Guest: Steven Zachary
Website: Adopt Me!
00:00 Intro Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and HelpShift.
00:14 Greg Posner Here is your host, Greg Posner. Hey everyone, and welcome to today’s podcast. Today we have a special guest who perfectly marries the world of customer service with gaming. An expert in Unity and game development, Steven Zachary is joining us today from Uplift Games. His career spans from a customer service rep to head of support for Uplift. Known for his skill in coaching, communication, IT service management, and more, he has played a crucial role in transforming the player experience. Please join me in welcoming Steven today. I’m excited to have you here. We actually did a podcast the other day and I was talking with a gentleman and he said his child plays Adopt Me and that’s one of the things that you guys are most known for at Uplift. Can you give us an elevator pitch on exactly what is Uplift Games and how you’re supporting
01:00 Steven Zachary your customer base? Alright, so Uplift Games is a studio that’s founded rather recently, about two years ago. We technically went by Treetop or to some players DreamCraft before then. Our primary game, well our only game currently is Adopt Me. It’s mostly just a game about pet raising, role playing, getting to meet new people. I’ve always kind of described it as more of a social platform. A bit of an experience in a way where you just get to meet new individuals, have fun, and get to explore around Adoption Island with a bunch of cute furry creatures. Sometimes not furry, sometimes more cephalopodi, sometimes more scaly.
01:42 Greg Posner The point is we have a lot of pets that you can role play with. No, it sounds fun. I mean, again, we’ve heard some great things about the game, right? And I’m so curious because I know about Roblox. I am not an expert in Roblox, but I know they have so many games built into it, right? So part of my curiosity is clearly Adopt Me is built into this Roblox environment. Was that always the game plan? And I guess how does it work? And I know that’s a silly question.
02:10 Steven Zachary Oh no, not a silly question at all. In all honesty, I had never really worked with the Roblox platform much before coming to Uplift Games. But the way it kind of works, we’ve always had Adopt Me on Roblox since day one, since the game was first founded by our two co-creators and co-CEOs. Adopt Me was always meant to be on Roblox. The best way to kind of describe working on a Roblox experience is it’s not really any different from working on any other game. It’s just Roblox provides a lot of what you need to get, basically get your first step in, hit the ground running, and then it’s up to you to sort of make it into the experience
02:55 Greg Posner you want it to be. Which I think is a cool experience. I remember years ago talking to my brother-in-law and this is the Minecraft kind of when it was starting to peak and told him that he should get into this development, this modding community. It looks like Roblox helped enable other people to do that and build that even more. You’re almost using it as a platform like a Unity or Unreal, but you’re building it on top of Roblox where they already have this giant user base built in.
03:21 Steven Zachary Exactly. That’s kind of the best way to think of it, admittedly, is as a platform more so than its own game. A lot of players will go to Roblox just to find new types of experiences. I know way before the Adopt Me days, like back when I was about like nine, 10 years old, I have some memories with Roblox very specifically playing games like Work at a Pizza Place. There was like this theme park simulator that you could play as well.
03:52 Greg Posner A lot of great experiences that still honestly exist today. Yeah, I can imagine. I remember jumping out with my son and seeing so many different games that existed, things even just like Sonic that someone built something in it was just kind of nuts to see. I want to dig more into this, but one of the questions I always like asking my guests in the beginning are, are you a gamer yourself? You just said you play Roblox or you did play Roblox or Dabble back then.
