EA Customer Service Head On Improving Relations: We’ve Got A Ways To Go

(The Consumerist)

(The Consumerist)

Winning Consumerist’s title of “Worst Company Of The Year” is likely the kind of award that stings, as Electronic Arts found out last April. In light of its reputation for awful customer service, the company says it’s really working hard to turn all those frowns upside down. And thought it might not seem like it, EA’s customer service head says things are going to change for the better in how the company handles its customers’ issues. It’s all part of a three-year plan.

Our friends over at CNET (who noted EA’s WCIA crown, natch and hey, thanks!) checked in with Michael Lawder, the head of customer service for EA. He’s been trying to overhaul the entire organization and point it in the direction of services. He says this year, year three of his plan, is going to set off big changes. That won’t happen overnight, however.

“I think we will see a dramatic shift in the company,” Lawder told CNET. “We’re not there yet. There’s still a ways to go before we’re considered a world-class customer experience.”

He’s got 11 years at Apple under his belt and thinks he can bring the same kind of customer service experience to EA.

So what has he done, exactly? Two new customer service centers have been opened, one in Austin, Texas and the other in Galway, Ireland. The company also launched a new help site (help.ea.com) as well as an online support community called AnswersHQ and has tried to become a stronger social media presence. The company’s also trying to tailor customer service experiences and communications depending on which games users like to play instead of just sending out general “Hey Look At This New Game We’ve Got” communiques.

Part of the problem for EA is that many of its games are what’s called “freemium” — users can play for free but then later pay for upgrades. Some customers stay on the free train for good, so why use company resources to help them? Lawder things EA is finally realizing that even if a customer isn’t paying, it can be rewarding for the company to actually, you know, care.

“If you have no return on investment, you can’t spend millions of dollars supporting them,” he said. “That’s where social community support comes in.”

Oh, and about that Worst Company In America title? Lawder says he ain’t scared, but he was a bit annoyed.

“I didn’t put a lot of stock into it,” he told CNET. “What I can tell you, there’s not a person I’ve met at the company who isn’t passionate about the customer. I’ve been really impressed. It’s something I didn’t expect coming here.”

This all sounds great, really. But forgive us if we’re skeptical for the time being.

How EA plans to make customers happy. Really [CNET]