Grendel’s monster: SL Customer Support

“I own three sims and have a Group of over six thousand plus people and…Customer Service won’t talk to me. So…I mean maybe y’all don’t have that experience or maybe y’all have 20,000…but how does a guy who’s never been to one of these conferences and is new get through when there is nowhere to go and Customer Services is … c’mon guys, it’s abysmal.

“I pay more for my Second Life than I do for my BMW – and they bring a car to my house, take my car away … they call me every day and tell me, ‘This is the problem’. I don’t get a call back [from Customer Support] for three weeks. I get nothing. I paid three hundred bucks just to come here to say that.”

The above comments were aired towards the end of the Social Life and Communities presentation at SLCC 2011, and were reflective of a growing frustration from sim owners and others at the lack of service from LL’s Customer Support.

This is not a new issue; Customer Support has been a thorn in Linden Lab’s side for a fair while. And not just Linden Lab, as anyone – Basic or Premium member – who has tried to raise a ticket and get a response knows only too well.

Such is the problem, that Rod Humble has, rightly, targeted Customer Support and Customer Services as something that needs to be overhauled. The problem seems to be the time its taking to see  – or even read about – anything tangible that is being done, coupled with the fact that at times Linden Lab see it purely as a “usability” issue (the suggestion being that if people are given the right tools, the problem will evaporate).The comments passed by the frustrated sim owner above was met with more-or-less this pigeon-holing of his problems, which were seen in terms purely of griefing.

While it is true that many issues around sim ownership, etc., can most likely be eased through the deployment of improved tools from LL – this is only a small part of the problem, and the fact is that Customer Support really needs to be overhauled from the ground up, because it simply isn’t working.

In fairness, LL are probably working hard to get on top of things – at times, some improvement has been noted, even if it is unfortunately short-lived. But when one of Second Life’s oldest and most well-known content creation teams announces that they have disposed of 50% of the sims they run in Second Life, simply as a result of issues  relating directly to Customer Support, then there can be no denying the issue is reaching a critical point.

Prim Perfect carries a report about Grendel’s Children, which has sold-off two out of the four sims it has been running for over four years and has been a star attraction within Second Life – not only for the quality of the products supplied by the team, but for the sheer magic of the sims themselves. Indeed, as the Prim Perfect article notes, such has been the fame of Grendel’s Children that even Philip Rosedale likened the success of the Grid itself to the success of Grendels when he said, “As goes Grendel’s, so goes the Grid”. Their reason for selling off the sims? Poor Customer Support.

I’ve been broadly positive about the change in approach and philosophy within Linden Lab when it comes to Second Life – and I still am. However, Grendel’s is a strong brand, it’s a known brand and one that has been making money in Second Life. As such, and while they are not planning on pulling out of Second Life entirely, divesting themselves of 50% of their land holdings simply because of ongoing issues around Customer Support is not a positive message to be hitting the airwaves where the Lab is concerned.

3 thoughts on “Grendel’s monster: SL Customer Support

  1. I have a feeling that Second Life — like some OpenSim grids, as well — thinks of itself as a technology company, not as a community/events company. A commercial grid is like… like a giant cruise ship. Yes, it’s important to have the engines running and the A/C working. But that’s not why people come on the cruise. They come for the food, the people, the activities, the tours, the games, the gambling, the hookups — whatever it is that they come for, that’s the “content” of the cruise. And it’s all planned down to the smallest detail. The events are carefully chosen, as are the tourism destinations and the tour guides, the mix of passengers, the entertainment, and the buffet menu. No cruise line would leave this all up to chance.

    And when new passengers comes on board, they’re warmly welcomed by cruise ship staff, given help finding their way around, given a schedule of events, and encouraged to participate

    For some of these functions, the cruise line hires directly. Others are outsourced to trusted partners. Some are out of their control (what happens when the singles mingle, or whether the tourist traps will rip them off when they wander off on their own at a port of call).

    But making the passenger happy is always the first priority. If they’re happy, they’ll come back, and they’ll bring their friends.

    No cruise line will dedicate all its resources to, say, inventing a new type of engine, at the expense of its customers. They might have an engineering team off somewhere working on that, but if push comes to shove, they’ll cut R&D spending first.

    Linden Lab — its very name evokes this — puts technology first. Which is ironic, given that they can’t get the technology working right. So let me amend that. They put innovation first — that’s where the cool kids work, in inventing new things. Actually making these things work, or making sure that the customers are happy with them — that’s not as cool.

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    1. It’s very true that Customer Support has been frequently sidelined within LL over the years – at times the company has given the impression it could well do with out it, and at times strayed dangerously close to hostility towards the user base (particularly around 2008). None of this has helped the company to a a great degree.

      I would like to believe that Customer Support was outsourced (if indeed it still is) with good intentions rather than bottom line considerations and the hope that someone outside could make a better job of it than having things run internally. Sadly, when high-profile teams and businesses like Grendel’s Children are forced into situation like this, everyone loses.

      It’s true that the Kool Aid isn’t in Customer Support…but without customers, there isn’t much Kool Aid; something Rod Humble is only too aware of, given his desire to see Customer Support improved.


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