Valve Improving Steam Customer Support For Real

Steam’s customer support department is pretty shoddy, so I’ve heard from a fair few folks, and slow to respond if they do at all. I’ve been lucky enough to never have a problem that wasn’t solved by deleting its ‘ClientRegistry.blob’ file myself, but I understand Steam no longer uses that magical file so heaven help me if I run in troubles now – or face bigger problems like having my account stolen.

But Valve say for real, for really reals, they’re working on improving Steam’s customer service. They really mean it this time. By Christmas, it might not suck.

Speaking with some scruffy red-trousered ragamuffin from Kotaku named Nathan, Valve businessman Erik Johnson said. “I think it’s technically gotten a little worse on the user side of things [since the last time we talked]—at least, overall in terms of current ticket times.” He added, “That peaked a few weeks ago, and it’s starting to get better now.”

Johnson explains that Valve have been writing a whole load of software to build a new support system, so they are making progress, we just can’t see it yet. Part of their approach to support seems to be proactive, making changes that’ll reduce people’s need for support. Refunds, for instance, will presumably reduce back-and-forth about problems or complaints with games. They’ve also been improving two-factor authentication and mobile apps to reduce account theft.

He also notes that some of Steam’s problems are “kind of self-inflicted things,” with all buying and trading of Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and their stores and markets creating more work for support.

So, what will be the big fix for Steam’s support? More people, basically. Which I probably could’ve told them if they’d offered me a hundred grand in consulting fees. They’re training more staff, but it’s taking time. They should’ve asked me years ago.

“We think we’ll have the support wait time down to an acceptable point by Christmas time. That’s our goal,” Johnson says. It’s a function of training up more and more people answer customer issues. We’re not there yet. It’s getting better internally; it’s just that it hasn’t yet translated to great support for users. We’re gonna get there, though.”

72 Comments

  1. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    I can fully agree with this; it’s almost as if they dote know what they’re doing. Hopefully some better support on Valve’s part will allow their customers to let off steam more effectively.

  2. Cinek says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it

  3. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    God I remember the time when I was deleting ClientRegistry.blob every other day. Steam was such a mess at the start, especially for those of us who were stuck with dial-up and were baffled by having to having to sign up for this service and having to downloading all these updates just to play Half-Life 2.

  4. Metr13 says:

    Sounds good to me, but I’ll keep skeptical until results show.

  5. Stirbelwurm says:

    I only have contacted steam support once until now. I created a ticket, about two years ago, because steam was repeatedly losing the connection to the servers. I still haven’t got any reaction to the ticket to this day.

    Because it was kind of obvious that this would happen, I just contacted one of the steam developers, that posts the changelogs in the forum. The fix for the bug was deployed within 3 days.

    So, support: meh
    Developers: yay

  6. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    I also heard Microsoft is really into the PC as a gaming platform these days!

    (I trust Valve a lot more. It’s just a joke that never gets old)

    Speaking of new functionality enabling new problems to deal with, Playstation support just did this little number.

    link to blog.cariad.me

    I’m pretty sure it is an automated system, but I can still understand her getting angry. If it is not automated, yikes.

    • K33L3R says:

      That must of been nasty for the blogger to see in the first place
      Maybe RPS should look into it and do a article? I don’t think this should go unnoticed

      • Premium User Badge

        Lars Westergren says:

        I certainly hopes Sony notices and takes action, but it isn’t exactly PC games related, so maybe not something for the RPS frontpage.

        • K33L3R says:

          True, but Minecraft is also on PC too, I always say id it happens once it can happen again

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Well Sony managed to announce Shenmue 3, FF7 and The Last Guardian for PS4. Steam have finally shipped the Steam Machines.

      2015 is shaping up to be the year that Vapourware became real.

    • Zach Fett says:

      Yeah, no, that’s some major horseshit. I actually just reported a bunch of sexual content in communities yesterday and after about an hour I received notifications that they took care of it. I even took a look and they did indeed delete the porn that was being posted. They definitely aren’t afraid of “offending” PS Plus subscribers.

      Who knows what happened in her situation. Maybe she reported the wrong post on accident. Maybe she’s lying to get more clicks. Maybe they just sent the wrong response (because they are indeed automated). Who knows. They’re definitely deleting sexual content though from what I’ve personally seen.

      • RobF says:

        Yeah, they likely are removing plenty but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for someone to have this experience with support, y’know?

