‘It’s our job to make sure that playing EA games is a great experience’
The Global Director, Player Experience Protection, Worldwide Customer Experience at EA shares how they ensure that players don’t just have a great in-game experience but that they also optimise it around the entire game.
Chris Dotson is the Global Director, Player Experience Protection, Worldwide Customer Experience at Electronic Arts (EA). He joins our host Seth Adler this week for an in-depth interview as part of the CX Network podcast series.
Dotson shares that he leads the operations enablement group, which is comprised of the training, quality, process, risk and change management teams that surround the customer contact centre. The team have to make sure that they’re always looking at things from the player’s perspective and they understand what their customers are looking for, so they don’t have to contact EA in the first place. So although Dotson’s focus is enablement, his job is actually to ensure that players don’t need him.
He is always asking the question: ‘What can we do to eliminate the need for the player to contact? Though if they do, we need to make it as easy as possible’.
“What they’re looking for is someone to solve their problem. Someone who understands them as a player, understands the game, can get the issue solved and get them back in the game.”
Seth Adler: From Electronic Arts Chris Dotson. First some supporters to thank, and thank you for listening.
This episode is supported by the CX Network. The CX Network provides expert commentary, tools and resources developed by customer experience professionals and industry insiders. With a growing membership and global portfolio of events, CX Network ensures you keep your finger on the pulse by delivering practical and strategic advice to help achieve your business goals. Wherever you are on your customer strategy journey, join the CX Network's global community today. Go to CXNetwork.com for more.
This episode is also supported by the Chief Customer Officer Exchange. CCOE discusses approaches on driving a profitable customer strategy at all levels of the enterprise. Join the only event focused on bringing together innovating cross-industry chief customer officers November 5th through the 7th in Miami, Florida. Benchmark on improving customer experience, establishing customer-centric strategies, and producing more valuable customer insights, go to CCOExchange.iqpc.com for more.
Chris Dotson joins us and shares that he leads the operations enablement group of EA which is comprised of the training, quality, process, risk and change management teams that surround the customer contact center. Chris and his team have to make sure that they’re always looking at things from the players perspective. To understand- what are they looking for- which is ultimately to not to contact the organization. So although his focus is enablement, his job is actually to ensure that players don’t need him. So Chris is always asking the question, what can we do to eliminate the need for the player to contact. But if they do, make it as easy as possible.
Welcome to CX Network on B2B IQ. I am your host, Seth Adler. Download episodes on CXNetwork.com, or through our app in iTunes, within the iTunes podcast app, in Google Play, or wherever you currently get your podcasts.
Chris Dotson; big fan of the cars that you used to make. Right?
Seth Adler: But, you spell it Dotson.
Chris Dotson: We sold it over to Nissan eventually. But, [crosstalk].
Seth Adler: But, there is a whole, I don't know if you're aware. There's a whole kinda contingency of folks that collect old Datsuns.
Chris Dotson: Absolutely. The 280Z and everything else. It's amazing. But, too bad my name wasn't spelled the same, because then, I would be a little bit richer, but, you know, it's alright.
Seth Adler: Yeah. You got two letters that are wrong. Right?
Chris Dotson: Yeah. It's close.
Seth Adler: Or, they have two letters that are wrong. Maybe if they had your spelling, everything would've been better for them. Right?
Chris Dotson: You never know.
Seth Adler: Exactly. So, you're at EA. What is your remit? What do you gotta do every day?
Chris Dotson: So, I lead our Operations And Enablement Group. It's a lot of the teams that surround our customer contact center. The training team, quality, process, risk, fraud, change management; a lot of the groups that help enable our people to talk to our players.
Seth Adler: Alright. So, enablement is what we're into?
Chris Dotson: Yes. Absolutely.
Seth Adler: Alright. What is at the top of the list? We're here at CCW during a networking break, which is vibrant. What's at the top of your list of supporting the contact center? What's one, two, and three right now, as we make our way into 2018?
Chris Dotson: Yeah. One, two, and three for us is, Always looking at things from our player's perspective, or our customer's perspective. To understand what are they looking for. And, they're not looking to contact us. So, our job, even though it's enablement for our customer contact center, it is actually for our players not to need us. So, that's the number one thing.
