Category Archives: Customer Experience

Where most Freemium Games fail, Kabam Wins!

A few years ago I downloaded my first freemium game. I played it for awhile and then had an issue.  I submitted a ticket on the company’s support website.  48 hours later I got a response. By then I had already deleted the game and moved on to another one.  So I deleted the email and forgot about the game.

After unconsciously repeating this process seven or eight times, I began to wonder, why could I not stick to one game and why would I not spend time to get deeper into these games?

Through the lense of my support leader eyes, it became clear.  These gaming companies were not engaging me, they were not focused on my behaviors, and therefore I was not invested in their product.

They lost my eyeballs, interest, and my attention.

It then occurred to me. This lack of engagement, care, and sense of urgency is costing these companies tons of potential players and money. And they probably do not even realize it.

To prove out my theory, learn more, and lend my experience, I decided to join one, Kabam.

What is Freemium and why does it matter to gaming?

For folks new to this business concept, here are some additional details.  Wikipedia shares the Freemium concept in this way, “Freemium is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering or application such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for proprietary features, functionality, or virtual goods”.

According to a variety of sources this term or larger business approach started circa 2006. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, was quoted in an article on Business News Daily, which explains clearly the value of the Freemium model.  He states, “The easiest way to get 1 million people paying is to get 1 billion people playing.”

In the mobile gaming context, below is the revenue forecast from the Global Games Market report for 2016-2020.

Over the next 4 years the market share of mobile gaming will jump from 29% to 40% of all gaming revenue or $26.3B.   This means the more eyeballs you have, the more downloads you get, leads to more opportunities to influence players to play and spend in a Freemium game.

What I Learned at Kabam

Upon joining Kabam, I completed a comprehensive player listening tour across all disciplines.  It was very informative and helpful to understand how our talented designers, developers, operations, support, and producers think and operate on a daily basis. I was amazed at the passion and focus each role had for our players and that everyone in the company plays our games everyday.

As I dug deeper into my support and community discipline, I found some compelling challenges that were different than other industries I had worked in.

The first challenge is the word ‘free’ means something different to each player that downloads our game.  Often times our players, and us as creators, have a different understanding of what the value of free is. This complexity requires different ways of thinking and engaging our players, as well as how we operate our business.  A mapping of how players value themselves and how we value them has been a key differentiator to Kabam’s success.

The second challenge is how gaming board rooms around the world invest in their support and community teams.  The trend is to follow the same way they invested with their console games.  This antiquated thinking leads to a broad brush business approach to all of their players, even if many are more invested (time+money) in your game than others. Kabam thinks about this differently.  We have the ability to clearly identify who our players are and invest in them in kind.

The third challenge is best illuminated by IMPAKTER below:

The world has changed, everything moves faster, people want things now and on their terms, and a gaming company’s ability to engage and retain a player’s attention has never been harder.  At Kabam, it is not just about answering questions or how fast we respond.  It’s about listening, enabling, empowering, and engaging our players.  It is about building an ecosystem of players that are ambassadors for us, even when we are not in every conversation on every platform.

What I learned from benchmarking the industry

Upon reviewing these challenges with my team, stakeholders, and partners across the company, we found that certain ways of thinking that were happening in the industry, were legacy and detrimental to long term success.

In general we agreed that we must avoid industry approaches of thinking and talking to players in antiquated ways:

  1. Support is a necessary cost, let’s try to minimize it, after all we don’t need complainers in our game
  2. Let’s deflect all of our players to the knowledge base and hope they get their answers
  3. We had a longer response time on console so it will work for mobile, all players are the same
  4. I don’t need gamers to answer support questions, anyone can do it, with training
  5. I don’t need to invest in tech for support and community, the service experience is not a priority
  6. I don’t need to understand my players, all players are the same
  7. People love our game, it doesn’t matter if we engage them.  It is so amazing, they will keep coming

We strongly felt that disruption was the key.  Disruption to how we think about, engage with, and treat the players of our games.  Disruption in how we invest, disruption to how we prioritise our boardroom conversations, and disruption in how we allow our support and community teams to operate. We decided we must disrupt, think blue sky, and retire legacy thought processes.

How Kabam is Different


To help us drive this disruption, we aligned how to engage our players across the leadership team and all disciplines. We did not merely want to support players, we were going to retain them.  And not just for a day or month, but for the life of the game.

