July 9 is a holiday for some football fans as it marks the release date of the incredibly popular NCAA Football 2014 title. The company’s website for the game solicits potential buyers to “experience the unpredictability and emotion of college football like never before.” The game boasts “all-new graphics, announcer logic, and tons of gear and updated audio,” making this year’s title “the best NCAA Football ever.” The description drips with drama and the game’s graphics are impressive. But what happens when Young Billy, captivated by the idea of playing as Devin Gardner Michigan QB #12, plunks down $60, fires up his console and runs into problems? What does Electronic Arts’ (EA) NCAA Football 2014 customer service provide?
Nothing. Electronic Arts’ customer service does not exist for one of their most popular games.
EA’s action, or inaction really, regarding customer experience and service is an impressive lesson for brands with a loyal fan base. Owning what amounted to a monopoly (and led to a $27 million dollar settlement over antitrust issues), EA has a captive audience, but refuses to provide anything resembling an active customer service channel. While they do have a FAQ/Help Center where users can help themselves, they ignore Twitter questions. One look at their Facebook Page shows more of the same. The message this may send: Buy our game and then figure the problems out yourself.
I write this post not as an angry owner of EA’s latest installment but, instead, as someone who has worked in the social media industry for enough years to see where even the slightest effort on the part of a brand can have significant results. The wealth of data a social media presence can provide is insightful for a brand’s customer service team and for marketing, development and any other division that looks for feedback. The fact that people are helped in the process speaks even more to the value of investing in such a program. And it’s not like EA doesn’t have the money. It seems like they just don’t care.
The missed opportunity is simple: User feedback is the quickest source of finding problems as they emerge. Customers will become frustrated about problems as they occur and EA will not have an active and immediate access point for discovering issues. Brands actively engaging on social media not only receive complaints in real-time, they are also able to escape the delayed feedback cycle of mailing and call centers. The electronic escalation of a customer’s verbatim complaint allows for departments to react immediately with a personalized message. The implications for problem resolution, and reputation management, are both obvious and important.
Social media programs can help address the issues; Non-existent or unresponsive customer service programs do not. The cost, in turn, is not how much an active social media program will cost you but, instead, what not having one can cost your brand in reputation, thought leadership and consumer trust.
Those things are invaluable.