04:15 Steven Zachary And if you are, what are the games that you’re playing today? So I’ve been a gamer since I could hold a controller. This month has actually been a really good month for games for me because two very special games to my heart got, or one of them is in the process of both of them are being re-released this month for newer audiences to enjoy those being We Love Katamari Reroll and Story of Seasons A Wonderful Life. Nintendo did just drop Pikmin 1 and 2 as well, so that’s had my attention. But nope, I call myself a gamer. I’m more of that type of person who plays like the more so plays games to relax than
04:56 Greg Posner anything. I could see that. And this has been a crazy month, not just with those. I mean, Nintendo just announced a few new Mario games, Diablo, Final Fantasy. I think we’re going to be in an exciting second half of 2023 with all the amount of games
05:09 Steven Zachary that are coming out here. Yeah, June especially is a big month for games. But usually I always find it’s June and November for me are the two months where I’m like,
05:18 Greg Posner well, I have a lot of stuff I got to buy now. Yeah, it’s the summer months. There’s a big peak here. And do you see some sort of form of adoption or more people playing the game in these summer
05:30 Steven Zachary months, especially with the demographics that you’re reaching out to? Yes, typically I see our player base. Well, not our player base itself, but the amount of concurrent users we have in the game grow throughout the summer months just because a lot of kids are on vacation. Schools out. Not many kids do summer school these days from what I’m aware of. But a lot of a lot more kids are hopping into the game over the summer. We also do some rather big updates during the summer. So right now we have our summer fest going on, which is a four week long celebration of summer. We just released week two yesterday filled with a bunch of different summer themed pets,
06:10 Greg Posner mini games, a lot of fun things to keep players coming back. I’m curious when you’re building on top of the Roblox platform, do they give you full visibility on kind of these demographic stuff that you want to measure age, gender, kind of location of these users or some of this kind of hard details that you have to dig
06:26 Steven Zachary out? Some of it is stuff that we don’t have access to, admittedly. So like, from what I know, because I don’t see all of the demographics, but from what I know, while we do technically get location data, we don’t get like this, this player is specifically in like this town in North Dakota. No, we’d get this amount of your player base is from the United States. This amount is from the UK. So we do get that information. We do also, we have other ways of getting age demographics. But from what I know, Roblox does give us a kind of a guideline on what we’re receiving
07:03 Greg Posner in terms of who’s playing our game. I guess I’m curious because we talk about user attention a lot on the show. And I wanted to kind of talk about that with you as well, because A, you do have experience at 5CA, right? So you do understand the customer experience, you do understand the importance of customer support. And as someone that’s building or working on supporting the game that’s built on top of Roblox, Roblox already has a user base, which is doing its great job itself at retaining their own user base. But I’m sure you have your own kind of things that you look at as a support leader. Are there metrics that are important to you for your players that you keep an eye on to
07:38 Steven Zachary understand how can we retain these users? So something that’s really important to me is always making sure that Adopt Me is a safe place for players to explore and play around with others. My big thing is I like to, I take a very hands on approach in how I handle support. So usually during updates, I’ll be in the game that day, going around, interacting with our player base, acting on any kind of bad actors that we have during that time as well. And I also, behind the scenes, I try a lot to make sure that we have systems in place to help players that have had any kind of issues that feel we may not be listening to them.
08:23 Greg Posner How do you typically interact to listeners? Is it just by playing the game and talking with them in there? Do you try and kind of create a different place you can have one-on-one conversations with?
08:34 Steven Zachary I mean, this all might be built into Roblox and that’s the beautiful part of it. So I kind of interact with the community in three ways. So one, I will be in the game actively playing. Like making sure that my staff tag is on, making sure that people know that it’s okay to interact with me because we at Uplift always like to be welcoming and inviting. But a lot of people sort of get not intimidated, but get worried that they’re like, ah, this is a game developer. I don’t want to bother them. No, anytime you see us in game, like feel free to say hi. I will also, we have a big community discord as well, around 300,000 members strong at this point. I’ll tend to try and pop in there every so often, not as often as I’d like lately, but definitely try to pop in there to interact with people. And I also, especially during bigger releases, I’ll be looking through our socials. So like Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, seeing who’s there, seeing who has feedback,
09:33 Greg Posner making sure that everything is collected and that people are responded to. That is a lot to keep an eye on. I can imagine you have probably a nice little monitor set up with discord running on one and socials on another. How do you manage this stuff, these multiple channels without going a little crazy?
09:52 Steven Zachary And practice. It’s a lot of practice and getting used to things because a lot of what I do is technically not 100% required. But at the same time, I like to try and be a voice for our community. We, of course, do also have our comms people. A lot of people know the man, the myth, the legend, Jesse Rain as the face of Adopt Me. He’s the one you see in all the videos. He’s the one that you see on all the social posts.
10:23 Greg Posner But I try to do my best to make sure that from a support standpoint, our players are being listened to as well. Feedback is something we like to also kind of talk to people about, right? Because it’s funny the amount of games and people that we talk to that don’t collect feedback from their player base directly in the game or in any channel. So when you are collecting this feedback, how do you mentally aggregate it?
10:43 Steven Zachary Where do you document it? How do you share it with your team? So we have a few ways that we take feedback, actually. The big one that we use is there is a channel in our community discord called the Feedback Center. Any user can go into our discord, suggest an idea, give feedback, even like whether it’s positive or negative. So they can put their post in there and then they get a star on their post. Any other users who agree with their feedback, agree with their idea, they can then vote on that star. And any user that gets over 25 stars gets put into a special board called the Starboard. Then Jesse will collect that information over the month and put it together in a nice presentation at the end of the month just to make sure that it’s all being heard. We do also have a feedback area for support. You can go to play adopt.me slash support and you can fill out our we specifically have a feedback tab. While these tickets do not get answered by agents, they do get read. I make sure that everyone gets personally read and any kind of ideas that I see that are really good, I throw into our ideas channel within our slack. The one thing that players will sometimes need to keep in mind with feedback, we get the players who worry that things aren’t being heard. We are hearing the feedback.
