Online gaming enterprises, by definition, rely heavily upon the performance of their websites and customer-facing applications,. This fact is inherently obvious to those who work in the industry. The largest firms spend significant time and resources not only ensuring optimal performance, but providing engaging customer service when things do in fact go wrong. Given the nature of the business, I was surprised to see the results of a recent survey on website performance and application response times for online gaming firms in the UK. The results were interesting for several reasons.
Without divulging too much information, the availability and response time of the top 20 UK gaming firms were calculated at five minute intervals. The amount of downtime reported was quite surprising – up to 15 hours for the month in one example. I draw two quick conclusions from this. First off, the problem is most likely worse than reported, even much worse. Imagine if these websites were being monitored at 30 second intervals as opposed to 5 minutes. The detected downtime would be much greater. Secondly, many of the major UK sporting events have yet to come this year – The Grand National, The FA Cup, Wimbledon, and the British Open to name a few. If the reported downtime was this bad during “normal” betting events it leads me to believe it has an overwhelming potential to get worse as more transactions from more customers pile up.
So downtime is clearly a huge problem for online gaming, as competitor’s websites are only a click away. How can we remedy the problem to lessen customer churn and save revenue? Traditionally, customer service agents receive calls, emails, or instant messages and do their best to resolve the issue. But now, proactive application monitoring technologies exist which can help solve these problems before they spiral out of control.
This means, for example, that the software can detect a slowdown at a specific wireless provider. It can also determine that data from a particular provider (a race course, for example) is not performing as promised or that a remote payment processing system is slow. Most importantly, the software can do all of this in real time. This real time transaction tracing is key, as it allows you to isolate performance bottlenecks in your application environment. With this information in hand, customer service can become an outbound process. For example, an agent may instantly inform all customers using the slow wireless system that the communications provider is experiencing some problems. An incentive can then be offered to keep them on your website.
They key in each of these instances is that service agents aren’t waiting for the telephone to ring. They have instant visibility into application slowdowns and can contact both internal resources and customers to address problems proactively. They increase loyalty by discovering problems, and addressing them, before the customer is even aware of them.
As a final point, couple your response time measure with end user experience monitoring. This way you can understand the impact of application slowdowns to your most important customers with metrics that are tied into the business context. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a tool that monitors samples or averages.
For online gaming, application response time and the end user experience are the drivers of the business. It is too dangerous to leave these operations to chance. Proactive application monitoring is a vital strategy that helps increase your odds.
You can see this full article reprinted in the May edition of G3 Magazine!
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Global Games and Gaming Magazine, May 2013