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Community Detective Issue #13: A conversation with Funcom customer service

Jef Reahard

Welcome back, dear readers, to Massively's Community Detective. This week's issue is going to be a wee bit different, devoid of the community questions and customer service tickets that I usually discuss. While I've examined quite a range of titles over the column's first 12 installments, I've yet to present things from the perspective of the folks who actually answer your cries for help.

Community Detective will continue to probe the scary depths of various game communities going forward, but I'll also occasionally take time to talk to the folks behind the screen in order to give a clearer picture of the whole. Without further delay, join me after the break for a question-and-answer session with Funcom Customer Service Manager Edward Walsh III.

Funcom's Edward Walsh III
Way back in July, I took my first look at Age of Conan's community and customer service. The game acquitted itself pretty well, particularly when it came to GM response times to a stuck character ticket. In the intervening months, however, many readers have prompted me to toughen up my CSR tests and also to find out why it is that some tickets are resolved favorably and some are not. Read on for a bit of insight into this and other customer service-related happenings.

Massively: Could you tell us a little bit about your particular position and what it entails?

Edward Walsh III: I am the Customer Service Manager for Funcom. My position entails everything from staffing and scheduling the CS teams, to developing and implementing policies, to working to develop tools for existing and upcoming projects.

Take us through an average day as a Funcom CSR. How many petitions do you normally service on a particular shift? Do you also moderate forums in addition to in-game duties, or are there separate positions on the CS support staff?

The number of tickets handled per day varies widely depending on the shift worked. We operate four shifts of CSRs here in our support office. The numbers also vary based on which product has most recently patched, as any newly found issues can increase the number of incoming tickets. Marketing offers can also increase the work load as customers contact us with questions about the offers. We currently offer several options for customers who need assistance: email, live chat and in-game petition systems; however, the moderation of forums is handled solely by our community team which is separate from customer service.

King ConanIs the Followers of Asura program still active? (The ad for it still occasionally pops on the AoC loading screens, but I haven't seen any of them in chat for ages.) If so, how helpful do you find the Followers of Asura program to be? Do any of this program's volunteers go on to paid CS positions within Funcom?

We still support our volunteer programs and have done so for many years on various projects. Interestingly enough, we have recruited a few volunteers to come work for Funcom full-time. Mostly they will start out as Customer Support Representatives or Quality Assurance Testers and move up into game development. We are always pleased when we can do this simply because they have such a connection to the game before hiring for the position. Likewise, the same applies to their experience over the course of [their volunteer] time and dedication to the volunteer programs. Believe it or not, that experience is a good leg-up on the competition when applying for any position within the gaming industry let alone just Funcom.

Do Funcom's AoC CSRs also work on the company's other titles, or are they specifically assigned to AoC?

All Funcom CSRs work across all of our titles.

Can you talk about the most common petitions that you see on a day-to-day or weekly basis? Stuck characters? Griefing? Something else?

It depends on the day really. Some days we are more likely to get petitions about harassment than others. Some days we get in more tickets with questions about the most recent promotional offer we are running. It can also vary widely from shift to shift where one shift will get a lot of tickets on one subject and then the next will have most of theirs be about something completely unrelated.

In general, CS petitions that have to do with lost items are not resolved in the customer's favor (by restoring the customer's item). This isn't unique to Funcom; most of the companies I've polled in the Community Detective series do not generally restore lost items. Why is that, do you think? Is it a software/database limitation? Does it have to do with heading off potential exploits? Is it a function of CSR workload?

In my experience it is a combination of all of these factors. In order to ensure quick customer service as well as maintain manageable amounts of data for quick access, certain limits need to be placed on what we are able to track and replace. It is also important to keep in mind that in many situations where a player petitions about a lost item, we are able to help. For instance, should a player accidentally sell an item to a vendor, we are able to assist them with this in many cases. We are always trying to increase the number of situations in which we can complete a service ticket to the customer's satisfaction.

What kinds of people and/or technical skills do you look for when hiring or assigning CSR positions?

The first thing that I look for when hiring a candidate for our CS department is customer service experience. I look for people who are passionate not only about video games but about helping people. I then look at the other skills which the person possesses which may be of value to Funcom in the future. As [they do in] many other game companies, CS people often make the jump into other parts of our company as positions open up.

Is there anything you'd like readers and/or customers to know about your particular position? What makes it a demanding job? A rewarding job?

I would like our customers to know that we do our best to assist them as much as possible and as quickly as possible. I know that from my experience during my time as a CSR with Funcom that the most demanding part of the job is the occasions when we have to explain to a customer that we are unable to assist them with their ticket. The most rewarding part of the job is definitely the happy response that you get from a customer whom you were able to help.

Thanks very much, Edward! That's all I've got for this week folks. I hope you've enjoyed the break in our regular format, and I'll see you in two weeks with more from the world of MMORPG community and customer service.

Join Jef Reahard every other week as he goes behind the scenes to file first-hand community and customer service reports from the front lines of your favorite genre titles. From Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of

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