Seth Adler: Yeah.
Chris Dotson: And, what can we do to eliminate the need for them to come to us.
Seth Adler: The second one is, when they do have to come to us, how can we make it as effortless as possible for them? But also, give them the opportunity of where they wanna be serviced at. Do they wanna be self-serviced? Do they want chat phone? Making sure that they have that choice as well.
Chris Dotson: And then, the third one is on our advisors; on the people that are connecting with our players. There's no other peace within our company that has that connection with our player one-on-one to understand and possibly turn them around if they're upset, or make them an absolute advocate for our companies.
Seth Adler: This kinda works backwards. Once we do get on the phone with a player, you have already told us, they don't wanna be on the phone with us. Right?
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
So, we're happy to be on the phone with them, no questions. But, we know that they don't wanna be there. How do you know this? In other words, what is that player's that kind of mindset? And, we're painting with a broad brush. Once they do get to the agent, what are your agents dealing with?
Well, we sell a number of different games. And a number of different platforms that those games are played on, a number of different connection types within the game, whether it's gameplay account things; things of that nature. So, there are umpteen number of different types of things that can come in. And, most of the players that contact us are very, very passionate.
Seth Adler: Video-gamers, this is a lot of times either alternate reality for them, or how they spend a big portion of their free money. So, this is serious to them. And, what they're looking for is, not necessarily empathy, they're looking for somebody to solve their problem, who understands what they're here for; understands them as a player, understands the game, and can get their issues solved and get them back in the game.
Chris Dotson: I don't need your empathy. I need your intelligence.
Seth Adler: Exactly.
Chris Dotson: Tell me. For me, I'm the kind of Joe customer! If I call my airline or my bank, I am looking for empathy! Your players are more looking for, "Just solve the problem right now! I don't even care if you care!"
Yeah. They wanna get back in the game and keep playing.
Seth Adler: Right.
Chris Dotson: And, for what ever reason that has stopped, they didn't get what they bought or paid for, or whatever, and that's our job; find it quickly, get it back to them, or get them back in the game, and keep going.
Seth Adler: What kind of information are you feeding? You said you're there to support the contact center. What kind of information points? What kind of data points are you feeding to the contact center so that they can really go ahead and solve that problem immediately?
Chris Dotson: EA's made up of a lot of different game studios that create the different titles. So, it's not just one big company. It's actually a lot of smaller companies that'll roll up into electronic arts. So, what we do is, we have integrations with all these different game teams into the game data, things of that nature.
Seth Adler: So that, when a player contacts us, we can see what were the last games they played, what did they purchase. Did they play the match? Did they lose? Did they win? Did they get disconnected? All the different information about when they came into the EA ecosystem. What did they do, and how did they do it?
Chris Dotson: So, get that information in front of the advisor as fast as possible, so that they can see what's going on with that player. And, you can immediately tell them, hopefully, what's going on, what happened, and here's what we can about it.
Seth Adler: That doesn't always work perfectly. Every game team is different. So, some of our integrations are deeper, some are not so much. Some are more complex, because the micro-transactions in gameplay and stuff like that. But, that is our goal; is to get it to where the advisors know what's going on with that player as soon as possible, to get them that resolution as fast as possible. And then, move to that next step, which is, "How can we get that information into self-service," then ultimately eliminate it and get proactive to where our own systems are noticing these things and correcting them ahead of time.
Chris Dotson: Lets feed this forward. This happened with this player; Player X, is this happening elsewhere? This is what we did to solve it this time.
Please make sure that we do this every time.
Seth Adler: Rolling in it completely. Right?
Chris Dotson: Yeah.
Seth Adler: So, what I'm hearing is, the structure is kinda like a Proctor & Gamble essentially. Right? There's all the brand teams, and Proctor and P&G team kinda sits over. That's the same kinda set up?
Chris Dotson: A little bit, but it is shifted a little more to where EA in the past was kinda like, Hey, you're a game studio. You are independent for the most part. You use our publishing horse power to get the games out. But, you still get to do what you do.
