An Adventure in Customer Service

retrieved from xbox.com

Last week Xbox advertised its “Ultimate Game Sale,” boasting tremendous discounts on a large handful of games with some bonus deals during the weekend.  One of the games on sale during the weekend was Sonic and All-Stars Racing: Transformed.  I’ve played this game before and love playing console games on the couch with my girlfriend, rather than hunkered in front of a computer screen.  The sale was slated to end on the 23rd of February, and so on the 22nd I made sure I couldn’t find a better deal elsewhere before deciding to bite the bullet and spend 8 bucks for a game I already owned on Steam.

My issue began when I found the Xbox marketplace still said the game sale was going on, but gave no indication the game wasn’t full price.  On my Xbox 360, my PC and my smartphone, Sonic Racing was listed as $29.99, well above the sale price originally advertised for the sale.  I figured the deal had simply ended and didn’t think anything of it until I noticed a Reddit post stating that the deals weren’t populating for him although the sale was still going on.  The user described their tale of woe with Xbox customer service, stating that he spoke to three representatives, was hung up on, and finally just cast aside by the support team.  He decided that the best course of action was to just buy a PS4.  He found later his problem had actually been resolved.

I figured I had nothing to lose in checking out the customer service situation for myself.  I opened a chat on my PC, waited 8 minutes to speak with a representative, and was presented with an understanding and helpful representative.

retrieved from xbox.com

Here’s an abridged version of our conversation:

Me: Hey, I want to buy Sonic Racing but the sale isn’t populating no matter how I view it or how far along I move in the transaction.

Her: That’s weird.  Let me check on this.

Some time passes.

Her: It does say here that the sale only goes through February 22nd.

Me: Today is February 22nd.

Her: Oh, you’re right.  I’m also being told that our system works on GMT, so that could be a problem.

Me: Nah, I started this call before midnight GMT, so the sale should have been showing before now even if that is the case.

Her: Oh, you’re right.  Okay, let me have our team work on this – I already put in a request for them to fix the deal for you – and I’ll email you within 24 hours.

Me: Okay, thanks a ton.

One thing caught my attention.  Before we ended the conversation, she thanked me for being so nice to her.  I’ll quote the representative directly here:

“I appreciate the cooperation and patience you have given me for today, and from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank you. It seems that my day will be great because I am talking to a very nice person during my shift.”

Wait, what?  I told her it was no problem.  I work in customer service and I’m not in the position to ruin anyone’s day.

“Thank you for your kindness, Al. Really appreciate it. It is enough for me to be able to assist a customer like you who is patient and very understanding.”

Though I was happy that she felt this way, I was also deeply disturbed.  How are other people treating support representatives?  I mean, I understand how terrible and immature the gaming community can be in regards to customer service, especially when it comes to subscription based service.  People think that because they pay for a service they own the development teams, and “We pay, we say,” has become the mantra of disgruntled customers unsatisfied with the scope of the service they pay for.

retrieved from runescape.wikia.com

I also understand that while companies keep the interests of their customers in mind, it’s impossible to make all of them happy all the time, and there are many situations where changes are made for the good of the community.  Additionally, there are times when things simply to wrong outside of the control of the company, and yet these representatives (who are not paid enough to deal with the attitudes of immature customers) bear the brunt of the backlash.  In my case, something weird had happened to the Xbox marketplace.  The deal ended sooner than it should have, and while the representative I spoke to wasn’t sure why that happened, she was more than happy to correct the issue so I could purchase the game.

My mind wanders back to the issues involving Lizard Squad, the troublesome group of “hackers” who orchestrated huge DDoS attacks against major gaming institutions, such as Playstation and Xbox.  They’ve instigated all sorts of hijinks, from sending bomb threats to planes carrying Playstation representatives, to bringing down online servers around Christmas time so gamers wouldn’t be able to fiddle with their new systems or online games for a few days.

I remember being directly affected by those Christmas attacks.  I figured it would be a good time to start a trial of Xbox Live Gold, because I wanted to try GTA Online.  Unfortunately, I had unknowingly started my trial three hours into the DDoS attacks.  Slightly annoyed, I checked the twitter account of Xbox to see why service was down and why so many people were complaining.  Once I noticed Lizard Squad had taken credit for the server issues, I figured it was just a matter of time until they gave up or were caught by law enforcement.  Meanwhile, Xbox Support was abused and attacked by a slew of players who whined, threw tantrums, and threatened to end their Live Gold subscriptions because Microsoft didn’t possess a magical kill-switch for DDoS attacks.

It bothers me that people have become so militant about something that was supposed to be about fun.  Gaming is a way of bringing people together, and yet a very vocal portion of the community chooses to complain and threaten.  People pay for games like Runescape, and then say “I’m paying which means the game is mine to change.”  That’s not really how this works, guys.  You find something you like, you pay for it, and that’s it.  If that thing changes in a way you don’t like, you can stop paying for it.  You can find something else to do.  You don’t go to McDonald’s, order a cheeseburger and then complain because the cheeseburger isn’t a box of chicken nuggets.  You don’t go to Publix and scream at the cashier because you can’t find a copy of Flight Simulator in the dairy section.

Furthermore, the nature of the world is that it is fallible.  Power gets cut.  Phone service is not ubiquitous.  Sometimes someone hits a pole.  Sometimes your TV doesn’t get a signal.  It’s okay that that happens, as long as the company makes a good-faith effort to correct the situation quickly.  It’s important for customers to understand, though, that things happen.  It’s important for those customers to understand that making some low-paid associate’s life miserable is not how you get things done.  It’s important for people to understand that I should not have been thanked for acting like a human being.  The default should not be “childish, irrational idiot who will ruin your day to save a dollar.”

“I’m going to cancel my service” has never been a valid threat.  Those people are so happy to be rid of you.  Understand how little power a call center employee has.  Understand that servers don’t have an “anti-DDoS” switch.  Understand that humans deserve to be treated with decency and respect, and perhaps then you won’t get hung up on so much.

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