge amount of issues relating to gameplay, graphics, how do I do x, etc that could easily be handled by GMs sourced from the player base.

Hey you could probably even pay in plex..

Hire 100 player sourced GMs paid in plex to handle new player questions on gameplay / settings / ui etc and you could probably cut your ticket overall response time by half while not significantly affecting your support costs.

You really should consider this.

"...ppl need to get out of caves and they will see something new.... thats where eve is placed... not in cave."  | zoonr-Korsairs |

Meanwhile Citadel release issues: "tried to bug report this and the bug report is bugged as well" | Rafeau |

Working Stiffs
#15 - 2016-08-17 23:51:17 UTC  |  Edited by: Tau Cabalander
CCP is selling a gaming service. If customers can't get the help they need in a timely fashion, they'll simply move on to other games. Customer updates demonstrate that CCP cares about retaining their customers.

The company I work for is known for superior customer support than the competition. This has allowed us to gain and retain customers, even when we could not compete on price or product features alone. There is no point to any business without customers, and no growth without happy customers.

I suggest:

* A goal of all tickets resolved in less than 14 days.

* Priority escalation at least every 7 days. There should be no such thing as a 30 day (or older) ticket, without exceptional circumstances.

* Tickets requiring more than 14 days to resolve require some sort of gamemaster explanation update, and should NEVER just leave the customer hanging.

* Automated notification of any ticket status change, i.e. received, reviewed, assigned, deferred, escalated, resolved, etc.

* Automated notification updates every 2 days for all but deferred tickets, ideally with a gamemaster status update when possible.

* Automated notification updates every 7 days for deferred tickets, ideally with a gamemaster status update when possible.


EDIT: The above has very generous response times. CCP should strive to do a lot better.
C C P Alliance
#16 - 2016-08-18 00:16:06 UTC
helana Tsero wrote:
You mentioned the problem of getting GMs in Iceland. Why dont you hire (more) remote GMs ?

....

Hire 100 player sourced GMs paid in plex to handle new player questions on gameplay / settings / ui etc and you could probably cut your ticket overall response time by half while not significantly affecting your support costs.

You really should consider this.


We do currently have a somewhat similar program already established to what you propose . These specific Game Masters specialize in communicating in-game to new or rejoining players on a one to one basis.

These GMs are an invaluable part of the team as they directly address new player questions which may otherwise have been submitted through a ticket. They also are not all centrally located and do work remotely. I should point out that these GMs are not paid in PLEX.



Lead GM Arcade | Customer Support Manager

#17 - 2016-08-18 01:49:25 UTC  |  Edited by: TheSmokingHertog
Can you maybe create a queue stats page with a line graph (i.e), maybe on every Wednesday (between weekends)... with the current queue lengt per category with the following fases / stages;


  • # tickets in "information gathering" / "first reply"
  • # tickets in "queued in normal queue"
  • # tickets in "queued in senior GM queue"
  • # tickets in "closed this week"


Then graph the delta over time, and everyone can see how the queues are doing at a certain time in the EVE yearly cycle. If load is high in the delta graph, all players will understand that they have to wait longer. If the load is lower, faster responses can be expected. No requirement for bumping, etc... and clear information for all.

Example of the UI queue with 4 fases; http://puu.sh/qFf5k/9f5dd04c19.png

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C C P Alliance
#18 - 2016-08-19 10:33:14 UTC
TheSmokingHertog wrote:
Can you maybe create a queue stats page with a line graph (i.e), maybe on every Wednesday (between weekends)... with the current queue lengt per category with the following fases / stages;


  • # tickets in "information gathering" / "first reply"
  • # tickets in "queued in normal queue"
  • # tickets in "queued in senior GM queue"
  • # tickets in "closed this week"


Then graph the delta over time, and everyone can see how the queues are doing at a certain time in the EVE yearly cycle. If load is high in the delta graph, all players will understand that they have to wait longer. If the load is lower, faster responses can be expected. No requirement for bumping, etc... and clear information for all.

Example of the UI queue with 4 fases; http://puu.sh/qFf5k/9f5dd04c19.png


We could look into publishing some weekly metrics, perhaps through the @CCP_Help twitter account. Perhaps we could publish the current Average Waiting Time for a first reply to a ticket? It is our intention to get this number to 36 hours so a publicly visible way of tracking this may be useful.


Lead GM Arcade | Customer Support Manager

#19 - 2016-08-25 10:52:43 UTC  |  Edited by: Drazz Caylen
I won't tackle points covered by the above posters, but I did share my nods of agreement to both parties.
Additionally, I want to point out my generally good experience with eve online customer service, albeit having mostly had fairly simple matters to resolve.

Things got a little more dicey when you tried to get a more specific response or a reasoning behind GMs doing something (or not doing something) in order to help customer service with giving a higher quality reports in the future based on that knowledge. This also comes down to get better and more details in relation to the EULA and TOS (if a GM wants to message me about specifics, go ahead and I will provide. This is not food for a public forum. If you want to suggest me what else I should do to bring these points to the table, be my guest).

