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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Steam Resolution

So first there was this and then there was that.

Now Valve has issued (or at least told the Better Business Bureau they have, honestly I haven't checked yet) a refund. Course, I had to go to the BBB just to get Valve to respond after they directed me to their terms and agreements. Which is fairly ridiculous. I've worked for various consumer-orientated businesses over the years, from a fairly seedy little viatical sales shop (google it, not my proudest hours) to a major retailer. The amount that the "customer is always right" is actually pretty amazing.

For instance, at my last job we got a call from the "special support line" that the customer support staff gives to the truly obstinate. With enough momentum this can actually get to the President's Office - and they wouldn't even have returned my phone calls as an employee. This person was very upset that we hadn't somehow coded in special logic to understand the fact that his PO Box had special dispensation to allow deliveries.

Completely irrational? Totally. Pointless? Yes, at this point the shopper had already been delivered his goods courtesy of the nice customer support rep. Annoying? Certainly.

The guy still got a personal call from a project manager. Why? Because business works best at the speed of good opinions. An good referral can make you more money than a refund in the long run. Look at Valve - because of their handling of this I'm more likely than not going to just erase Steam off the hard drive and never buy another Valve product again ... at least certainly not for the PC (remember, if you buy the disc you still have to go through Steam). How many me's does it take to offset the cost of a $50 purchase ... even if Valve themselves didn't get the money back from Sega?

Valve wants to be a software reseller. They should look into the retail business and realize what that actually means. The "screw the customer" approach might be funny on Clerks or Wonder Falls but in reality it is pretty bad for business.

Oh yeah ... and when I called Sears to cancel the dispute over the charge, they tried to keep me on the line to sell me extra features. WTF? I'm trying to do the responsible thing here and then get back to work and this guy wants to sell me rust-proofing? Why is being a consumer such a pain in the ass these days?

Update: This was the "customer support" response from Steam:

As requested, we have processed a refund to your account.

This is a one time gesture, and won't be repeated.

We are working with Sega to resolve the issues you experienced.

Your confirmation number is: 126204578075991621

Your bank or credit card issuer will return the funds to your account - please allow 3-5 business days for the funds to be posted.

Please note in the future that Steam purchases, per the Steam Subscriber Agreement, are not refundable - this refund was issued as a one-time customer service gesture.

Darn right it won't be repeated. I don't believe I'll be allowing myself to stumble into that problem again.


Mark said...

Steam is following a predictable pattern for businesses in a growth vacuum. Essentially they don't have to care (very much) about individual customers because their base is growing at an acceptable rate. Eventually they will reach a point of growth stagnation either by the number of people willing to use it or from competition and then they will turn to better customer service to give them a "competitive edge"

I've never used the BBB for something like that, you should do some blogging on how the process works,sounds like it actually achieves results!

Josh said...

It was fairly straightforward. I explained I didn't think Steam allowed me the basic consumer right to inspect the product either before or after payment and hence had no recourse when wasn't delivered functionally.

The BBB actually has a whole section for refunds/exchanges/delivery of goods. They took the complaint on the weekend, delivered it to Valve on Monday and I got the response yesterday.

Really so far the only entity which worked as expected was the BBB itself...

Josh said...

This was all of the BBB site...