        I think it’s well established by now that Sony’s support is, at best, perfunctory and at worst utterly awful and there’s nothing exactly unbelievable about the story either.

        • Distec says:

          Sure, cases can slip through the cracks and sometimes support (automated or otherwise) is capable of being inhuman and unfair. But that blog post has statements like this: “Sony won’t act on their service being used to distribute child pornography… I’m trying to understand why Sony doesn’t care”.

          That’s a bit harder to swallow, and is very different from “support being typical support”. I disagree with K33L3R that there’s anything worth covering here unless more details or patterns of this nature emerge.

  7. wyrm4701 says:

    Yeah, a decade in and they’re still assuring customers that a core facility is in some sort of vague development. Compare the effort put into customer service with the development of the marketplace for CS:GO, TF2 and DOTA, and you might be just a little cynical.

    In fact, it might look like Steam is a terrible place to put your money. Valve seem to have put ten years effort into getting paid, but pretend to be an ambitious rookie when anything goes wrong. Assuming it’s one of those rare times they deign to speak to their customers at all.

    • Not_Id says:

      Yeah, including money mods.

      All Valve care about is making money. By any means necessary. They’ll even go as low as selling mods. That’s pretty low. But they went lower still; They were going to take a bigger cut than the creators.

      We are just wallets to Valve, just as we are to any other business.

    • Frings says:

      “But pretend to be an ambitious rookie when anything goes wrong” – yup, nailed it. That puts into words the feeling I get from them perfectly (and this as someone who’s been a customer since Half Life).

  8. DJT298 says:

    I’m currently experiencing Steams appalling service and don’t see any sign of it improving. My account was hacked two weeks ago with both email and passwords changed. Despite raising a ticket immediately, including proof of account ownership I have had no response from Steam. I have original media for some games but even they can’t be used as they are locked to my old account.

    • Nixitur says:

      How do you provide proof of account ownership if you can’t login? I haven’t had this problem, but I want to be prepared just in case.

  9. gbrading says:

    Hire more people certainly; it seems like they’ve had a lack of customer service representatives for years. Considering the money Valve must undoubtedly be raking in from Steam you’d thought they might invest in it a little more.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I’m guessing part of the problem is the way Valve is run. It seems to rely on people shifting to work on what they feel like, and unfortunately talking to customers* is no fun, so I can’t imagine anyone concentrated on it for a while.

      * That’s an understatement, customer support is the worst. People, it turns out, are fucking horrible. Except you of course, you’re nice.

      • gunny1993 says:

        Yeah I somehow doubt that the way valves dev teams work is the same way their almost certainly outsourced CS is. I hardly think that some top notch dev is going to get bored and do a stint as a receptionist.

        • jalf says:

          Still, their developers have to build the infrastructure and tools for their support team to use, and they have to react and act on support tickets that get escalated.

          So yes, the way their dev team works still matters. In a company where developers can largely work on what they like, roughly how many do you think choose to work on building world-class tools for their customer support team?

          How many of them are going to leap into action as soon as they get a notice from their support team that this customer has run into a problem that requires the dev team to fix it?

          • welverin says:

            It is amusing that you guys think Valve has customer service employees.

  10. rustybroomhandle says:

    For realsies? Pinkie swear?

  11. Haborym says:

    So like, no more worthless canned responses from people who don’t even bother to read what your complaint is?

  12. DrWayward says:

    I’ve been using Steam since it started and I don’t remember ever needing to contact support, so I guess I’ve been lucky. When a game hasn’t worked, I’ve always just relied on the forums or developers to solve the problem and I guess refunds make it even less likely I would, now.

  13. Cantisque says:

    99% of support tickets are created because the user did something stupid that they shouldn’t have done and were given plenty of warning about.

    • Cantisque says:

      That or they’re asking for support for a game that has nothing to do with Valve.

      • Jenks says:

        They tried that excuse when I bought Spore through Steam, and was given an invalid key. “Not our problem, talk to EA.”

        It took over a week and a BBB complaint but I got my money back.

    • gunny1993 says:

      That’s why they need a good front end support system to shift the people who couldn’t be bothered to google from the oens with actual issues.

      I know if I was running a company and I saw that a majority of support issue were people being stupid i’d be pretty inclined to just say sod it and stop wasting money on it.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      And I’m guessing you have evidence to back up that number?