12:13 Greg Posner It’s just with the way that we handle development cycles, it can sometimes take months to implement feedback. I can imagine, but I mean, just the process of collecting it via discord, I love the idea of the starboard. It really gives that users the voice and being able to remember years ago, there used to be I think the tool name was like user voice, where it was this forum where it’s similar to up vote you can or similar to reddit where you could up vote your favorite things. But just doing this in discord, where you said you have over 300,000 people, I mean, it might get noisy at times, but it’s such a great way to be able to collect your data and aggregate it. And I think that’s such a great, just a fantastic way of doing it as long as you could keep control. Because I imagine there’s a lot of noise for lack of better words.
12:54 Steven Zachary And when you have a discord of that size. Yeah, there is at times. We have a nice volunteer math volunteer mod team, man, I was trying to combine some words there. It works. Yeah, nice volunteer mod team who make sure that things are kept peaceful. But again, we always step in if needed as well.
13:13 Greg Posner But for the most part, the Adopt Me community is very kind, opening, are kind, open and respectful more than any community I’ve ever worked with, admittedly. And I have to say, I mean, prior to us talking and Steven, I started talking a couple of months ago, I wasn’t too, too familiar with Adopt Me. And I started Googling it. And it seems like at one point, Adopt Me had over 500,000 people playing the game concurrently on Roblox, which is a record for anything on Roblox. And I mean, that must just be insane. Like, is Roblox communicating with you or your team or anyone daily just letting you like you are a big part of this community?
13:53 Steven Zachary Am I wrong? Am I thinking? No, you’re not wrong at all. We are a rather large part of the community. The one example that I always point to on that is Roblox released a actual like monopoly physical game in collaboration with Hasbro about two years ago at this point. And Adopt Me was Boardwalk. So we’re definitely making our mark. But yeah, we do have Roblox contacts that we do keep in contact with. They are extremely helpful in anything that we really need in order to get ideas off the ground in order to get feedback on, hey, is this something we can actually do?
14:32 Greg Posner We have a very positive relationship with Roblox. And are they getting feedback from you as well? Do you have you seen them adopt anything from from you guys on either best practices or needs to help enable you to continue to grow?
14:46 Steven Zachary Yes, actually. So I have a contact that I specifically speak to usually about once a month for support things. The whole thing with the Roblox Adopt Me relationship for support is we are both growing and learning independently in this, where Roblox is not used to an experience within their platform having a dedicated support team. So it’s the it’s the growing of Roblox support figuring out, all right, what can uplift games themselves handle? Like, what are we going to redirect people at uplift games to handle? What are we going to handle? While with us, it’s the opposite. Like, what can we handle? What are we sending people over to Roblox for? But through our talks, they have adapted a lot of our a lot of our sort of policies and rules that we have in place. One of the big things that we had talked about is we have players who will sometimes. Not get an item when they make a purchase, something that can kind of happen in any game, really.
15:56 Greg Posner And that was a big conversation we had with Roblox of them basically asking, hey, do you prefer that we just refund them or do you prefer that you work with them to get their item back? And we ended up telling them, hey, unless they’re like very insistent about refund. Tell them to come over to us, we’ll take care of them, we’ll do what we can to make sure they have what they need. Yeah, I imagine you want to try and control your audience to the best of your ability without them having to go to Roblox. I mean, again, it comes down to Roblox as a platform, and obviously they handle a lot of that. But controlling the audience, your user base, right, whether it be in game, in in discord or social. Right. I imagine that’s priority and part of the user experience. Yes. Looking at some of the other kind of Roblox games, right, there’s Pet Simulator, Murder at Mystery. It’s a bunch of them out there. Do you have relationships with any of these as well? Or do you look at them as competitors? I mean, maybe they’re competitors.
17:00 Steven Zachary I don’t know how you look at those other games out there. Honestly, we just look at them as other experiences on the platform. They have just as much a right to be here as we do. And in a sense, the only thing that we really discourage with them is something that every experience discourages on Roblox. There is something within the Roblox community called cross trading, where somebody will maybe like go into Adobe and say, Hey, I have this mega neon red panda. I’ll trade it to you for some for some weapons and murder mystery, too. We basically just try to encourage not that. So we try to tell our player base like, hey, don’t do that. You’re likely either getting scammed or you’re being led into something because that is also against Roblox’s terms of service.
