Service with a Smile!

April 1999 Editorial

A Program Note

As many of you are aware, the job of maintaining this website has grown and grown over the years. I've had to cut some of our original features in order to keep up with others, and even so, it seems that no investment of time will ever let me catch up with everything in my "to do" file.

Over the years, I've also been looking for useful website management tools that would save me some time and effort. While I've found the occasionally useful item, by and large, there's never been anything that was the right match for my specific needs.

Then it finally occurred to me to write my own tools. I am, after all, a programmer (though a pretty rusty one!). The tools I need are not complex, just customized for my needs. And so I've started work.

The first fruit of my new programming efforts was the voting system, now inaugurated for Fantasy, Ancients, Ironclads, WWII, and Space. I'll open other voting arenas as time allows - the only difficulty lies in grouping the rules appropriately (it's not fair to compare apples to oranges), and in coming up with the period and army portions of the voting form.

The second fruit is a little tool I call Feedbacker, which now allows me to easily receive those rules comments sent in by form, and slots them appropriately to the right webpage and inserts a link on the home page.

In the time since, I've improved my original tools and am now working on a third program which I'm very excited about. (More later.) But I will say that I am developing some further elements of code which will help me renovate some of our most important sections.

However, while I am spending my time on these tools, which mean great improvement to the website in the long term, I have less time to spend on other matters. For instance, if you send me feedback on rules which we already have a webpage for - voila! I can handle that quickly with my new tool. But send me info on a new rules system, or a new manufacturer, and it'll probably wait until further tools are in place. By all means send the email in, just don't expect me to be able to hop on it immediately.

Whatever Happened to Good Service?

No, I'm not talking about why I take so long to answer your email... (ahem) :-)

I was always taught that there was a great art in handling the customer properly, and that stores were built on the good will of the consumer. Yet it seems to me that good service is quite rare in game shops.

I'm "lucky" enough to have three game stores in my area:

  1. One is a comics-and-games store, where they run a popular Blood Bowl tournament that several of my friends are in. Yet I get the feeling, whenever I go there, that the staff ignore everyone who comes in unless they already know them! They don't stock a lot of gaming materials, what they do have is in a corner in the back, and when they have a game going you have to squeeze past the crowd in order to shop. They offer a discount if you place an item on order, but the place is so unfriendly that I've never felt the desire to do so.
  2. Another, in the next town, is a large game-and-model store that has a large stock of gaming supplies, including historical as well as fantasy and science fiction. I shop here regularly, but even so, nobody in the shop seems to ever recognize me when I come back, or show the slightest interest in any of their customers. (In fact, there are usually two or three staffers in the shop, and they enjoy chatting amongst themselves.) Much of the merchandise is kept in locked cabinets, and it's a bit of a hassle to get someone to unlock the case so you can take a good look at the minis. Nobody seems to know much about games, except for one fellow who told me that "if it wasn't Games Workshop, it wasn't any good."
  3. Some distance away in a nearby city is one of the larger game-and-hobby stores in the United States. According to their website, they have an incredible stock of gaming products... but in practice, the gaming section is just one corner of their large store, much of the inventory is actually kept "behind the counter," and they seem to always be out of stock of the items I'm looking for. The fellow who seems to run the games counter loves to talk over and over about his Skaven army, but seems endlessly confused about all their other products. He tells me on one visit that they are closing out their inventory of a particular manufacturer, but when I come back two days later to buy up some of what they have left, suddenly they have triple the inventory and he doesn't remember anything about selling off inventory! He also points out that the miniatures I want to buy are inferior quality, and when I ask about a top-rated game, tells me that "everything from Target Games is crap."

I thought things might be better online, so I tried a major online retailer. I placed an order - they never got back to me. I sent an email asking if a particular item was in stock - no reply. Meanwhile, another online retailer has had an order of mine on back order for almost a year now. When I placed the order, he told me he was restocking in a month. I guess he didn't know what he was talking about.

I'm discouraged at the bad service in game stores recently. I've seen good stores in the past - where have they all gone?

From the Email Bag

My favorite tale this month comes from the young schoolboy who was researching gladiators for a term paper. He stumbled on our webpage for the out-of-print Gladiator rules, didn't find what he wanted, and used the form there to send me a half-dozen rude complaints. I then tried to help him by pointing out other websites that would be more applicable to him, but instead he decided to nag me daily to "update" my webpage with a general history of gladiators. When that didn't work, he spammed me with a few dozen insulting emails. Sheesh!

Perhaps more interesting: Check out the WWII Message Board for the one from the lady trying to figure out just what she discovered hidden in the basement of a former WWII German commander...

Comments or corrections?