What up, graph nerds? Well, what up-and-down-as-it-tracks-Steam-customer-support-requests-over-time, graph nerds? Steam now has a page where you can track basic customer support data is what I’m trying to say.
Steam Support tends to get invoked as a kind of punchline in discussions of the opaque roller-desk derby that is the Valve Corporation – a black hole into which players cast emails and which may or may not get a response from within the cube. Or, as Valve put it on their Steam blog: “We’ve been hearing from users for several years about the need for us to keep working on improving Steam Support.”
With that in mind we now have the Steam Support Stats page which is essentially a kind of barometer for how Steam Support is doing in terms of the support tickets received versus the support tickets awaiting a response at any given time. It doesn’t give you much insight beyond that, but it might well help to reframe the conversations around Steam Support in Valve’s favour because it offers some additional context. By that I mean that rather than info about support coming largely from disgruntled people complaining online, you can now position those complaints within a system which deals with around 75,000 requests per day and has a backlog which seems to have settled just around 8,000 requests awaiting a response at a given time in the last few weeks.
It doesn’t mean someone won’t have a bad experience and it doesn’t mean that knowing any of this will make a bad experience less annoying but it does give access to a broader picture as well as highlighting the demands being placed on that area of the service.
According to the blog and the stats page itself the majority of requests deal with the platform’s refund policy, second place is account security and recovery, third is technical support for games and the platform itself while fourth is purchase and billing support. Each is listed alongside a typical response time. It looks like refund requests seem to be pretty straightforward to answer whereas the others have more variety in their response times. I’d assume that’s because those might involve more complex problems or edge cases.
In the section on the blog about the account security requests they add:
“These requests include users who have simply forgotten their password all the way through users who have been phished or hijacked by someone targeting their account. We’ve been working to improve self-service for some account recovery cases and we’ve also continued to push forward adoption of security features like Steam Guard and the Steam Mobile Authenticator. The cases we still receive requests for can be more complicated to handle and wait times can sometimes be a little longer as a result. However, we’re happy to say that we’ve reduced wait times on these requests from once being over a week in many cases to now under 24 hours for more than 98% of requests.”
They add that they know that this isn’t everything and that they are “committed to continuing to improve the quality of each interaction. We’ve been continuously investing in staffing, training, and process improvements to that end and while we believe we’ve made progress we know there is always more work to be done.”
I don’t think I’ve ever had reason to email Steam Support about anything, which is nice, although I have worked on a customer service desk in the past. People could be rather… vexed in person so I can only imagine what online might be like. I wonder whether having this data available will be useful in terms of having more productive discussions and improvements. I’m also interested in what the numbers actually mean given the backlog does seem to improve markedly over the 90 days Steam are offering data on. Was there a meaningful change in staffing? Did they make the graph and realise the red line crossing the blue line again would be Terrible PR? Was there an inbox purge? Did the one guy who answers all the emails by hand come back from holiday? ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS AND ONLY MY IMAGINATION FOR ANSWERS.