Seth Adler: Now, there's more central services-type things. Not just email and stuff like that. But, more central platforms that are being built on, central data stores, things of that nature, to ensure that it's not a FIFA player or a Madden player. It's an EA player. And, if you contact us about one game, and you've never spent any money, we still need to treat you the same as that player who spent a lot of money, because they may have spent it elsewhere. And, we need to know that as well.
Chris Dotson: So, we look at you as, EA is a brand. And, we have a brand promise, whether we've said it or not, there is a brand promise that is being said. And, we want to be the world's best interactive entertainment company. So, to do that, we have to know our players at an EA level to be able to do that. That's what we're striving towards, is getting to know that entire EA ecosystem and data.
Seth Adler: So, a little bit of a shifted thinking. Very interesting. And, we did just talk about the player calling in. Let's talk the agent that's answering. What kind of person do we have here on the front lines?
Chris Dotson: What we really strive towards is the people that have those soft skills; that true, I wanna help a player-type motivation. I wanna make somebody's day by doing a great thing for them. We can train people on gameplay, things of that nature and technology. But, we really look for people that have that true deep down desire to help, and not give up. They are just, "I am gonna keep going until I can get this person the help."
But then, we also look for somebody who really has that gameplay, that mindset. A gamer is a very different kind of person than, say, your banking customer. They have a lot of value to these players and you need to know that as an advisor. So, giving them that knowledge, whether they come in with it, or have it over time. That is our second piece. First thing is the soft skills that general mindset that you can't teach somebody. They just wanna be helpful. And then, build on top of that with all the knowledge of gameplay, gaming, and that exact experience that, that player is going through.
Yeah. It's interesting, because I think that you and I were in the same workshop about hiring, and, the question came up. Which would you rather have, skill or will? Everybody around the table said, "Well, both."
Seth Adler: But, what I'm hearing from you though is even though we've agreed that empathy doesn't need to be as high as maybe some other contact centers. You're still hiring for will first.
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
Above skill, even though it is that intelligence and that kind of knowledge that's needed to be on the front lines for EA.
Seth Adler: Yeah, absolutely. Because, if you have a lot of knowledge about game playing and so forth. Say, you're just a gamer at heart. But, you don't have that soft skill side, players are still not gonna be excited about the company. You may have solved their issue, but they're not gonna be advocates necessarily, because you didn't treat them as a human as a player.
We wanna get that first. And, even if we can't solve their issue, we still want people to walk away saying, "You know what? They did everything they could to get my issue resolved. I still believe in this company."
Chris Dotson: Almost surprise them with empathy.
Seth Adler: Absolutely. And, we want people to believe and trust in us. And that to me is key first.
Chris Dotson: Alright. So then, as we work our way back, you kind of sharing how you get the information to the folks that are on the front lines, and a little bit about the customer. What about a couple of steps back into the organization?
It sounds like it's a bit chaotic. There's a lot of cheats. There's a lot of brands. There's a lot of thinking. It takes, I guess somebody like you who would be the glue here.
Seth Adler: We actually have a lot of independent teams within EA. But, there's also a lot of standards that we're getting in place with a lot of the teams. We have a partnership group that, that is their responsibility to work with our different studios in the contact center to have that two-way voice.
Chris Dotson: One studio is letting us know about features, gameplay, things of that nature. So, we understand what's coming in and can get the training processes and so forth to the front line. But also, the other way around, which is getting that voice of the player; voice of the customer, back up to them about issues that they're experiencing, things that could be working better, confusion points, things of that nature so that they can improve the products.
Seth Adler: Because, we are ultimately trying to get to the best services. No need for the service that we have in the first place. So, that to us is improving the products, having that communication. And so, we have built those over the last four or five years, that now, we know what's coming in. We know what's launching. We know the problems that are going to come in to us. And, we're also able to feed back the problems that we're seeing to them. And, they listen. That's what's fantastic.
Yeah. When we spoke yesterday, you said, basically, "I wanna solve a problem so much, that I don't do it anymore."
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
You know, have that operational excellence that I can move on to something else.
Yeah. And, our players deserve that from us, and our teams deserve that from us, that, nobody comes to work wanting to do the same, exact thing every day, day in, and day out. And, if we still have the same problem over and over, our players are not gonna trust us.