We re-wrote and embraced new guiding principles that engage and listen to our players:

  1. The core game mission, once players get into the game, should be to keep them playing, everyday.
  2. Leveraging technology and people in new and innovative ways will be the difference in winning the eyeball game
  3. Every player has value, understanding it, categorizing it, and maximizing it through engagement will be the key
  4. Deeply embedding and measuring this approach in our Support and Community teams, as well as the reinforcing it in the company culture, will be essential to long term success
  5. Support and Community is a means to an end.  Investing in the means will derive multiplicative results on the end
  6. The end result is how often our players play our games, how much they play our games, and then in turn how they share their enjoyment by spending and investing in our games

Our ability to disrupt the vision, strategy, purpose, and deployment of the resources and technology that engages our players everyday, has had a profound impact on our player base and our bottom line.

Stepping back into my player mindset. Like many of you, I love mobile video games.  I like free things. I will continue to try and test them out.  Just as I do in other walks of my life, I will choose to care about and invest in the ones that reciprocate and engage me in kind.  It will be an unconscious behavior.   I know each of you are the same way.

Where many Freemium companies still operate in legacy and failing ways. Kabam tries to win players affections and loyalty everyday, by finding new and innovative ways to engage our players we enrich their gaming entertainment experience.

Our willingness to disrupt, re-imagine, and adapt how we think and operate has put us in a great position to grab part of the amazing $26.3B opportunity that sits in front of us.

Jerry Leisure is a Customer Success leader that believes the heart of every company is their customer. He can be reached via LinkedIn , @J2leisure on Twitter or


Customer Delight at the Speed of Thought

man is choosing happy,positive smile icon, concept of satisfaction and improvment

As a 7 year old I was a very curious lad. I was the kid that was asking all the questions. I expected that my parents would know all the answers and fairly fast. One day I wandered around the house and discovered something new, an encyclopedia set. I soon learned that I could get the answers for myself. I was excited.

Soon after I began to see the immense value of the school library, almanacs, and many different resources that would answer my questions. As time progressed I became more addicted to this ability to ask a question in my mind and then find an answer fairly quickly. However, I was unnerved that some of the questions I had, could not be answered by the library in country town I lived in.

As time progressed the computer revolution began and soon after the Internet. This changed my whole paradigm. I could now get almost every answer I needed based on how fast my fingers moved. It has become such an addictive resource, now my wife just randomly asks question to the air and expects me to find the answer! And even further, I have questions that haven’t even popped up in my head yet. Answered via an app push notification to me on my phone. My excitement and delight is complete.

This human behavioral transformation into immediacy as the norm has developed in all parts of our lives. I remember the brick and mortar call centers of the 90’s. How we were all comfortable waiting for an email for a few days. Then we transitioned to waiting on hold for a few minutes. Now we are addicted to getting an on demand response. We have a problem and we want it solved now. If it isn’t solved, we will just find a company that will solve it on our terms.

Companies that get this, really thrive. Now pulling on that string further, imagine a company delivers a service on demand. Now the customer’s expectations are even more immediate, they want you to predict when a problem may exist and prevent it from ever happening. The appetite for error or service latency is non-existent. Customers pay a premium for now and they what they pay for. I mean you would to, right?

The future of customer service draws me back to a book I read a decade ago,“The Best Service is No Service” by Bill Price and David Jaffe. The concept being that customers actually don’t want help, they just want a simple, seamless, and high quality product or service that works. They want companies to anticipate their thoughts and build and evolve around them. They want to be delighted by never having a negative experience. They want delight and that’s all they want.

The future of customer service is actually not service at all, its product delight. If companies build products that never require a question, that never elicit a negative feeling, then true customer success arrives. It is these companies that invest in the beginning of the cycle that will be the future of industry and business. In the late 90’s an old measure of the cost of service in a company was if your service costs were 6% of revenue you were world class. I would propose that if your service costs are greater than 1% of revenue, you are failing at true customer delight.

If you are a CEO or Founder in a company, I would encourage you to not hire people to solve customer problems after the fact, I would implore you to hire the smartest, most talented product managers and engineers. Empower them to build it right from the beginning and never allow your customer service team to be more than 1% of revenue. If you do it right your customer service team will be the smallest team in your company. And your customers will have no choice, but to be loyal to you.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, as a customer that wants delight at the speed of thought, please make the right product decisions today, so I don’t have to talk to your customer service reps tomorrow!

I mean think about it, if I am talking to your customer service team, I am not spending time getting addicted to your product.


Courtesy: “The Best Service is No Service” by Bill Price and David Jaffe.

Anna wants to do amazing things, so why does IT get in the way?

Anna walks in the door. She is starting her dream job. She has always wanted to work for this company, doing this thing, and be in this field. She has already imagined what the next few years will look like. She is ready to get to work, be productive, and make an impact.

