Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Games Workshop a book case study on horrible customer care?

I do not consider myself to have any prejudice or bad feeling about GW, after all I have been their customer for 15+ years now. Their staff over the years has always been friendly, if not a little too insistent - like one time I went for a couple of paints and the guy was trying to sell me the Dark Vengeance box. Easy boy...

But more often than not we come across from actions that pisses me off as a customer, even when I have not been involved, and puts me on thw wrong foot as someone who makes his living out of (hopefully good) marketing. The story comes from Faeit 212, and in short goes like this:

  • A long time Tau player is rightfully excited by the new codex and pre-orders $300 worth of greater good plastic.
  • The day of the release he goes to the GW store, only to be told by the store manager that his order had not arrive. At this point, is worth mentioning the products were on the shelves and the manager just told him "those" are not yours.
  • He goes back home, calls GW customer service who pretty much tell him to wait.
  • Some days later he calls the store, they tell him they have a riptide so he asks them to save it (let's remember he has already forked out $300) and inmediatly drives to the store, only to find the riptide has been sold.
  • At the moment he is awaiting a call from customer service to notify him his order has arrived.

Now you just need some common sense to realize all the terrible mistakes GW is doing; I hope this is just this manager/store but it could well be a country or general GW, which would be absolutely devastating.

  1. First of all, someone who pre-orders $300 is a customer you are desperate to retain. You as a company want him happy with the hobby for many more years. The temptation of selling boxes to people who just walk in the store is absolutely dumb: if they were curious people who saw the models in the storefront, sell them something else or tell them to come in a few days. If they are Tau players who know their stuff, rest assured they will get it from this store, GW direct or someone else. It doesn't matter, at all.
  2. This is pretenciously assuming you have an overwhelming degree of power over your customers, as no matter what you do to them, they will buy anyway. Let's not mistake engaged players for fools. No one likes to be treated like an idiot, and when they are, they will respond accordingly. This could result in a) not buying anymore from you but more likely b) getting the stuff alternatively. This includes second hand, ebay, proxies or even darker options like clones or chinese copies. Unfortunately, these exist.
  3. Last but not least, you are telling a customer that you don't have his order when the shelves are full of products. Apart of disgracing yourself and your company with a lot of bullshit, this is an illegal practice, at least where I live. A customer purchases under the promise of having access to his order on a certain date, and the products are threre. The store can't retain that stock.
We could go on for a while but I think the concept is clear now. So what should GW be doing instead?
  1. Apologise to all customers who are receiving their stuff late and do all you can to honor your promise. This means shifting stock/production, prioritizing pre-orders to store sales, etc.
  2. Start running some bog-standard CRM practices. It is extremely easy for GW to give away a model or two to customers who make these purchases, to give them the digital codex for free when they purchase the book, or to print a few tchotchkes for them (i.e. t-shirts, keychains, pens... stuff that costs you $0.30-$1.5). It's all about making the customers feel you care for them (which you should actually be doing).
  3. Clarify to their store owners what are they there for. Not to make money, not to treat people like idiots, no to spend their afternoon in a toy store, but to acquire new customers, teach them how to play, how great this hobby can be; to run competitions and events with long standing customers, to hear what they say and pass the word up to the HQs. To be ambassadors of the hobby, in a nut-shell.  Sales will naturally flow, and make these stores a shitload more profitable than they are today. Without any doubt.

Please feel free to write your thoughts / comments below. Thanks!


  1. I think you have a pretty fair breakdown, and it's honestly frustrating being a die-hard fan of something but hating the practices of the people who produce it. I, like you, hope that this was primarily a case of this manager just being a moron and not general practice. I worked at a GW briefly, and I loved the store I worked at because of the inclusive atmosphere; the staff knew the regulars (and the regulars sometimes became staff, like myself), so it's hard to imagine something like this being pulled in that shop.

    That said, that was 1.) 10 years ago and 2.) just one shop. I've known for a long time and more or less accepted that GW Corporate really couldn't care much less about their customer bases, and it's a shame. Unfortunately, they see continued success and have no real reason to change their practices. The whole point of the business, at the end of the day, is to make money, and they're doing that while not caring for their customers, so why should they even minutely touch their bottom line to change their ways?

    It's a tough predicament because I still love the products and the game. The only recourse I have found is to buy via third party or local shop so at least I am helping out another business while I buy GW products.

    1. Hey thanks for the detailed explanation. I want to think it was just a particular Manager not caring much about anything but his goals. Like someone commented, it's easy to blame the people in direct contact with the customers but many times they're just doing what they've been told, directly or indirectly. And to your point, many GW employees were great hobby enthusiasts before making it a job so it strucks me as surprising this type of attitude. Let's hope we don't hear any more cases

  2. Thanks for the story, Albert.

    My exclamation at work when reading the line "those are not yours" probably started people.

    1. Yeah I also made some sort of gutural noise, followed by some swearing. Fortunately it was lunch time and most people were away ;)

  3. I know this story is rather old but I only came across it recently. To my knowledge this was not just one store but it happened in a lot of places. Games Workshop apparently has a policy that X amount of stuff must be on the shelf at all times and a store owner can only order X amount of stuff every month so that there isn't a shortage of product. This makes absolutely no sense to me but it's not just the GW's. Even FLGS's are to uphold this policy and my local gaming store had pre-order for some but not all on the day the Tau were released. In addition to the price hikes and extremely poor customer service, I for one am taking a break from GW and if I need to fill my plastic addiction I'll go to ebay or amazon. At least there I know that I'm going to be getting something when I want it.

    1. Well the first part about having the shelves full is a normal merchandising technique, you know empty shelfs might look like the store is closing or they don't have enough assortment. It's the part about the limited amount a store can order that I find interesting - after all, you'd surely like your stores to sell as much as they can? dunno, maybe it's an inherent limitation of the system i.e. GW must have hundreds of SKUs and perhaps they just can't manage this level of complexity.

      Anyway, looks like they're having supply issues as well now with the Eldar Serpents. Blame it to the shield! :)

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