    • Frings says:

      Regardless, that user is still the customer who is paying Valve’s bills. The customer is not “dismissable”. It’s where a a strong first line of support comes in – it’s good to be proactive in the support you provide, but you still have to have a good reactive front to maintain that customer satisfaction.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      99% of Ignoring or giving Bad Support will bleed customers in the long run though.
      A growing number of “stupid” (untechnical), genuinely disgruntled customers who are near impossible to get back and will counter weight PR.

      I’m sure they’ve got a good Pareto principle pay off due to “stupid” people from the new refunds policy.

      • Hypocee says:

        Yeah, that ‘long run’ will kick in any day now and then you’ll have told them good. Any day now. Aaaaany day. You just wait, this will be the year Steam’s revenue and profit don’t climb by 50%.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Defensive sarcasm…
          You offer customers enough value and they return in the future. Doubts in the quality of your service reduce value and is not optimal good business.

  14. Adam Dawes says:

    Good news! They’ve diverted all of the team that were working on Half Life 3 to fix the support system up instead. That should keep everyone happy at last.

  15. Baines says:

    If my experience over the last year has been any example, I can see how their ticket time is “down”.

    Earlier this year, I submitted a ticket and never got a response at all.

    Some months later, I submitted a ticket for a different issue and a bit more than three months later received a canned response saying that they hadn’t fixed the issue, gave advice that had zero advice to the submitted ticket, asked for system information that had zero relation to the submitted ticket, and said that since many people solve their tickets on their own that they’d go ahead and close my ticket if I didn’t reply with all the system info they requested (which again had zero relation to the issue.)

    I really doubt that their ticket response has improved. Rather, I think people have largely given up on Valve doing anything. Valve’s time may simply be improving because they are closing tickets at a faster rate despite doing nothing to actually address the issue. (Like closing my last ticket because I felt it wasn’t worth bothering to reply. I’d found not a fix, but a workaround, on the forums. And since Valve hadn’t bothered to fix the issue in the year it had been discussed on the Steam forums before I even stumbled into it, why should I expect my system info to be the key to solving it? Heck, why should I expect Valve had any intention of solving it in the first place? It looked more like they just wanted to close a months-old ticket that they hadn’t even read.

    • Hypocee says:

      Yup. When I had my big issue they tried to close my ticket unilaterally without any response to me, despite plenty of activity on my end.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    By Christmas, it might not suck.

    Or by Easter, at the very latest…

  17. Frings says:

    If they’re training new staff with their current working methods and views, this likely won’t change a thing when it comes to customer satisfaction. Maybe they’ll have some improvement in resolution lead times, I guess.

    As someone who works in IT support (and training new employees, at that!), Valve just makes me sigh and think of them whenever I get frustrated the satisfaction indexes I get from customers. Like, just reminding myself that it could be worse – much, much worse, in fact.

  18. MattM says:

    I tried to install an older game on my account, “Venice”. Near as I can tell, at some point they accidentally deleted all the game files on the server because all that is downloaded and installed is an empty folder. Verify game cache doesn’t do anything. Two months after submitting a ticket (and a 1 month follow up) I haven’t received any response.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      See if you can find an email address to the publisher or developer. As I understand it they manage what content is downloaded from the server anyway.

  19. w0bbl3r says:

    Really for reals this time?
    Unlike the last time they did it for reals?
    So we believe it because someone other than GabeN (who probably didn’t have time away from his busy eating schedule) says it?
    What does that say about how much we should trust the head man at Valve these days?

    • Premium User Badge

      Damien Stark says:

      Well you see last time, they set their Service Improvement Plan to: “For real real, not for play play”

      But halfway through the ramp up, someone realized that video games are actually a form of “play play”, so the whole initiative got derailed and sent back to committee.

      The current Service Improvement Plan Mission Statement is “No you guys, like FOR REAL.” Fingers crossed they get the new service at least to production before someone decides that “addressing our customers as ‘you guys’ is a presumptuous micro-aggression”

  20. rumtotinggamer says:

    Several months ago I was locked out of my account for well over a month as i couldn’t reset my password and googling found others were experiencing it as well and it was because my account was created back when Steam started and there was nothing I could do as it was a Steam server side issue.

    All in all wasn’t too impressed at being locked out of my account for that long and makes me glad I don’t have hundreds of pounds worth of stuff on it if thats the customer service you get when you need it.