The question is, does the company she chose to work for really think about Anna like she thinks about herself? From the moment Anna opens the door, her end user productivity experience begins. This is the experience that is going to enable her to do what she loves—her job, and hopefully do it really well.

A lot of companies build this experience from a technology, cost, or infrastructure view. They believe IT and the company make decisions that help the business, provide tools and solutions, and are cost effective. Then, they think about the end user productivity experience and hope it works out.

For Anna, she wants to work for a company that thinks about her, how she works, and how she and her team can be most productive together. For her, technology that supports an anytime- anywhere workplace mentality is vital. That’s the new world; that’s the productive world.

User Centric IT organizations have the ability to influence, empower, and drive productivity at the same rate as the businesses they support. At the same time, IT must manage and hide complexity from its end users, while managing risk and security for the company.

I believe in creating a simple, user centric experience that enables IT end users to be highly productive. This game changer will create more revenue for a company and create employee loyalty. Aternity, an enterprise software company specializing in end user experience management solutions, breaks this concept down in great detail on their End User Experience website.

In simple terms, employees may make future employment choices based on the experience with the technology within the company and how productive they can be with it.

We all have an Anna join our company every week. Are we going to help Anna reach her full potential? Will we enable her to truly grow and make lasting impacts within the company?

Big Data is a verb and it’s Amazing for Customers

Early in my career I remember a manager coming over to my cube. The manager was frustrated and beside themselves. I inquired as to the issue and they showed me an excel file with about 20,000 rows and an equal number of columns. Then they said they needed to understand X in this data and how it relates to Y, but there is no way to parse or understand it. I think I am going to fail at this task.

Have any of us felt like that before? I imagine with the ever increasing amount of data in the world today, we have all been overwhelmed at some point in our careers. Perhaps you felt like me and just wondered where Commander Data from Star Trek is when you need him. He seemed to have the ability to traverse massive amounts of data and then pinpoint the exact value needed in every situation. Sometimes we all just need that capability.

The simple answer for the manager was a few nested “if” statements and a visual basic query. These seemingly complex actions were quite simple for the right person or technology to handle and deliver. As the world increases in data size and complexity the answers are still simple, but can easily overwhelm any person that traverses work on a daily basis.

The bigger challenge now is that there is a,b,c,d,e and many more variables and data sources to consider to get to that simple answer. This is where Big Data comes into play. A lot of people may confuse Big Data as a noun. I believe it is a verb. Big Data is less about the actual data and more about how one uses the data to deliver value.

If you tie Big Data into the customer experience, you can really see this come to life. If I start the customer experience with the sale, I have a sales database. Then that customer contacts me for support, now they are in a support database. This same customer also purchased training and other added on services. So yet another entry in the sales database. Then yet another database to track usage of the product. And yet another for logging product defects to the engineering team after the support experience. You can start to see a lot of entries adding up for this customer. By the way we have 20,000 customers. A lot of entries in siloed data bases. Which in most companies are managed by different teams.

This is where Big Data becomes a verb. Imagine the ability to consolidate all this information into one view that demonstrates your customer individually and also from a persona view. Regardless of the team you are on, you get a consistent view. All teams are able to help the customer in a collaborative and meaningful way. The customer receives the attention and value they feel they deserve. And it actually takes less resources for the company to do. This is possible and Big Data can make it happen.

What this means is that the manager that approached me so many years ago would feel enabled and empowered, not frustrated. Not only can they succeed at their job, they can be more productive and collaborative than was ever possible before. Which will mean higher value for their customers and better revenue for their company.

Think about it, we may not all have Commander Data around; but if we can turn Big Data into a verb in our companies. Then perhaps we can pinpoint the exact value we need in each and every customer engagement.

Then the amazing possibilities of true customer success can be realized!

Employees make True Customer Success Happen!

Two years ago, I moved to San Francisco. I decided to take my wife out for dinner. We had it all planned, the reservation made.  We were dressed, ready to go, and left for our date. Forty-five minutes later we made it to the restaurant. Of course, the restaurant was only three miles away. So what was the problem? Parking! For me, searching for a parking spot caused unnecessary tension and ultimately put us in a bad mood for the rest of the night. It wasn’t an overly productive experience, and we missed out on a potentially amazing evening.

The very next day, I went shopping to solve our parking problem. I bought a GPS device that included all the parking lots and garages in the city. Now, I just put in the address and the GPS tells me the five closest places to park near my destination. I never spend more than five minutes looking for a place to park. Magic!

