Recently, an independent consulting firm called Etruvian Consulting conducted a benchmark of online poker sites' customer service. The testing company used a "mystery shopper" approach, asking the sites' customer service various questions and grading the responses on categories such as response time, product knowledge, and friendliness.
When the numbers were tallied up, PokerStars won. We're always delighted to be recognized for our customer service (it's a core component of our business) but frankly, nobody here is surprised.
Since the beginning, the bosses here have emphasized the things that really define the customer experience. Of course, the unique thing about customer service for an online company is that that is the place where our customers are most likely to encounter PokerStars people. I mean, we love meeting you at places such as the VIP Club Live and the PCA, but the huge majority of you will meet us only when you email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In short, our customer service people are the human face of PokerStars.
Read that again: our customer service people are the human face of PokerStars. That makes it difficult to over-emphasize the importance of good customer service, and we've taken that point to heart since the beginning.
I can remember sitting in on CSR ("Customer Service Representative") training back in 2003. Having had years in the computer business (both as an employee and a customer), I was all too familiar with the minimal training many customer service reps got. But I saw that PokerStars was going through an intense and extremely selective hiring process. The people that we do hire, we treat extremely well and we train the living daylights out of them.
Why wouldn't we? To very nearly every one of our customers, these people are PokerStars.
This is exemplified by folks such as Eva and Ana, whom I met back in 2003 or 2004. They're now senior members of the customer service team and what they don't know about taking care of our players really isn't worth learning.
Or Shahnaz, who is a senior manager in the customer service organization. She is a no-nonsense woman whose eyes flash dangerous when she senses that her team (and by extension, her players) are not getting what they need. You can see the lady herself talk about working at PokerStars in this video.
The good news is that the customer service team pretty much gets what they need, when they need it. There is a cultural understanding at PokerStars that customer service is crucially important; nobody gets indignant when we bend things in their direction.
Furthermore, this carries right to the players. I don't know if I've ever heard it officially said this way, but the general idea is "Look for a way to say 'Yes'." Give them the right information as quickly as you can; if they're asking for something, see if there's a way to give it to them. We can't always say "Yes," but it's not for a lack of trying.
If you think about it, it's not that complicated. Those of us who work at PokerStars are consumers too. As individuals, we deal with customer service organizations all the time (some of that time as players at online poker sites other than PokerStars). On some level, we're always comparing ourselves to the service we get elsewhere. We ask, "If I were the person approaching PokerStars with this issue or question, how would I want to be treated?"
Once you start asking yourself those questions, figuring out how to provide good customer service becomes a lot easier.
Obviously we're delighted that Etruvian ranked us highest among the poker sites it benchmarked. But the fact is that we hold ourselves to an even higher standard than "Better than the field"; our standard is "Good enough for us and good enough for our players." That standard, embodied by people such as Shahnaz, Ana, and Eva ensures that customer service continues to be a shining jewel in the PokerStars crown.
Lee Jones has been involved in the professional poker world for more than 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.