17:51 Greg Posner Otherwise, we just we have a lot of respect for the people at really any other Roblox experience. The only really the only time that we really like try to do anything against a Roblox experience is if they are blatantly copying us with our own assets. That makes sense. And with these other companies, do you ever share best practices with them? And hey, here’s how we’re doing this or here’s what we’re planning on doing.
18:16 Steven Zachary Maybe kind of building an experience together. I have not gotten the chance to do that. But in all honesty, any kind of experience that wants to really I know that again, we’re one of the only experiences that currently has its own dedicated support team. I’m sure there’s others out there, but ours is kind of one of the most prevalent.
18:36 Greg Posner I’m always happy to discuss support best practices with anyone, really. It’s something that we see a lot of people just talking about. We have our own little help shift community where people talk about the best practice on how to how to build out the platform. And obviously, that’s just unique to us. But there’s many other platforms that offer the same thing. And you mentioned you’re on Discord, which we know Discord is a huge channel for customer support these days. One of the questions I had about that was more so you mentioned trust and safety earlier. And that’s a big thing on Roblox. And we also see it on Discord. Does the I know I know Roblox uses a tool called to have for trust and safety. Does that tool get passed down to any of these additional developers that are building on top of their platform?
19:18 Steven Zachary Do you get to utilize that or are you kind of on your own for it? It’s something that’s kind of automatically it’s not within like the experience itself, but with it being on the overall platform, we do kind of see some of the benefits of it.
19:31 Greg Posner We just don’t have direct interaction with it. So talking about your career, your your experience, right? You started at 5C or you didn’t start at 5CA, but you were at 5CA for many years. You kind of learned both sides of customer support, right? Of kind of handling as a BPO, a business process outsourcer, right? Helping people support their companies and now for a dedicated game. Are there any best practices that you’ve learned at 5CA that when you start thinking about how you want to build this experience
19:58 Steven Zachary into uplift that you were able to take from one to the other? When I was at 5CA, I was at 5CA for a long time. Conversely, my career there, I believe if I’m doing math correctly, spanned almost four years. During my time there, my best practices I learned were kind of just in the way that different companies ran their support. I was passed around to a bunch of projects during the time I was there. So worked with a bunch of different companies. But I’d learned things like, oh, there’s company A that will do their support based on like how much of an influence you have on the game, like how much money you spend, how much play time you have. And then there’s company B that will have like this kind of practice in. And my first goal when I came to adopt me was honestly, I kind of didn’t like that kind of system. So I wrote a support system around making sure that everyone in our community, regardless of if you just started playing five minutes ago or if you’ve spent a bunch of Robux with us and you’re a power user,
21:07 Greg Posner that you all get the same level of support and you have the same right to support. Does that ever provide a challenge when it comes time to scale or just if there’s an inbound, right? Like you’re saying, you’re coming to a busy, busy time, right?
21:24 Steven Zachary Do you see that ever causing an issue with handle time or trying to get back to your user? It does sometimes cause an issue with handle time. Something that we directly encourage is we want to make sure that every player within our player base gets their right to not only good support, but to a nice personalized response from one of my agents, not just some macro that can really be quickly put out in 10 seconds. This does involve taking a little bit more time. And while sometimes our players can be a little bit upset with that wait, we find that in the end, they’re in most cases happy with the result that they’ve gotten.
22:02 Greg Posner And if they’re not, then I make sure that the process is reviewed and we see what changes we can make. Yeah, the personalized experience really does go a long way. And I understand the need for bots in a lot of cases and a lot of reason to have automations to help improve workflows and scale. But the personalized journey is a super important thing that we always try and stress to our customers as well, because you don’t want to automate everything and then become super robotic. So being able to make sure that you have that personalized experience is something we never want to be able to take away from games, because I think that’s what brings people back. That’s where, again, if we go back to the beginning, I was mentioning user attention. That’s where it comes from. If you just had automatic things for everything, you probably would see that player base over time diminish quicker with that automation. At this point, the way I see it, I hire humans, not bots, so may as well may as well make sure that people are getting human responses, because that’s what I’d want from a support. So I have a question that maybe is a little controversial, but, you know, we have we have community. You mentioned that in Discord, you have community members that come in and help, right? And we kind of see some sort of turbulence at Reddit where they’ve been having these free moderators for years now kind of protest. Are there any talks internally of, hey, our Discord is full of super helpful community members, but we need to be careful to keep them happy?