Seth Adler: So, it is our job to eliminate that, to make sure that when they do play EA games, that it's a great experience, not just in the game, but all around the entire game. And so, one big focus of my job is to, and I mentioned it yesterday, is to eliminate my job; is to eliminate the need for my role. If we can cut down on the training that we have to do because we don't have those issues, that's key.
Chris Dotson: If we can minimize the number of processes that our advisors have to have because we simply help work on the product side and help get those eliminated, that's where we need to focus. And, getting the whole team focused that way is a critical future for us to ensure it's not about writing the process better. It's about eliminating the need for that process. Because you eliminated the friction point for that player.
Seth Adler: That's where we need that. That's where our mindset is right now, is, how do we eliminate? Not just handle time and stuff like that, but, how do we eliminate the overall player issue in the very beginning? That to us is where we get to that effortless clear experience and customer service.
Chris Dotson: Are you a Six-Sigma guy? I am not.
Seth Adler: You just think like one?
Chris Dotson: We believe that, and this is something that we've really pushed over the last year or so is that, it is critical for us to eliminate these players' issues. And literally, it's not about us answering that call. It's about us never having to answer that call. Because, we have too many issues already. Everybody does.
Seth Adler: And, we're never gonna be able to keep up with the demand if we don't do something about making our products better.
Chris Dotson: One of the issues that you mentioned in passing was fraud, and by this, I took that to mean piracy, which I know is not a victim-less crime.
Seth Adler: I remember before there was Napster, and then there was Napster and all of that. So, how do you guys deal with really, culture now, that does not understand content as a product?
Chris Dotson: We sell physical games of course, then, we also sell a lot of digital games. Digital is a giant future for the entire industry in almost every industry at this point, which is, also add some difficulty to it. Because, "Hey, I didn't get my code. My code doesn't work," things of that nature. It's very easy to start trying to get piracy, and trying to fish advisors.
So, we definitely have, and of course, we're dealing with gamers. So, a gamer's whole point is to win. That also happens in the contact center, where people come in trying to get free things. You'll see things on Reddit, and other posts where people talk about how they were able to get around the EA processes and so forth.
Seth Adler: And, they will try to do this over and over and over, until they get that secret, right path that gets in. But, there's a balance there of, you don't want to look at everybody as a criminal. We're asking them to trust us, we're gonna trust them as well.
So, what we're doing is using data on the back end to understand what a fraudster looks like, and eliminate those before they ever get to an advisor. So, that the advisor, when they're talking to a person, we wanna make sure we have a legitimate player with a legitimate problem, and we can go help them.
Chris Dotson: That's what we want in our contact center. If you're not a legitimate player, and you don't have a legitimate problem, we need to be able to catch that up front. But still, if you are legitimate, it should be frictionless and effortless for you to come in.
Seth Adler: I gotcha.
Chris Dotson: It's difficult to do that, of course.
Seth Adler: That's a tough dance. Absolutely sir. So, Chris, it turns out is big on Reddit! It sounds like! Right?
Chris Dotson: Oh yeah!
Seth Adler: That's where they're telling their secrets, so you can ahead and cover up yours!
Chris Dotson: And we may be watching all that too, so! Absolutely.
Seth Adler: That's it.
Chris Dotson: Alright. So, it turns out, you're a pretty dynamic guy here. Where are you from?
Seth Adler: I'm from Texas originally.
Chris Dotson: Where in Texas?
Seth Adler: San Antonio in the Canyon Lake area.
Okay. And, the river walk is beautiful, of course?
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
Seth Adler: And the San Antonio Spurs are the best basketball team that there is in the NBA [crosstalk 00:18:21].
Chris Dotson: I will always say that. Yes, you're correct.
Seth Adler: And, you remember David Robinson?
Chris Dotson: Of course. Absolutely.
Seth Adler: Before that, not so much though. Right?
Chris Dotson: Eh, well, yes. But, the Spurs start with David Robinson, and then go forward from there.
Seth Adler: That's it. And, still to today.
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
Seth Adler: When you were back there at home, and we're kinda close to home here, right in Austin. When did the brain turn on as far as you understanding what you were good at?
Chris Dotson: Well, I spent a number of years in the military.
Seth Adler: You too?
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
Seth Adler: What service?
