MMO companies need to improve customer support

In the past two weeks I’ve had two go-rounds with the tech support departments of two MMO companies, and both leave much to be desired.

Case 1: Turbine

On Sunday, December 6th, I tried to log a particular character into LOTRO and found that I could not. I got a message saying the character was still being saved. I tried rebooting and the problem persisted. Other characters could log in fine, so I logged an alt in and accessed the in-game help. I opened a ticket explaining the problem and asking for help. I continued playing around on the alt for an hour or two and then logged off.

I didn’t get back in game for a few days. When I did, I found a response to my in-game ticket, saying in-game support couldn’t help and I needed to go to the Turbine website and file a tech support ticket there. Before I did that, I searched the knowledge base, and found my problem listed. However the “solution” to the problem was just a link to the tech support forums. Searching Turbine’s forums is virtually impossible; they’re using a very poor forum package with extremely weak search capabilities and a ridiculously long ‘cooldown’ between searches (20 seconds). So when you search and find no results, you have to wait 20 seconds before you can search again. The search also doesn’t recognize phrases, it only searches on words. So it takes a lot of trial and error to find just the right words to search on that the search engine won’t spit back as too common, and in between each try you have to twiddle your thumbs waiting for the anti-spam cooldown to timeout.

Luckily someone on Twitter suggested I use Google to search the Turbine forums, bypassing their forum engine’s search altogether. I found many people who’d encountered the same problem I had, and the only official solution came from “Sapience” (Rick Heaton) telling people they needed to file a ticket in-game to get this cleared up!! Now his response was quite old, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured things had changed, because remember I’d done just that and been told in-game support couldn’t help.

So off I went to file an out-of-game support ticket. Upon submitting the ticket I was informed that responses usually take 1 to 2 WEEKS!!!!! That is beyond an unacceptable timeframe to get support for a service you’re paying a monthly subscription for. [Full disclosure: I’m a lifetime member so I’m not actually paying a subscription, but many players do].

As it turns out, on Saturday the 12th, my character became unstuck and I could log him in. However, I never got a response to the ticket I entered, so I have no idea if the problem was fixed deliberately or as a side-effect of some other server work being done.

I love Turbine’s games, and I semi-know and like some of their staff via Twitter. I hate to knock on the company but their tech support department *needs* to be improved. Maybe management needs to devote more resources to the tech support department. A 1-2 week turn-around suggests to me that the tech support team is severely under-manned.

I also noted, via Google searching, that they nuke a *lot* of threads in their forums, which means users can’t learn from each other’s experiences. I clicked on link after link to forum threads about my problem, only to find they’d been removed. So I have no idea if the players ever came up with a reliable solution to the problem.

Case 2: NCSoft

Today NCSoft sent out an email talking about their Wintersday Celebration and inviting players to come back. I installed the client (and props to them for offering it on their website so I didn’t have to go rummaging through the closet looking for CDs). I have 2 Guild Wars accounts: one with access to the original game, the other with access to Guild Wars, Factions and Nightfall. The first account logged in with no problems but when I tried to access the other, I got a pop up saying that the account “…may have been accessed by an unauthorized individual” and the account was locked. “please contact Support and one of our representatives will assist you.”

So I guess the account was hacked? OK, don’t care, just want to play. This isn’t a bank account, after all, it’s a stupid game.

I head to NCSoft’s tech support page. Fill out all the info, including my email address. Get to page two and it wants me to create an account. Fill in all that info and I get a message saying that email is already registered. Can’t go forward. I hit back, copy the description of my problem so I don’t have to type it in again, and click the Login button at the top of the page. This brings me to the account “NCsoft Account Management.” So yay, I’m logged in. I click on the Support tab and it takes me back to the form I started at…and I’m logged out again.

Click login, I go back to Account Management. Click support, and I’m logged out. For giggles I fill the form out again, hit page two and it asks me to create an account. Try to do so and it tells me I already have an account registered to this email. Well duh, I know, I was just logged into it.

I’m a web developer, so maybe this kind of shoddy, half-assed, craptacular website coding makes me crazier than it does other people.

In the end, I send them an email. 15 minutes later I get an email saying “An account was automatically created for you but you can’t login until your password has been set.” I have no idea what account they’re talking about; I have an NCSoft Master account, a Guild Wars account, and now a Guild Wars support account? Maybe? I click the link, set a password, and the email I’d sent in has been converted to a support ticket. Huh?

Finally I figure out how to use their tech support page. There are three tabs in the body of the page: Answers, Ask a Question, and My Stuff. When Answers fail, the next logical step is to go to Ask a Question. That’s wrong. If you go to My Stuff first, you’ll be able to create a Tech Support account, or log in if you already have one. Once you set up your account, then presumably you can go to Ask a Question and get help. Under no circumstances should you ever use the LOGIN button at the top of every page, because that is logging you into your NCSoft Account, not your NCSoft Support Account. I think?

This shouldn’t be so hard!!

C’mon, MMO publishers!! Start treating your customers with some respect. Start treating them like…well, like valued customers. We’re paying your salaries, after all!!

/rant off

5 thoughts on “MMO companies need to improve customer support

  1. Ugh NCSoft’s account management is confusing as hell and I’d wondered what would ever happen if I ever actually had to resolve an issue with any of the games I play via that spiderweb system. I guess now I know. =/

  2. I agree. 🙂

    Luckily I’ve had good experiences with Turbine support with the help of twitter and the official forums, and I’ve also gotten prompt replies from Icarus, though there wasn’t much they could do from their end. Still, a response in under a day was amazing.

  3. Sounds just as bad as the support I’ve gotten from Comcast in the past. I generally don’t have problems so I’ve not had much interaction with game support services, but I did contact EA recently to try and get my old DAoC account merged with my newer Warhammer account. I sent in a ticket on the 16th in the morning and got an email promising a response within 24 hours. I didn’t actually get a response until the evening of the 18th, but it wasn’t a form letter and did contain an apology for the lateness of the reply. I may have another support story soon since I’m continuing to have problems trying to reinstall EQ2, we’ll see how the patcher is doing when I get home.

  4. Yes, dealing with Turbine’s 1-2 week wait is a pain. Actually it’s inexcusable for a company as large as Turbine to take such a long time in responding.

  5. I cannot recommend the EU support of LOTRO either. I won an account on Twitter, they were giving away some. Well… I had to mail THRICE and to talk to them on Twitter to finally get it.
    I am glad that I rarely needed ingame support so far. Other players were not fond of the GM and support performance either.

    Regarding NCsoft: Their account management is bullshit. The same applies to Guild Wars account security. I won’t explain in detail why they are so easy to hack. They have and had lots of flaws there and closed a major flaw only recently. The greatest bullshit is the login stuff you mentioned and the fact that your support account and your NCsoft master account and your game account are two/three different things… oh my.

    Blizzard: One wonders if the big one can do it better when it comes to support. Yet they prefer to tie the hands of their GMs, allow them virtually nothing to do. They are trained to be highly positive – they have a list of generic jokes and phrases, but using the official forums or asking a GM ingame for help … I would not even bother. Luckily you don’t have to do this too often.

    EVE: Never ever had the need to contact support. The game has an official help channel, and this worked quite well. A good mix of other players and official support.

    This said, one of my best customer support experiences was with Funcom’s Age of Conan support. OK, it was an easy question and the issued solved itself. The GM just had to tell me that he noticed my issue has been solved already. 😉

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