Customer Experience Featured Article

Is PlayStation Network's Customer Service a Big Game Over?

March 16, 2015

Sony, in recent months, has been on top of the world gaming-wise. Having soundly thrashed its biggest competitor Microsoft (News - Alert) at the 2013 E3 event, and proceeding to capitalize on that success through almost a year of huge sales, it's easy to think Sony could do no wrong. But new reports suggest that Sony's actively dropping the ball, and it's all thanks to a poor customer experience.

Back in December, the PlayStation Network took a hacking that brought it down for several days. This isn't really an unusual occurrence for anyone, but some issues started to emerge that suggested maybe the hackers might have done more damage than expected. One user—identified only as “kadjar” from Reddit—experienced what looked like serious problems; $600 in spurious charges ran up on the account, a deactivated PlayStation 4, and a subsequent resetting of the PS4 at another location. That's when kadjar turned to the PlayStation Network for help, and got a disastrous response, shared by chat transcript.

When kadjar broached the idea that perhaps he'd been hacked, he noted that Sony Online Entertainment had had a big data breach some time back, to which the customer service rep, who went by the name “Malcolm”, responded that there had been “ data breach at all.” Malcolm then went on to inform kadjar that he had essentially two options: pay $450 of the charges right now, taking a $150 refund and getting his account shut down for six months while Sony ran an investigation, or dispute all $600 of the charges with his bank, which would have resulted in his account being banned for life. This last would have cost kadjar everything associated with that account, including all the games. That's a chilling proposition, and one made only worse by Malcolm's pronouncement that “you only have 'The Last of Us' and some of our free games, so it's not a big deal.”

This incident spawned a number of other reports, including one featuring “Ruth,” another customer service rep with Sony. Ruth detailed how the user would simply need to create a new account, and the console could be used again. The user responded that “hundreds of dollars” had already been spent on the old account, to which Ruth responded with the almost mechanical: “I'm sorry you're experiencing this. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?” When the user noted that Ruth really hadn't assisted at all, Ruth then declared the chat session disconnected.

A poor customer experience in the end helps no one. While admittedly this is a rather technical issue, and it's not immediately clear that Sony is being hacked again—or worse, still being hacked from the last time—it is clear that something needs to be done, and something more than canned apologies and disconnected chat sessions. Sony may be on top of the gaming world right now, but if Microsoft can offer a more secure experience and better protection against such losses, that's going to give it a real edge in the field. Sony can ill afford to hand over such edges when it's on a clear comeback course, so Sony would do well to step up its experience and protect its users lest it lose the gains it's made.


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