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

Champions Online crossed off my list

Early on, I scoffed at the idea of Cryptic offering a couple of special subscription offers (a Discounted 6 month sub, and a Lifetime sub) before the game released. All their marketing material said these were limited time offers that ended on Sept. 1st.

I scoffed, but I kept playing preview weekends and “open” beta, and found myself enjoying the game and slowly being sucked in. Finally I decided that I’d snag one of the two special offers, but I wasn’t sure which one. I had until Sept. 1st to decide, so there was no rush.

Last night, Cryptic posted a notice on their website shifting their story and saying now that “Supplies were limited.” By this morning, they were sold out. I didn’t see their site last night as I was busy taking part in the end of beta event. Nothing about this was in the launcher.

How can you sell out of a virtual product?

When I found out I’d missed out on these special deals, I was pretty upset. Had I known the offer was a limited time one, I would’ve purchased early. And I know now that I would’ve actually sprung for the Lifetime Sub. First of all, it comes with 8 extra character slots, and this was clearly a game I would’ve gone alt-crazy in. Second, it feels like the kind of game I’d play casually… a little bit at a time, over a long period, so a Lifetime Sub made sense for me (and I’d just earned a $200 bonus from a freelance job, coincidentally).

Anyway, now that this sweet offer has been dangled in front of my nose, then retracted, I find that I’m no longer interested in giving Cryptic any of my money.

Unless they decide to re-institute the offer. The one legit concern I can understand is that the special offers included entrance into the Star Trek Online beta, and I can see where they’d have to put a limit on those.

So maybe, hopefully, they’ll re-open the offers, just with the STO beta entry removed. I’d be fine with that.

I won’t delete the client, in the hopes that Cryptic does the right thing by their customers.

Nintendo Customer Support FTW!

Somewhere around July 23rd, our Wii Fit Balance Board started acting wonky, giving crazy readings and drawing straight diagonal ‘COB traces’. I futzed with it for a couple of days, but on Friday, July 25th we called Nintendo to request service.

Later that day we were emailed a pre-paid FedEx Ground shipping label. On Saturday we packed up the Balance Board and on Monday, July 28th I dropped it off at a Kinko’s FedEx Center. It arrived on July 29th (a bit of luck there, we’re in MA and the repair center is in NY so it didn’t have far to travel). By July 30th there was a notice in the Repair System that they would replace the board but it was currently back-ordered.

In spite of this, a new board was shipped via UPS Blue (2nd day air) on July 31st, a Thursday. Today, Monday, August 4th, the new board arrived. It works perfectly. And cost us nothing beyond some packing tape (we sent it back in the original WiiFit box, wrapping it in flattened out brown-paper shopping bags).

I’ve been “fortunate” enough to have to pay to have both an XBox 360 and a PS3 repaired. It took Microsoft almost 5 weeks to turn around the XBox ($100) repair, and it took Sony 3 weeks to turn around the ($150) PS3 repair. And in neither case was anything repaired…the old unit was just swapped out for a refurb.

So I have to rate Nintendo as easily the best of the ‘big three’ when it comes to Customer Service. The exchange was handled swiftly and with no hassles whatsoever.

And we’ve got our little friend back. Oh, how we’ve missed our Balance Board Buddy!