How many of us feel that same way every day when we go into work? As an employee, you want to come in, be productive, and not have technology get in the way. All too often, your PC has issues, your conference room technology goes down, you can’t sign-in using VPN, and email synch with your mobile device just won’t work! Don’t you wish your company treated you just as they would treat their revenue paying customers? I do.

I believe that your internal IT department should treat you as if you are paying customer because you actually are. If you consider your revenue and divide it by your employees, the ratio of revenue to employee will always trump revenue per customer by a long shot. So why do companies make the mistake and treat employees like second-class citizens when it comes to technology experiences?

When I could not find a place to park, all I wanted was an easy way to find a spot. When employees want to be productive at work and add value, they are looking for ways to easily get their work done. Most employees want to do amazing things. They want to transform the company, hit revenue goals and targets, and they want customers to love the services and products their company offers. With this passion for success, IT leaders should put themselves in the place of the employees they service.  They should think about an employee’s work-life and goals. They should think about an employee’s IT experience from the employee’s point of view and not IT’s. Employees should be treated like each of them makes a difference for our customers.

3 tips to consider when delivering an amazing end user IT employee experience:

  1. Employees operate differently. One size does not fit all. You need to understand your employees and their behaviors. I recommend categorizing them into personas. This will help you understand the diversity of employees and why they behave in different ways. It will also ensure that you truly understand how to deliver the best experience for them personally and then more broadly.
  2. Employees don’t want to contact you. It is a waste of time for employees to contact IT for help. They not only lose time, but they lose valuable work productivity. Create avenues and ways for your employees to serve themselves. Make it easy to do the most common things. Give your employees more authority to do what’s right for them. Worry less about meeting a global standard pushed down for the masses.
  3. Employees want to communicate and collaborate. All too often, companies throw together conference rooms in a way that looks sexy, cool, or has the latest gadgets. However, this mostly caters to a single persona and not the employees as a whole. Most employees will be frustrated and annoyed, and will have to create their own solutions. I recommend you truly understand the entire experience on a conference call or in a conference room. Then, create an environment where all employee personas can be productive.

Now, think a moment about your latest experience with IT. What feelings or thoughts come to mind? Do you feel like IT truly thought about the experience from your point of view? Are they making it possible for you to be productive?

If not, be an advocate. Don’t be afraid to help, influence, and drive change. You are the most important asset to any company. Vineet Nayar said it best in the title of his book, “Employees first, Customers second.”

If you are productive, aligned to the company direction, and the company has a great product. The company can never fail!


The Death of an Apple Lover

I woke up yesterday morning and heard news that I thought I would never hear in my life. My wife said she was tired of Apple and how she no longer feels connected to them. She said I am going to go ahead and get an Android Phone…and she did, a Samsung Galaxy S5.

So most folks might say, hey its not a big deal. Customers change their minds all the time. I think what surprised me the most is that she has been an Apple Lover since she started using technology. She is a designer and artist by trade and has never had a desire to use another product. She has consistently, over the years, defended Apple like Apple was her mother or a family member. She has often said it is her duty to support the Apple family and upgrade after every launch. I was of the mind never to ask her to choose between me and the Apple product she was currently using 🙂.

This revelation from her really peaked my interest. I asked her what were the 3 reasons why she decided it was time to move on:

  1. Apple used to be niche and now they have become too mainstream – She said Apple used to care about their customers. They used to make me feel special. I really felt Apple was making products for me as a designer. Now I feel they are making products like Microsoft does, for the masses.
  2. Apple stopped giving their customer power over their experience – Many folks think the free U2 song was a great thing. My wife said it was a huge mistake. It was a forewarning that Apple is not giving its customers choice and is taking control of their experience. She made several comments about how other companies give more power to their customers to customize their software and hardware (I.E. Batteries interchangeable). Her view was the customer should always be in control. She used to feel that way with Apple, now she doesn’t.
  3. Apple is not relevant and cool any more – The example she gave is their commercials. She said they used to be awesome and now they are gimmicky. She would wait with baited breath for the keynotes and then watch every minute of it and now she might watch them on demand and then fast forward through most of it.

So, I said what is cool? What is the new experience? What is something that makes you feel special? She said this video is an example of a product and company that gets its now:

As a true advocate for customer success I found the whole conversation super interesting. I don’t think she hates Apple, but now she just groups them with all big corporate companies that produce products. She has fallen out of love. She will probably use an Apple product again if it competes well against others. However I imagine if companies like connect with her, she will probably leave Apple and other large companies in the wake and go for a company that speaks to her and makes her feel special.