Despite the name of this post, and the stories I’ll share with you below, I’m not here to say that Star Wars: The Old Republic is a bad company that hates their customers.
I think I’ll be able to prove that I have a completely different point by the end of the post.
I’ve been hearing stories since SW:TOR was released of players having problems getting issues resolved through customer support channels. I haven’t paid too much attention to it, for a number of reasons.
In short, every game has issues, there are a ridiculous number of computer hardware and software platforms out there people expect to work just spiffy right out the gate, and, well, a lot of people out there seem to feel entitled to have any big company bend over and drop trou for a royal ass humping if the customer perceives their expectations were not properly met in the right length of time. I expect to hear people whine about customer service. Always.
Doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
In the last week, a great blogger brought her experience with SW:TOR customer service front and center. She put a face on it, patiently went over the entire situation, and right from the start her experience has been just, well, it was complete fucking bullshit.
I’m not going to summarize her story. You’re all capable of navigating links, so here is the one to her site, where the entire story is now up in three sections and, thankfully, has a resolution that eventually completed it to Battlechicken’s satisfaction.
Like I said, I’m not going to rehash the entire story, Battlechicken already related everything in fine style.
The main point I’m carrying away from what happened, is that Bioware has a process to find people violating their terms of service. Their system found Battlechicken to be in violation, and they closed her account for a week and sent her an email to say what they did, and why, but not what the actual offending issue was.
They used an automated process to find people guilty of things they don’t like, and when names were provided by this system, they banned them as a warning as well as a notification.
Battlechicken was presumed guilty until and unless SHE could prove her innocence to THEM… but they wouldn’t tell her what she was guilty OF.
It has now been resolved, and they are so very, very sorry.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe for a second, after the number of automated responses Battlechicken received telling her that the ban was investigated and confirmed as correct and proper and she was at fault, that this would have been resolved properly if Battlechicken didn’t have a blog, was eloquent in describing in detail what had happened, and that the story spread like wildfire.
This story has now been repeated back to me by people I swear don’t even know what blogs are. “Did you hear about the player Bioware banned and they won’t even tell her why, even after she begged them to give her any clue? Dude, how fucked up is that? Oh yeah, you violated our TOS, here’s week ban. Don’t do it again or we’ll permaban you. What did you do? I won’t tell you, just don’t do it again. Man, that’s some fucked up shit.”
That was a statement I actually heard said on vent last night, from someone in guild that brought the topic up completely on their own. This story has legs.
It’s nice they came back after the fact, and investigated, and oh yeah, we actually were in error, oops, sorry about that.
Would it have been nice if, when she emailed the first time pleading for some hint as to what she did wrong, somebody actuqally checked? Yes, of course. Either they didn’t check, indicating laziness, or they did check and didn’t do it WELL, indicating incompetence. Either way, yay.
I think it would have been best if, after the automated system threw up names of people in violation, a living person used their judgment to vet the responses before telling a paying customer “you are not welcome here, and I won’t tell you why.”
But that is an isolated incident, right?
How about this one, from the SW:TOR forums. I put a link, but in case it gets deleted from their forums, I’m also adding screenshots;
This really says it all, in short form. A Bioware GM was reportedly harassing players engaged in world PvP on a PvP server.
The 11th and last page of the thread is where those three Customer Service replies all come in, in sequence, I did not edit them.
It supports my greatest objection to what happened to Battlechicken. A problem happened that hurt a customer, the customer reported it, and the very first official response is to say “We have investigated it, and proven you were in the wrong, but we don’t have to show our proof because we are professionals and would never lie or do a half assed job, so trust us.”
I really have a problem with the sequence of events here. To assume the player is guilty, take or threaten action against the player, be very quick to support being right by claiming to have investigated the complaint and found nothing wrong, and then shutting down the conversation until so many other people take up the cry for deeper investigation that it becomes a stink to clear away.
If I have one message to offer Bioware Customer Support, it is this; Trust has to be earned.
