The Tip.It Times

Issue 199gp

The Nightmare of Working for Customer Service

Written by and edited by Tip.It

From reading the forums, it would appear that Jagex has a customer service problem. I would hazard a guess though that many people who get their issues sorted out without trouble don't post to the forums. “Hey I had a problem because my account was banned for no reason, but Jagex fixed it for me in 3 hours!!!” is not the sort of message you read often. Even though there might be 10, 20, 100 times more people whose issues and problems are solved than there are who end up complaining to the boards, it's the squeaky wheel that gets noticed.

Now I don't know any of the people at Jagex, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the founders are all youngish guys, and they were probably still working on their undergrad degrees when they came up with RS. Not a bad thing. More power to them. Wish I'd been there and done that and gotten rich from it.

One of the rules of real world magic is “never summon anything you can't feed”—if you're going to summon a demon, be very, very careful to make sure that you've got at least twice as much demon kibble as you think you'll need and add a couple of extra bags just in case. Otherwise you'll end up as demon dessert.

Jagex probably never expected RS to take off the way it has. They probably expected a few tens of thousands of players world wide, and maybe a dozen or so servers world wide. That would have made it a very successful game in and of itself. Instead they've found themselves with (my best guess) upwards of 2 million accounts, and with somewhere between 80,000 and 150,000 players on line at any time on well over 100 servers worldwide. They've been successful beyond their wildest dreams and now they're stuck with a very large demon to feed.

Now despite having a huge amount of money coming in both in the form of our $5/month membership and advertising revenues, they've got huge expenses. Server rental and maintenance, accounts processing, maintenance programming (bug fixing, updates, etc.), and expansions and new quests (they don't appear out of thin air) just to keep the ball rolling—this is the “demon kibble” aspect of the game. All this has to be kept going on a daily, if not hourly basis. They do a great job. Updates appear weekly, the servers stay on line. It's been a while since I got booted from my home world, though there have been some laggy patches from time to time. Even when they take the game down for an update, it's rarely down long. And there's enough new content to keep me entertained and keep that $5/month on my credit card.

But with 2,000,000 accounts you're going to get a lot of questions. They've gotten smart and set up the forums so that players can help each other (which takes some of the weight off them). They've created player mods who basically work for free. It's a great system, as long as the player mods are reliable and knowledgeable. The one's I'm personally acquainted with are all that and more (especially the ones who give me phr33 5t0ph pl0x!!1!! )

But keeping 2million players in line is like herding 2million cats. It's virtually impossible. There'll always be scammers, rule breakers, rule benders, people who enjoy spoiling others' play. There'll always be cheats and people who'd rather buy success than earn it. That's life: hence customer service. Their job, poor souls, is to deal with the problems that the low-lifers create in game. They're only human, just like the rest of us. They have only the information they are given, and they sometimes make mistakes. I'd hazard a guess that they're horribly overworked. I can't think of a worse job right now than dealing with some of the stuff that comes up in the forums. I can't imagine a worse job than dealing with hundreds of emails, day after day, filled with angry accusations and l33t-5p34k. I should imagine it's hard to get people to do that job and getting people with knowledge of gaming or the willingness to learn the game (not just play it) to do customer service is probably horribly difficult.

I've done Tech Support—it's soul-destroying. Spending all day every day listening to people who've done something stupid and as a result are angry (especially when they know they messed up and don't want to admit it), or people who can't follow instructions, or people who think they're entitled to whatever they want, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation, will drive even a strong man to drink.

The ones that always get me are those who believe that because they pay $5/month (or whatever the fee for service is in the product I'm supporting) they're entitled to $5,000 worth of service any and every time they call. It isn't so. Entitlement scum are the world's worst.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Jagex doesn't need a corporate overhaul—get in a few veteran management types to look at their business systems and rebuild them in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. But that's up to Jagex. I don't know how their customer service is run or what their success rate in resolving issues is, so I can't make any suggestions and if I can't make any suggestions as to how to improve it, there's not much point in complaining.

Most of us get an extremely good deal for our $5/month. It costs me about $0.10/hour to play RS. Yep. I play about 50 hours/month. It's my primary entertainment, I don't watch TV. And at $0.10/hour it's got to be the cheapest game in town. It's a lot less than cable TV or even dialup internet access.

I think a lot of the customer service problems arise from the huge number of young people playing the game. They get swept up in the play, they don't really take notice of the rules and then when the rules jump up and bite them, they make a fuss. They get scammed because they don't remember the basic safety rules (don't give out your password, read the second trade screen before accepting, etc.). They get greedy so they try macroing, then complain when they get banned. Older players with a bit more real world experience tend not to suffer that way so much—if only because they've been burned that way elsewhere. And are perhaps more willing to admit that they messed up.

There again, I'm sure that a lot of the traffic that deluges Jagex' customer support staff is furious emails from angry parents whose children have been “cheated” by the evil Jagex. These parents don't know the game, don't know the whole story and are just going on what their children tell them. I'm a parent, I know what kids say and how it sometimes is more than somewhat economical of the truth.

So, before you all jump on the beat-up-on-Jagex-Customer-Support bandwagon, remember, customer support is a difficult job. The customer support reps are hugely outnumbered by their customers. They do their job to the best of their ability and by the rules that Jagex has laid out for them.

Jagex doesn't want you to quit the game and run round telling everyone how bad it is and how their customer service is the first cousin to an industrial strength shop vac. Jagex wants your $5/month and your friends' $5/month. They want you to keep playing. But Jagex founders, staff, programmers, etc. are all human. They need to eat, sleep, and take the occasional shower as well as work on RS. They make mistakes.

If you've never, ever in your life made a mistake or a misjudgment, then maybe you're entitled to criticize Jagex, but the rest of us need to take a chill pill, and get on with playing the game by the rules. That way, Jagex can get out from under the deluge of whining and complaining and concentrate on making the game better and dealing with the difficulties so much success so quickly brings to a company.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about what you've just read? Want to discuss this article with your fellow Runescapers? We invite you to discuss the article in this forum topic.

Do you have any thoughts or comments about this week's articles? Want to discuss these articles with your fellow RuneScapers? We invite you to discuss them in this forum topic.


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