Chris Dotson: I was in the Army as an Airborne Ranger for six years.
Seth Adler: Thank you for your service.
Chris Dotson: Well, thank you. Appreciate that.
But, when I came out, I realized that I was good at project management and so forth. I got a role as doing project management afterwards, and I realized that I was very strict; very black and white. My project manager methodologies come from the military.
Seth Adler: Right. Because, that's the way it is.
Chris Dotson: Seth Adler: That's the way it is there, and that works. But, I joined a software company, and that doesn't necessarily work as well. But, I wanna say that my big shift is when I came to EA, and got to see a little bit bigger picture than what I've seen in the past. Beyond just a project or a program, I got to see an entire contact center business. And beyond, like I said the contact, I got to the budget side, operations side to understand it's not about that. It's about eliminating.
So, I got a great viewpoint from my leaders at that time. And, that has propelled me and many others around us forward because of that view. It should be about the experience that our players are having, and our advisors are having. So, that for me is, when I joined EA, I was exposed to so many different things. And, it was kinda like, if I was wrong about this before, well, what else am I wrong about now.
It truly opened up my mind and abilities. So now, I've kinda hit a spot where I'm like, you know what, I do this well. I don't do everything well. But, I do this well. Others do other things well, and we can work together and get it done.
Seth Adler: I appreciate that. It sounds like you're, "Okay. How can we optimize this process?" That's how you walked in the door at EA, and then you kinda took a couple steps back, and was like, "No. How can we eliminate that process?"
Chris Dotson: Absolutely.
Seth Adler: I need to ask, if you don't mind.
Chris Dotson: I don't mind.
Seth Adler: Airborne Ranger. That's a specific thing if I am not mistaken sir.
Chris Dotson: Yes, it is.
Seth Adler: Can you take us through what, you know, I know what a ranger is as opposed to maybe Joe Soldier. GI Joe for that matter.
Chris Dotson: When I was in from 1993 - 1999, it was about what they called an Air Field Seizure, which is, you go into a country. You take over their air field. And now, you can get more troops in. And then, we were also a support for some other, at the time, more hush-hush organizations to help them do their job.
Seth Adler: But, the mindset of the Airborne Ranger, it's high, high testosterone, high energy 24/7.
Chris Dotson: Right. Always on.
Seth Adler: Always on. Always aggressive. It's that attitude of, I can never fail. Nobody's ever better than me, which is, you can imagine, doesn't work as well in the business world. In that environment, it is A-type personalities constantly everywhere.
So, I'm not saying that you're not Type A. I'm not saying that you're not a competent individual. But, I'm looking at somebody who seems to be very laid-back.
Chris Dotson: Yes.
Seth Adler: A gentle giant, so to speak. What am I missing here? Because, it seems like there must've been a shift along the way.
Chris Dotson: Yeah. For me, that aggressiveness is still always there. But-
Seth Adler: Don't poke the bear!
Chris Dotson: Yeah! Don't! But, I've also learned that, that power is to bring other teams together. It's not about me being strong, or me. It's about bringing teams together to make them strong as well. So, that's where I focus. And, I've simply found that, over the years, me being aggressive is actually the opposite of what I need to be.
Seth Adler: I need to be collaborative, and engaging. And everybody laughs, I wear a sombrero everyday on Friday, because, why not! It's Fiesta Friday, let's go. Little bit quirky, a little bit [crosstalk 00:22:38].
Chris Dotson: Sure! Have some fun with it.
Seth Adler: I'm a big guy, so, make fun of myself a little bit. For me, it endears people to tease you for that. And, I like to see the results prove themselves, not just the aggressive behavior; go get done no matter what.
Chris Dotson: There is a time for that, of course. But, I like to use it when it's necessary, and then back off when it's not.
Seth Adler: I gotcha. So, there really has been a shift along the way. You've kinda evolved, so to speak.
Chris Dotson:: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Seth Adler: Do you mind if I ask you for just one anecdote of note that you remember from back in the Army Ranger days that you can share?
Well, we have a thing called the Ranger Creed that we live by. We'd have to say it every morning. It was like six paragraphs long. And, it started off: "Recognizing that I volunteered as a ranger. Foreknowing the hazards of my chosen profession." And then, there was another one, which is: "I will never let a fallen comrade fall into the hands of the enemy," which to me was a big deal of, you're not alone. You do this together. And that, I think, also steers me now, which is, I'm not alone.
