Game maker's social media customer service strategy taps self-service, marketing

The maker of Call of Duty and Guitar Hero is providing customer service through Facebook and Twitter but struggling to measure results and still leaning on self service, IVR and the phone channels.

Like many companies, Activision, the maker of popular video games like “Call of Duty” and “Guitar Hero,” has begun to experiment with serving its customers via social networks.

And also like many companies, Activision is having trouble determining the effectiveness of its social media customer service strategy.

“We’re all struggling in coming up with metrics for success rates in social media,” said Michael Hill, senior manager global customer service with the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company.

Activision does, however, have some anecdotal evidence suggesting its efforts are paying off. Each time it releases a new or updated game, Activision runs a projection of the number of incoming service requests the company will get via phone and email. Over the years, the company has gotten very accurate with its forecast, Hill said. Yet, when Activision released “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” one of its most popular games, its forecast was off -- way off.

“We can get that to a pretty exact number,” Hill said. “The year we launched social media on Twitter, none of our email or phone numbers hit. I think we attributed like a 25% reduction to social media. It was the only way to explain it away. Especially with ‘Call of Duty,’ which we go way back with.”

 Activision runs RightNow in its call centers, a combination of in-house and outsourced, which are located around the world The deployment includes the RightNow Cloud Monitor. Hill is happy with it, but beyond seeing some impact in service request volume, he is having a hard time measuring its effect.

“I think it’s just an adjustment in the market,” Hill said. “People like to use that method of seeking support. But I’ve yet to get hard metrics. We do target first contact resolution, and it’s very hard to determine with social media.”

There is one clear benefit, Hill said, “from a C-Sat [customer satisfaction] perspective, it’s a total home run.”

Staffing social network customer service and integrating marketing

Activision’s success with its social media strategy means the company now has dedicated staff for the Twitter and Facebook channels. While those agents also handle requests from email and the phone, Hill needs constant coverage.

“We found with social media we have to have it going around the clock,” he said. “A lot of customers expect to go on at two o’clock in the morning and have somebody there.”

No doubt that’s due in part to Activision’s customer base -- gamers -- but not necessarily its global footprint. While Activision has global language support for phone and email, it’s just branching out into social networking customer service in Germany and France.

Social CRM initiatives have typically found more traction in marketing departments, and Activision is also using Twitter and Facebook there. It’s also taken early steps to integrate social service and social marketing -- the people in the respective departments work in the same room.

“The marketing people aren’t really skilled for consumer support, and my guys don’t have a lot of info on when the next tournament is going to happen,” Hill said.

Focusing on customer service metrics

The ultimate goal, of course, is to serve this to the customer, and Activision judges based on a few key metrics, primarily first call resolution (FCR). And Hill explained that’s difficult to measure -- not just with social channels, but everywhere.

“What we’ve figured out is that the customer is the only one to tell you if FCR was achieved or not,” he said.

To get that answer, Activision sends out five-question surveys, which also include a net promoter score (NPS) question.

Besides, the social channels still come in dead last after the self-service knowledge base, phone calls to the 800 number and then email.

Like most contact centers, Activision keeps a close eye on cost efficiency. While Hill doesn’t like to use the term call deflection these days, the company is getting about 70% deflection from the interactive voice response (IVR), a big savings since requests handled through the IVR cost him about a tenth of what it costs for a live agent to handle it on the phone.

“With gaming we like self-service to handle things wherever possible,” Hill said.

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