23:27 Steven Zachary Or has this conversation come up at all with everything that’s been happening or not necessarily? In the time that I’ve been directly involved with the moderation team, that conversation has never come up. A lot of our moderators are just happy to work on basically do work with the community of the game that they all enjoy playing. Anybody who’s joined our moderation team has been part of our Discord and our community for a long time.
23:51 Greg Posner Now, in terms of anything like super recently, I don’t know, but I imagine that that hasn’t changed. I want to go back to something you said a little earlier when you were at 5CA, you mentioned kind of customer one had only helping VIPs and customer two and so on. Is there one notoriously not so great example and you don’t have to name company names that kind of rings the bell of, hey, when I started a support team, I am never doing this because this is terrible.
24:17 Steven Zachary Yep. Honestly, the last company that I worked with during my time at 5CA company themselves, lovely people enjoyed working with them. But the way that they did support, I was not a super huge fan of. They basically had this tier system where you fell into one of seven tiers and that would determine how you got support. And those tiers would basically be determined by how much money you spent in the game.
24:47 Greg Posner We do hear about that a lot in gaming, right? And when you have big games that have freemium users, right? How do you help support that? And it’s this hard balance, right? And how do you do this? Do you help everyone? Do you not help everyone? And I understand why it would be frustrating, right? But yes, I also kind of understand the balance and what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. I think each use case is a little different. It’s a tough one, but I get where you’re coming from with that.
25:11 Steven Zachary My whole thing, like I mentioned earlier, is I like to make sure that everybody has everybody gets the same support experience, no matter how long they’ve been with our or how long they’ve been with our game, how long or how much money they’ve spent.
25:25 Greg Posner I just like to make sure that everybody is treated equally. I think that’s a great way to go into it. Right. Everyone deserves that opportunity. And for people that are listening and don’t quite know what maybe a BPO is, BPO allows you to outsource certain different parts of your business. A lot of times what that is, is support. So if a game can’t support, if a company is building a game and can’t fully support it with the amount of people that they have, they can reach out to a BPO. And a BPO will help provide support agents for that game. So with that being said, Steven, if you could go back five years and talk to younger Steven, are there any things that you’d want to kind of focus more on on what you were doing to learn more from it? Are there any things you would maybe even tell younger Steven, hey, do this or do that kind of best practices learned over the years?
26:12 Steven Zachary Honestly, I would just tell younger me to keep going on the path that he’s going on and to really not give up on anything that he’s trying with. As you mentioned in the opening, I do have some knowledge in game development, actually. I went to school for it for three years before dropping out just because it was starting to become overwhelming, starting to become a bit much. And that was right around when I found my job with 5CA and found that the gaming passion never left. But I had more of a passion for supporting people than I did developing the experiences. And in a way, if you give somebody a good support experience, you’ve technically developed an experience with them that they’re going to remember. Anybody who contacts support is going to is going to remember the experience regardless of whether it is a I got a robotic response that didn’t answer my question, or I got a kind agent that while they couldn’t help me with my individual
27:19 Greg Posner request, they still took the time out of their day to make sure that I was helped. I love hearing that because it reminds me sort of of why I’m excited to do this podcast because I went to school and I wanted to learn how to code so I could build games. And I remember taking a C++ class because you had to pass that and I was just terrible at it. I couldn’t code and I told myself I’m not going to be working in gaming because I don’t know how to code. And you don’t really think about it when you’re younger, but the ability to do customer support to build these experiences, the ability to play test the ability to there’s just so many different options on how you can enter that gaming realm. But in my mindset, and this was before the ages of podcasts and YouTube’s all over the place, like I thought to myself, you had to be a coder to do this and being able to understand that’s not true is what’s exciting to me. And this is the stories I want to share because I know there’s younger versions of me that are out there that want to learn more about gaming and don’t go into saying don’t go into coding, but it was not for me. Uh, and that realization clicked and I wanted to be able to share that story. And it sounds like same sort of thing with you, except you probably do coding a little better than me.
28:26 Steven Zachary Uh, but that, that wasn’t where your passion truly lied. Yeah. Like I, I enjoy doing the, doing some of the coding aspect, but I, I’m not an ideas guy in that regard. Like I am, I cannot come up with like good ideas for games, honestly, like our two co-founders can like adopt me has been an amazing experience and they keep providing amazing ideas for the experience. But yeah, honestly getting into the games industry is not just about coding anymore. It may have been years ago, but nowadays if you can, if you can be active on social media, if you can be a supportive individual, if you know how to test games, heck, if you want to, in a way, if you want to play them and street them or stream them, you have a seat in this industry.