If you take action against a paying customer of your product, you are perfectly in the right to do so. But if that customer asks for specifics as to what they did wrong to validate your denying them the service they are paying for, you cannot simply say “We checked, you were wrong, trust us” and expect anyone to buy that unless you have established a consistent record over time of being accurate and honest.
Bioware, you have so far failed to establish that relationship of trust based on competence and reliability.
You have been shown, and admitted publicly, that you have jumped to conclusions without having first established and verified all the facts concerning reported customer complaints. That is, um, not good.
There is a positive side to this. There is room for improvement, and if Bioware commits itself to learning from these issues and improves all these preocesses and how it handles customer complaints and investigations, the players will be forgiving… and will also forget.
I gots proof.
Let’s step back in time to 2007, shall we?
These days, I see Biowares customer service compared to Blizzard, and coming up short.
There was a time, not that long ago, when Blizzard customer support flat out sucked in EXACTLY the same manner as what we’re seeing from Bioware.
If you doubt me and think Blizzard has always loved and cared for it’s customers, let me slap that blinkered bullshit aside with a reminder of my own personal experience from back in the early says of World of Warcraft.
Here is a post I wrote in October of 2007, my own personal tale of woe about the time my account was hacked, my characters stripped and all my gear disenchanted, ALL WHILE I WAS PLAYING, and all on Christmas Eve of 2006;
If you read that account of what happened to me, you’ll see how I tried to resolve it at the time, how much info I had just waiting to provide, and what kind of responses I was getting at the time. Look at how long it took to get any kind of recovered gear, and oh, WHAT gear!
The main things that are interesting to note in how Blizzard treated me as someone who was hacked compared to Bioware, is that I posted my problem on the forums, and when I went back to see what the response was, I found my post was deleted. I was not allowed to have a voice that others could see. I camped the forums for a while, clearly having no life and obsessed with some kind of fascination with just how shitty Blizzard CS could be to their customers, and watched others post their stories of being hacked, pleading for help, only to refresh my screen and see them deleted as well.
Think about that. Blizzard was not only ignoring those of us reporting being hacked, they were actively seeking out the posts and deleting them so it LOOKED like there were no problems with hacking in their game.
So what is my point?
My point is, Blizzard’s customer service was far shittier to me than Bioware is being now, but in the years since those days they refined their processes, changed their focus to actively HELP people, and have done so with such quality and consistency over the years that i bet half the people who would read that old post of mine would think that I either made the whole thing up, would think that it was an isolated case, or think that I asked for it somehow. Blizzard has turned the entire thing around, so now people hold them up as a shining beacon of communication and customer service.
So when you look at Bioware now, don’t see them as what they are, and judge them forever based on it like I was doing to Blizzard back in 2007.
Bioware has every opportunity to see what they are doing, to face it, and to accept that they have to change for the better. If they do, if they don’t try to hide it but instead work on improving the way Blizzard did, this could change for them too.
But there is one thing I’d like to point out.
Bioware are openly admitting fault. Blizzard never, ever did that.
There is a reason why. It’s Public Relations in the world of the eternal internet.
If you screw up, and you do not acknowledge it in words but simply fix the problem silently, admit nothing and move on, people will bitch, but there will be no active proof that what somebody claims happened really happened.
If you put in words on the internet admitting that you fucked up, those words will live forever, and 10 years from now somebody will post an out of context screenshot just to use it to prove some point that had nothing to do with it except that a big company admitted they had once screwed up.
Bioware is being honorable after the fact. They are admitting in public, “Sorry man, we fucked up.” It’s nice, but it’s a bad move. They need to turn it around and be honorable BEFORE they ban people or threaten them.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. Start with taking reports seriously, don’t assume the customer is a lying, cheating weasel, investigate reports, remain open to the concept that you too are human and might have made a mistake, and even with all of the automated hands free money and salary saving systems in the world, backstop it with somebody with a few brain cells to rub together to doublecheck for accidents.
That accident? That was a customer. Oops?