The moment you removed the ability to create an ingame ticket, things started to go downhill for me. The starting issues and lacks when it came to zendesk shouldn't have been there in the first place, as the presented system couldn't withstand any amount of scrutiny for weeks and was more a liability to use than anything else. It took too long to get those things resolved, which didn't give a good impression on this platform, and I still have yet to be convinced of all it's benefits.
I understand the old ticket system was an inhouse solution that required too much maintenance. I also understand why the ingame browser will go away. Still, both things made everything extremely more convenient.

My question is, why did you not develop a better inhouse maintenance system, or a smaller shell that was directly linked to your zendesk? Of course, you could ask me why I wouldn't want to tab out and just open a browser of my own? The answer is a multilayered version of "convenience" with a pinch of "additional information." Let me elaborate:

  1. From ingame, I was capable of dragging and dropping items, players, solar systems, whatever into the ticket which were important for a matter at hand. Granted, I would have liked to have more available text. The ingame ticket system felt too restrained, but I don't see how that couldn't have been remedied with an improved version.
  2. I could read information directly from the game as I typed my text, which is sometimes faster than trying to copy and paste a certain line, and we all know that eve isn't so great with highlighting text at times. Zendesk provides me no benefit there. Sure I could always post screenshots, but let's be honest, plain text can be copied and requires much less space and less interaction (search, find, upload screenshot, paste)
  3. I instantly got a notification when my ticket was answered, reducing wait time for my response (which is probably why current response time statistics could be better. My own anecdotal evidence will be ignored, but I just I waited longer for a response than on the old one, for similar issues.
  4. I can react to something happening ingame that requires my immediate attention and break off from writing the ticket for a moment. I don't think CCP will reimburse me for a lost ship or compensates me otherwise for attrition caused in the game while being tabbed out writing a ticket (though this would be harder now with the lack of the window consolidating tab key).
  5. In many circumstances, I could just keep playing the game while writing the ticket. There are many things that can go alongside eve, but still a lot requires reactive attention. This would be cumbersome to impossible with a zendesk ticket.

Now I do understand that it's nice to be able to check on your tickets no matter where you are. Yet I have no idea how much of the tickets require the player to check back for info FROM the game anyway, so I leave that out of the equation.

Still, I play the game. So I want to be inside the game. I don't care for your twitter updates, I don't care for your reddit, the only reason I care for your forum is because that's technically the public official way to get in contact with you and have it at least somewhat reasonably moderated as you are publishing your dev blogs. Side note; with the removal of the ingame browser, what are you going to do with the billboard? I mean it's best times are long gone, but that doesn't mean you can't seriously improve it.

Going from that tangent back to actual GMs and their work;
There is one thing you could do in order to free up GMs so you are able to have other issues resolved more quickly.
Back in the days, I lauded CCP as being the only company who opened up private conversations with trial players to see if they needed help with the game. Years later, you're still doing that. Others and you might think that's awesome, but now I believe it to be a sad state of affairs.
Because it still shows you haven't managed in all those years to make an actual working, reasonable tutorial. You still haven't managed to make the game more transparent in it's aspects. I don't mean easier, I don't mean more simplistic, I mean more transparent and having more explanations at the ready which don't waste our time. I still remember those clickable question marks.

Anyone telling me "show me how you would do a better tutorial" I'm answering with; I will. And it will cover everything CCP did right and wrong and more than one proposal on how to fix it.
Anyone telling me "you're offtopic" should be advised that this is not a single-level issue. GMs are intertwined with every aspect of the game. The player interacts with the game. The friction and surface points are as many as there are possibilities in the game, hence everything and anything can be traced back to GM efficiency. Reducing obvious flaws and hindrances in the game will automatically lead to better customer service, as there can be better coverage (provided they don't fire GMs with the decreased load).

{ This message was written ingame while playing it. Something that will soon become impossible }
#20 - 2016-08-25 16:42:09 UTC
helana Tsero wrote:
Hire 100 player sourced GMs paid in plex to handle new player questions on gameplay / settings / ui etc and you could probably cut your ticket overall response time by half while not significantly affecting your support costs.
You really should consider this.
You are talking about ISD. That's basically what they are. Volunteers sponsored by CCP.
Yet, veterans in starter corporations are doing the exact same thing with equal or better results. At least in some corps. They already care for the new players without getting anything. But the notion of CCP is to push people out of starter corporations as soon as possible, and rookie help is a cesspit, to put it in mild terms. I don't see any rewards for those people since years, so I don't see a reason why they should get something in the future.

There are some people I know, including myself, who would have taken up the ISD badge to help new players. But the problem is that you can't do anything else. You are not allowed to do anything, and neither are you allowed to run another account besides. So effectively, the best way of helping is not joining ISD but providing actual hands-on services for new players, which also gets them out into the open with you.

I'd say get rid of rookie help and enforce the policy that starter corporations are actually there to help new players, and are not the private playground of bittervets with bored-alt-syndrome who keep trolling new players. Spread the ISDs out to the NPC corp chats proportional to their headcount and / or chat activity and then see from where it goes there. Within no time the ISDs will figure out who the helpful individuals are and who needs to receive a few slaps on the fingers.
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