29:20 Greg Posner Yeah. Twitch opened up crazy amount of doors of what you’re being able to do. And now being able to watch e-sports on TV is, it’s just a mind blowing thing when, when you’re turning on ESPN and for some reason you see a bunch of people playing League of Legends. You’re like, wow, this is, this is crazy that this is on ESPN or something like that.
29:37 Steven Zachary Yeah, exactly.
29:38 Greg Posner Like seeing, seeing the game streaming world, especially blow up over for me, like the past eight years has been amazing to see. Going back to kind of your relationship with the Roblox and how your team continues to kind of build out your user experiences. It’s very personalized based on what we heard. Are there specific metrics that you are monitoring kind of, again, you don’t look at them as segments, right? You’re VIPs and people that play a lot, but are these things that you’re, you’re just monitoring to see how often people return, how long they’re playing for and so on?
30:10 Steven Zachary So a few things that I look into myself, we do have a trading system within AdoptMe. I do check the metrics of what reports we get in that trade system every week. Usually I put them in a nice little sheet so I can keep track of different trends. This helps me with doing a lot of different changes to our support. I know right now there is a particular queue within our support that has been closed for a long time that we are looking to reopen. Anyone in our community will know what I’m talking about. And I’m hoping to have news on that soon in regards to that. Just figured I’d bring that up while I’m bringing up trade report metrics. Yeah. On top of that, I do also check things like within our ticketing system, for instance, I like to see how long it’s taking agents to solve issues. Not only in the sense of like, how long is it taking you to get to this person’s ticket, but also we have a system in place called a touch system. So how many times did that agent have to respond to this player before the issue was solved? So something that every agent has within their metrics is a one touch and a two touch score, which is how many of all your tickets last week, what percentage of them were you able to solve with just one reply? What percentage of them were you able to solve with two? And that’s more so nothing to like punish agents on or anything. That’s just for me to help with coaching and to make sure that players are getting the responses they need. Because sometimes we’ll have a player that needs five to six replies. That’s more than okay.
31:55 Greg Posner Can you tell me a little more about coaching and how you are coaching your agents? Because I think that’s something that, you know, we’re all always busy and continuous learning is something that’s important, but finding the time for coaching is tough. So how do you manage that?
32:09 Steven Zachary For the agents that need it or that feel they need it, I give them a once a week time slot of 30 minutes that they can just have me on like my undivided attention for that full 30 minutes for us to discuss their growth, how they’re doing and what some good next steps and improvements are. Every agent regardless gets a slot every two weeks. But there are some agents who just prefer to meet once a week. And that’s, that’s fine with me, I’m happy to make the time. But something else I also kind of do. And this is where I don’t want to say I’ve adapted a unique leadership style, but it’s one that I definitely would like to see heads of take more if it’s ever possible, at least in the support field. I never really refer to myself as a leader with them. Obviously, I am their manager, I’m the head of their department. But in my eyes, I always put myself on their level. So there will be days where like, oh, our queue is getting a little bit backed up. I’ll sit in and do some tickets for a little bit with them alongside them. I’ll sit in calls with them, discuss various support things that they need. We also have a once a week meeting where I have all of them in the same room. I’m actually stealing an idea from a manager starting next month. And if any of my support agents are listening to this, I haven’t told them yet. So I guess they’ll find out later today. One of our heads of specifically once again, Jesse does a kind of 90 minute meeting every month with his team to go over the entire month. Him and I were discussing that the other day. And I told him I am very keen to stealing that idea. Yeah, because our our once a week chats do help. However, sometimes you don’t have things that change week to week. A lot of times it’s more so like you’ll have one grand issue a month and it’ll show up like towards the end of the month.
34:20 Greg Posner Sharing those best practices, even if they’re internal with your other managers are super important. And that’s why we like to have a community where we can kind of have these leaders share their best practice no matter what gaming company they’re from. Because in this customer experience, customer support world, I don’t really feel like there’s a great sounding board for how we do stuff. Right. But if we start sharing what works for us, what works for them, you can almost build this great process to make sure you keep everyone happy. Because we talk about customer satisfaction or CSAT quite often for our players. But we also like to think that there’s this internal CSAT. Are my agents happy? How do I keep them happy? Because agents are tough to replace if you need to. There’s a lot of training that goes into it, especially when someone learns a game and knows a game. Such a valuable skill to have. So being able to share that knowledge and make sure you hear them and coach them properly is so essential.