Seth Adler: There are people around me whether I succeed or fail. It is a group thing that does that, and that's why I love having leaders around us. And, all the team members we have is, we have that group mentality of, we're going to get this done together, or fail together. And, we are not gonna fail.
Chris Dotson: Right. Post-script, we're not gonna fail!
Seth Adler: We're not gonna fail. Absolutely.
Chris Dotson: I love it.
Alright. So, I've got three final questions for you. I'll tell you what they are, and ask you them in order.
Seth Adler: What has most surprised you at work, which will include your military days?
Chris Dotson: What has most surprised you in life and on the soundtrack of your life; one track, one song, it's gotta be on there. But, first thing's first.
Seth Adler: Along the way, what's most surprised you at work?
Chris Dotson: I would say that I was in financial services before I came to Electronic Arts; very different world.
Seth Adler: A few more suits?
Chris Dotson: A few more suits, very stereotypical, who you work with, stuff like that. It's just very, I wanna say, gray. And, when I came to Electronic Arts, I met so many people. I interviewed a person who had a big neck tattoo, or, they interviewed me; people with gauges in their ears, stuff like that.
People that, in the financial services world, would not have ever worked there in the first place.
Seth Adler: Never.
Chris Dotson:: And, it opened my mindset, because they were some of the most brilliant people I have ever met in my life. And, that's why I say EA has been that mindset shift for me. Well, before, I would have frowned upon that. But, when I came to EA, realizing that they were brilliant. They were just amazing rock stars. It was kind of that, "Well, if I was wrong about that, what else am I wrong about?"
And, that hasn't stopped.
Seth Adler: That continuing question.
Chris Dotson: That continuing question. So, it's opened my mind to look at things differently and say, "Well, are we just thinking wrong?" So, that has continued on for me. That's been my biggest surprise when I came to EA. That kinda set that off. And, that has not stopped. And I hope it never does.
Seth Adler: Yeah. That is an answer to what has most surprised you in life. I wonder if you have another one. What has most surprised you in life?
Chris Dotson: It's complex. You know, I'm a father of two boys, a husband, my high school sweetheart; 15 years. I've been very fortunate. There's a lot of things in life that could've gone differently than they did. And, I'm a big fan of, you do make your own destiny by preparing, and planning, and so forth.
But, luck plays a big role in that. I have been extremely fortunate for everything, so I'm already at my point in life, I've achieved more than I thought I would. So, everything to this point is actually just exciting, and new, and fresh. I'm not chasing after that ultimate goal, and I'm happy until I get there.
I've already hit that goal, so now, I'm just happy making new goals. That's what's surprising to me is that, I've achieved everything I want. I have a great job, great people around me, great family. So now, it's just like, hey, let's keep going. Let's see what else is great.
Seth Adler: You're in whip cream territory, is basically what it is.
Chris Dotson: Absolutely. Every day for me is just awesome because of that.
Seth Adler: That's fantastic man. You're making me happy just by that answer.
On the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's gotta be on it.
Chris Dotson:: Alright. So, there's a song, Eminem, If You Only Get One Shot. I actually listen to that numerous mornings coming in to work to get my mind right. What I mean by that is, every decision we make, every meeting we have, should have a positive outcome.
And, if we make the wrong decision, or we do the wrong thing, that can have other impacts to us. But, for me, it is, take that opportunity when it's there. You may not have it again. Do the best you can every single day. Don't quit. Don't give up.
Chris Dotson: But that for me is, take that moment. Take that shot. Don't be scared. Take it. See what happens.
Seth Adler: Chris Dotson man. I'm a fan.
Chris Dotson: Thank you sir. That's fantastic. I've enjoyed the week, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.
Seth Adler: And, there you have Chris Dotson.
Seth Adler: What they're looking for is someone to solve their problem, who understands them as a player, understands the game, can get the issues solved, and get them back in the game.
And, we're gonna get this done, or fail together. And, we're not gonna fail.
Very much appreciate Chris and his time. Very much appreciate you and yours. Stay tuned.