Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Providing First-Rate SecondLife Customer Service

An extremely new resident to the metaverse of SecondLife provides insights.

The hard-working team at Linden Lab seems almost overwhelmed by many things these days. The technical considerations of running a rapidly growing corporation are often a major hurdle to success. When that corporation is so completely intertwined with proprietary software code (Linden Scripting Language), additional limitations arise. Now consider the fact that this software must run on a massive server farm and the unique platform of each client. Add a wild, wild, West component to the expected customer behavior and you get SecondLife. Customer Support requests alone seem to be an overarching concern.

The Residents of SecondLife are dealing with yet another set of issues other than their difficulties getting timely customer support from Linden Lab. Without zoning restrictions and a functioning justice system, the Residents are left to take matters into their own hands. It is fascinating to watch from the sidelines as the software and hardware give birth to a new nation.
Round Table 15745
First let's look at the customer service issue:

Microsoft does have to consider the way Windows will behave on many different hardware configurations. Microsoft does not have to maintain a server farm large enough to accommodate most on-line activities of possibly 25% of all Window's users. Sure they need to have enough computing power to allow software updates, customer support, and other business activities. To meet all this various needs, the MS juggernaut has thousands of employees located in many geographic locations, plainly Linden Lab does not.

The customer service solutions used by many major corporations must eventually be adopted by the team running SecondLife. First, an easily searchable knowledge base must quickly be established. When issues arise with one of the many Mac or Wintel systems I maintain for myself or clients I can quickly search the software maker's accumulated database of issues and answers. Linden Labs needs to move support past the SecondLife Blog and into an easily searchable knowledge base format.

The second solution to new and existing customer grief is nearly as obvious. A Learning Management System (LMS) should be implemented as soon as possible. Design bite-sized training modules and make them available to customers in a logical progression. There would even be some benefit to creating levels of expertise so Residents could achieve measurable results, take a test, and be certified as proficient. Still sounds a little like an approach some company in Redmond implemented after years of trial and error doesn't it?

The job may not require a powerhouse LMS like WebCT, Blackboard, or Desire2Learn but the goals of the system should be similiar. Eliot Masie has set-up the SecondLife Education WIKI, perhaps someone at Linden Lab should take a stroll over there to discuss a collaboration effort.

A third requirement is a basic Customer Relationship Management solution. Trouble ticket numbers, trained customer service representatives, and measured response times pay off in greater customer satisfaction. If this system does not look like it will pay for itself over time than Linden Lab may need to charge a nominal fee for certain services. The Linden Lab customer service issue is already drawing concern from one corporation that wants to join Starwood, Nissan, SONY and the rest.

Again, an SAP, Siebel/Oracle or other major package is probably not necessary but and others offer scalable solutions that are easy enough to implement.

It all depends on how fast Linden Lab really wants to grow and how important acceptance into the business community is to everyone involved. Hobbling along on a song and a prayer will only get an organization so far.

In the next article we will examine several workable solutions to the social issues residents are confronting in SecondLife. The author needs to look over a well-worn copy of The Social Contract, written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Actual SecondLife Customer Service To Do List:

- Fix Mac updater.

- Hold more roundtable meetings at hours people can attend.

- Free members shouldn’t get support outside of very basics that are handled automatically; land owners should get priority over paying customers who don’t own land; higher tier trumps lower tier

- Better information needs to be made available to inworld liaisons, including better FAQ.

- Residents want the ability to see information about their trouble tickets, including abuse complaints.

- A service option for people without payment systems is needed.

- Respond to customer needs, including user to user abuse.

- Support should not be just about help with UI or tech, but real-time in-world help with other people.

- Set Expectations: what can a Resident you expect in terms of a resolution timeframe.

- Don’t charge premium members for support.

- Add documentation, help with better understanding of roles, trouble ticket system to see status of tickets.

- Customer Service as a revenue source is bad.

- People won’t pay for services that have been taken for granted in the basic industry.

- Establish have an efficient tag-team arrangement, i.e. a method of handing off issues to other support staff without losing them.

- Accepting bug reports and dealing with griefers should be an expected, free service.

- Install help or troubleshooting internet connections isn’t necessarily a free service.

- Improve triage of support requests with a dedicated person to either answer or get an answer.

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