35:10 Steven Zachary Exactly. Something I actually heavily encourage with my agents that help a lot in honestly their happiness and their growth is I tell them, hey, I want you to take ownership for your work. Not in the sense of like, if you make a mistake, you take ownership for that. But in the sense of if you are playing the game and you discover a new bug, yeah, you can tell me about it. But I want to see you in the report bugs channel and slack writing up the report. I want to see you doing all of that just because I’m not going to take credit for your work. I don’t like management styles where the manager reports everything.
35:48 Greg Posner I like to give my agents the freedom to do that because it really shows other people in the company what they’re doing. And it’s led to some internal promotions as well. It’s interesting. I remember my time in support and I remember kind of this realization that hit me. I was out of college and we had some employees in our support team that just didn’t want to grow. They were happy being that level one support agent. And at that time, I was like, why don’t you want to do more? And then it just hit me. It’s just like they’re happy with what they’re doing. And the truth is that level one support is such a hard role. And if someone’s happy in it, you just want to leave them there. So just making sure that they are happy. If there are complaints that they do have addressing those, so you can keep those level one support reps there. They’re kind of that first line of support when someone reaches out. And it’s just funny to hear that because it’s something that I forgot about and just clicked as we were talking about this.
36:46 Steven Zachary Yeah, I always try to put my agents happiness first in the sense of I think I have this talk with them about like once a quarter at this point. So once every three months in that, hey, if you have growth plans and they don’t involve being in support, I still want you to tell me. I’m not going to be upset. I’m just going to start dedicating resources to helping you make this growth plan happen, because at the end of the day, I’d rather you go off to where you want to be and be happy, then stay where you may be like steady in the sense of, you know, what you’re doing with support. But you’re not growing. You’re not improving. You’re just saying stagnant.
37:33 Greg Posner Right. And even if you have that employee that wants to go to QA or product and you can help get them there, that gives you the manager of support and ally that’s going to another department that if you ever need anything, they’ll remember that you help them out and they’re going to help you out. It becomes this I always used to call it just network internally, network internally, get to know everyone, get them to be your allies, and they’ll help carry you. And I think that’s the most essential thing is understand. And Steven, you did say this very well, right? Understand what your employees goal is and don’t discourage him, help them get there and they’ll forever be your ally to help you succeed going forward.
38:07 Steven Zachary Exactly. That’s honestly one of the best ways to look at it. We have a fair example of that. Actually, the person who led the support team before I worked at Uplift Games, before the head of support role technically existed is still with the company, but he’s now a programmer. He now does a lot more programming as opposed to support, and I’m very happy that we were able to make that change happen.
38:34 Greg Posner I was going to guess if it was Jesse, but I guess not.
38:36 Steven Zachary No, not not Jesse. As far as I know, Jesse has never held a support role, at least within Uplift. I do not know his prior work history, but no, our previous head of support technically is now an engineer within Uplift Games. And I also kind of have him to thank because if it wasn’t for him having that goal, I wouldn’t be here today.
38:59 Greg Posner So you manage a lot. And I want to talk about that just again, the community aspect of it, you’re doing Discord, social, your game itself, right? If I had to ask you, what is the one tool that you use or the one program that you use on your computer that you can’t live without? What would you think that would be?
39:18 Steven Zachary So honestly, for me, I’d have to wrap that into two things. One of them is not so much a program, but a hardware tool, the Elgato Stream Deck Plus. Stream decks aren’t just for streaming people. So at this point, it really helps me with getting a lot of management doing things a lot quicker. So like, if I click into Slack, for instance, I have a bunch of shortcut keys for like writing a post for the agents going to the specific person’s DM, stuff like that. And I also have a bunch of sound tools within there for like, hey, if I’m in an important meeting and don’t need to be or don’t want to be interrupted, I can just hit a button and that mutes notifications in all of my other platforms for the duration of the meeting. But the other thing is honestly, just honestly, I heavily recommend Grammarly for business for anybody. Grammarly in general for anybody who doesn’t use it. That has been my one sort of life saving tool. I do a lot of typing and a lot of writing. Really any kind of any macro agent may send any documentation you see that’s going out, whether it be on like our help desk or on our support Twitter, the very rare times we update the support Twitter, that’s usually written by me. It helps to have that sort of second review step of, hey, did I write everything right? Is everything grammatically correct? Spelt correctly?