  21. Universal Quitter says:

    “. . .so heaven help me if I run in troubles now – or face bigger problems like having my account stolen.”

    Yeah, I didn’t give them my phone number, either. Verification purposes, my ass.

  22. Juan Carlo says:

    Knowing them they will probably outsource the job of support to community members, turning it into some kind of shitty steam meta-game:

    “Help 20 customers with their issues and get 1 piece of coal!”

    “Collect 100 pieces of coal to redeem for 1 steam badge!”

    Innovation….the Valve way!

  23. racccoon says:

    Valve SUCKS!
    Exploiting PC users for their greater gain & basically they’ll make you follow like the piped piper to their pussy console.
    Valve have no value here on the PC anymore.
    Yes, they made a great game. but they then created a useless tool to go with it, which many mugs fell heads to tail for.
    It then became a monopoly with no morals for the PC at all.

    PC players love games.
    As a PC Game Player I do not wish to be held ransom to a monopoly & as a PC player I no longer have freedom to play, I am forced into using a tool.
    As PC player I would like to be free again to play my games within their own rights & installations, free to play without pressures of having to use a loader which forces me to update it every second & constantly stamps a name in my face which then proceeds to throw ads at me!! all this before I get to play the game.

    In our PC we’ve lost our freedom of choice.

    • NomadSoul says:

      Dude, I think you forget what DRM was like before steam came around.

      • Bugamn says:

        For all the problems that Steam caused with regards to DRM, it was worse before, and there were games that I couldn’t even play before Steam. For example, I never saw Company of Heroes at a games store before I moved from where I lived at that time.

      • LionsPhil says:

        For a short, golden age in the ’90s, it was “you had a CD”.

        Not “and there’s a dodgy hidden Windows driver/service that checks the CD is corrupt in all the right ways”, just “nobody will be able to replicate or download CDs en-masse within the lifetime of this product”.

        Given for much of that time games loaded from the CD too, because hundreds of megabytes of install was a pretty high demand, it was effectively a technical requirement as much as anything. For a short while, AAA games were effectively DRM free.

  24. Bugamn says:

    I just want you to let some steam off, Alice.

    I can’t believe no one was commenting on the alt-text. What has become of RPS?

    • Punning Pundit says:

      Whenever someone mentions alt text I wonder how the can see it on their phone.

      Then I remember that some people use their game boxes to visit websites. Which is weird. I mean: how do you read a website from your game box while in the bathroom?!

      • Bugamn says:

        That’s ridiculous, I use my workbox to read RPS!

        By the way, in my phonething I can hold my finger over an image and it will show some options about what to do with it (copy, open etc) and it will show the alt text.

  25. Panzeros says:

    I experienced the fantastic customer service just this morning!

    I bought Age of Decadence, much to my dismay. I only realised it is severely lacking after 5 hours play. I feel completely ripped off. Not to worry, I’ll apply for a refund. I’ve played more than 2 hours, but they say on the refund page that you can apply anyway and they’ll review it.

    All I got was “You request has been denied”. Ok fair enough. I’ll try again and argue my case a bit more. Something along the lines of “I am not trying to play games for free, I didn’t realise how bad the game was until about the 5 hour mark for various reasons. It’s a rip off, there is no content and it crashes. Please reconsider, it’s not like I do this all the time, or ever, in fact. Just give it back to me in my Steam Wallet and I will purchase something else”

    “Your request is denied”. Rude.

    One more time, “Do you guys even read these? Could I have the decency of a written response? This is terrible bla bla bla, if you don’t give me a written response you will lose my custom. More than happy to solely use GOG, who if you haven’t noticed, are on track to becoming your biggest competitor.”

    “Your request is denied”

    Wow.

    People really need to see Steam for what they are. People are quick to jump on the EA hate bandwagon, but worship Steam. In my recent experience, I’d say Steam are just as bad, if not worse than EA.

    • Premium User Badge

      Phasma Felis says:

      What awful bastards, refusing to give you a personalized explanation for why they won’t let you return something after more than twice the clearly stated return period.

      Jesus, gamers are an entitled bunch.

  26. SpartonO1 says:

    Christmas, if it’s that shot of a ways to get it fixed, than i’ll be amazed! Ive been waiting nearly four weeks for steam to reply to my ticket and if they get back to me by than, i would be joyus.