How to keep empathy at the heart of customer support – Alice Murdoch, player support project manager with Keywords Studios – Business News
This is a guest post from Alice Murdoch, Player Support Project Manager with Keywords Studios
When you think of customer support at scale, it’s easy to forget that each of those support tickets represents a human-to-human interaction.
At Keywords Player Support, we process approximately 20 million support tickets per year and we constantly challenge ourselves to keep that in mind.
Professionals in the customer support industry love to discuss topics like automation and robots, but one constant downside to these technologies is one of the most effective skills a support agent can develop: empathy.
We all like to think that we understand empathy and how it helps us build better relationships. But we are not all equal in the way we interpret or express our emotions.
So what we all think of as empathy doesn’t automatically translate into actions we can take to provide players with a better support experience.
Fortunately, empathy in a support environment can be trained and this is something that we at Keywords Studios focus on to elevate our customer support interactions from good to great.
Empathy doesn’t always mean excuses
A common misstep for inexperienced support agents is to apologize to players by default. It stems from misconceptions that gamers have run into a problem and they want an apology.
The players do not contact us for commiseration; they want us to fix the problem.
Excessive apologies run the risk of validating a problem that doesn’t exist and leading players to wrong conclusions.
It can even be seen as creepy, triggering negative emotional responses from players. It may sound wrong or insincere and it is the opposite of what we want to achieve by showing empathy.
Apologies should only be made in cases where they are both justified and meaningful, that is, in response to a report of a known technical problem, or when a legitimate error has been made.
The next step in empathic coaching is to break down the interactions into individual steps that we can go through with the support agents. They are:
- Actively listen
- Create a connection
- To take part
Active listening challenges us to take into account what the player is communicating and, above all, to understand it from their point of view.
We can use a few conversational techniques to take an active listening position in our responses.
- Paraphrase the player’s description of the problem
- Ask them about their problem
- Summarize the situation in bullet points
- Clarify by reformulating the situation differently
- Encourage them to share their point of view
Understanding the full context of the player’s problem, including possible next steps and the outcome the player would like to see, will help you respond more effectively.
This approach may result in a few additional messages being exchanged with the player, which takes longer, but may result in a better outcome for the player and improve their perception of the game and its developer.
Create a connection
When a gamer contacts a business with a customer support issue, some naturally suspect they’ll get an automated or “cookie cutter” response.
Building a connection will only really work if it is obvious to the player that the response is from another player, who has taken the time to actively listen to their message.
Even small gestures can help make a connection, for example if an MMO player reports an issue with their Mage character, a proactive support agent may mention that they’ve also played as a Mage this season.
This can be a challenge for a support agent with a fairly limited communication window to make that connection, but the little touches go a long way.
To take part
Every player who submits a support ticket wants you to fix their issue immediately and compensate them for the issue.
Alas, it’s not possible 100% of the time, but you still want your responses to convey some sort of action.
Asking them for more information is also an action, but you should always value the player’s time and not ask them for information that you might find or seek yourself.
You should also guide the player to take action on their side and point out why this can help them. The player is already upset with the issue he has reported and also doesn’t want to feel led by him.
The bottom line is that a response without any action will almost always be disappointing.
It may seem contradictory to break down a fundamentally human condition like empathy into action steps like this.
When we train empathy in a customer support setting, we’re not trying to emotionally enlighten our support agents, but rather equip them to be on the same page as the players they respond to. , efficiently and consistently.
The ultimate goal is a more personal and effective support experience for the player, which is in the best interests of everyone involved in this exchange.
Alice Murdoch has been a player support project manager with Keywords for three years. Helping teams grow in experience and success is part of what makes her role interesting. In a former incarnation, Lead Community Manager, she happily draws on customer support and community management skills to find creative solutions.