40:50 Greg Posner Because even when you’ve been in the industry for years, you still make mistakes. Two points. One, you’re not the first person to tell me about the stream deck. And now I’m even more fascinated. I guess I just need to look at it at this point because when multiple people start saying that, it definitely. Yep.
41:06 Steven Zachary I have two at this point, so it’s definitely because they make a bunch of different models. I have one eight button one with a bunch of like volume knobs on it and then one 15 button one. And those help a lot with my productivity. A lot of my agents also use them.
41:23 Greg Posner I will check that out after this. And then the second one is Grammarly and I too am a big fan of Grammarly. My only issue with Grammarly is that it suggests way too many commas. But have you have you? One of my questions I like to ask, and I like to roll into it, but I’m going to try and set it set this up. Is the question is going to be what are the technologies on the horizon are most exciting you and have you considered using Grammarly along with chat GPT to kind of build out or perfect your wording? Or is that not something that’s interesting to you?
41:53 Steven Zachary So I’d love to start doing that. In all honesty, chat GPT is kind of already used in my day to day work in the sense of usually the agents will come to me whenever they need something new, like, hey, I’m answering this one thing a lot. Can you write a macro for it? Usually what I’ll do is I’ll put the prompt into chat GPT just to get like a really good starting point. Usually by the end, it does not reflect or it does not look anything like what chat GPT gave me. But it really helps to have a sort of starting base point for writing any kind of documentation. But for the most part, I’m very happy just to see the various technologies that different ticket solutions within within the support industry. So your services like Zendesk, Help Ship, Fresh Desk. I’m very happy to see those kinds of services and how they’re continuing to grow with things like automations, bots, more streamlined self-service support options. Because at the end of the day, we’re only we’re only a smaller team of roughly at this point, nine people. So we we get people who will say like, oh, why don’t you just hire more people that sometimes doesn’t fix the problem at the end of the day, there’s still things that we just can’t catch. And we want to make sure that we are catching them. We’re actually in the process of doing a more behind the scenes overhaul of how support is being run. So players should be starting to see some changes in the fall months as to how support is being run. Again, hoping to have more news on that later on that I can actually discuss.
43:46 Greg Posner I think I mean, I can only speak for one of the tools that you mentioned there. Right. But but I think we all also look to feedback from from you guys, from the other communities on what’s important. Right. We sell bots, but we also sell agent experiences and stuff like that. So we don’t want to force something that doesn’t make sense. And I think this feedback, I mean, we look for feedback just as you look for feedback and try and build experiences that are right for you. So the more we hear, the better. And I think that goes across any industry, any type of company. If you’re talking with someone feedback to help grows, what’s essential to do that? Exactly. Even even feedback as little as that sounds good or this doesn’t sound good is still way more helpful than you think. Steven, I think that’s all I have for you today. You answered all my questions. I really enjoyed our conversation. Before I let you go, I want to ask, is there anything you want to talk about or share with anyone that’s listening?
44:41 Steven Zachary What I really just want to share is, again, like you and I have kind of discussed during this chat. Don’t be afraid to get your foot into this industry. I know there are a lot of people, younger versions of you and I, who really want to get into the games industry, but are intimidated because they think it’s going to involve doing a lot of computer coding or having to be really skilled at art. No, there are avenues where you can get into this industry. You’ll still have to do a little bit of work on your end, but there are avenues where you can take your own skill set and just make it work in this industry. If you find that you’re really good with words, you could go into comms, you could go into support. If you find that again, you’re really good with art, look for art. If you’re really good at finding bugs in games, go for QA testing. There’s a lot of different options and the sky’s the limit in all honesty.
45:39 Greg Posner And I would double down on that and say, take advantage of today’s generative AI, right? This is changing the game and it’s not going to make you good at something you’re not good at, but what it’s going to do is going to help enable you to have a starting place, which is what Stephen mentions. The most important part of it is having that starting spot and you can continue to build off of it. If you can become an expert in these tools in the coming years, my belief is that these are going to be the most powerful tools we can learn. So this would help you also get a start in this industry, right? Help enable you to go a little further. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Greg. With that, Stephen, I really did appreciate this conversation. We’ll have all the show notes as well as any information about Stephen on our website, as well as on this podcast.
46:18 Steven Zachary So I appreciate you coming out today, Stephen, and I hope you have a great rest of your day. You as well, Greg. Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure. Join us next week as we invite Mark Valle from Photon Engine to talk about actionable insights from data and monetization. Thanks again for joining us and have a great rest of your day.