00:12 Chris Ronan: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Inside Geocaching HQ, the podcast from the HQ offices in Seattle, Washington. I am Chris Ronan. My username is Rock Chalk. I am one of the folks that works here at HQ. And on today’s episode, we are going to talk about customer support. That being the questions that you might write in and ask if your account isn’t working quite right or if the website isn’t working for you. Who are the people that answer those questions when you send them in? With me today, is Martin from the Community Engagement Team. He has been here for a couple of years now, and has a lot of experience with working with folks in the community to get their questions answered. So here is me and Martin talking about community support.
01:05 CR: Okay. Well, Martin, let’s start with how did you end up at Geocaching HQ?
01:10 Martin: Well, I used to work in the games industry, so I have experience with community and customer service for over 20 years, and geocaching was always like a nice hobby. And I thought like, “Well, it might be time to change and do something else after doing the same stuff for so long,” and then I saw the opening. I applied for the job and I got it. And now here I’m happy at Geocaching HQ.
01:33 CR: And what is your title? What are your just basic responsibilities here?
01:40 Martin: Right. My title is community management lead, and I am leading the Community Engagement team here at Geocaching HQ. My team takes care of every customer support request, so whenever a player has an issue not being able to log into their account, or they have gameplay questions, my team is handling that. We also do all of the social media that the company does. So if you see something on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or a blog post, most of the time that is coming from my team. And recently we also took over the Visitor’s Center, so if you guys come and visit us here at HQ, you will also interact with people from my team.
02:21 CR: Now, me being from Kansas, I can always tell somebody’s from Kansas. I don’t think you’re from Kansas?
02:27 Martin: No. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Chris. No, as you can, as probably everybody can tell, I’m originally from Germany. I left Germany in 2006 to first work in the UK and then came to Seattle in, I think, 2009.
02:41 CR: And that’s one thing that we’ll talk about in a little bit, is the multiple languages that are spoken on your team and around your team. Tell me about the Community Engagement team.
02:53 Martin: Yeah. So my team is five people. And as I mentioned, we do all the social media stuff and all the customer support. Like you hinted at, we do everything here in-house, so it’s like a lot of people here. “Hey, it’s a customer support,”so they probably use a call center somewhere outsourced. No, we do everything here so we have direct access to every developer, engineer, and all the teams here at HQ. And because geocaching really is an international game, we try to not just provide customer support in English. So my team is able to provide support in German, French, and English. We would love to cover more languages, but it’s hard to get people that speak more than two languages, so.
03:33 CR: So somebody sends a question in, and it might be about their account, they can’t log in or it might be like you said, gameplay questions, it comes and how do you decide who answers it and all of that kind of thing?
03:47 Martin: Yeah. So everything, every email that somebody writes in ends in what we call it’s a ticketing system. So every single email will be turned into a ticket, and then there’s like a queue, with the oldest ticket at the top. Everybody grabs tickets out of that pool. So usually we work from the top. So, we don’t really have extreme specialists on the team so everybody on my team is knowledgeable with all aspects. Granted, there might be a question that is a little bit an edge case that we haven’t seen before, but then, A; we play the game ourselves pretty heavily. And yeah, like I mentioned, we have access to all the developers and engineers. And there’s also some really savvy geocachers here at HQ, like you, Rock Chalk and other people that have tens of thousands of finds. So we will always find somebody who knows the answer.
04:36 CR: And as you mentioned, your team does geocache, which is extremely valuable. I think people tend to forget how complicated our game can be, especially if you’ve played it for a while. You tend to know all of the acronyms and all of the… Just the little things that are unique to our game and it tends to take some time to learn that, and your team knows that stuff which is really, really helpful for when people write in with such a variety of questions.
05:07 Martin: Yeah, absolutely. Playing the game ourselves is the most valuable thing we can do to know where the pain points are that the community is experiencing, right? Because we play as well, sometimes we get tickets where we’re like, “Oh yeah, right. I ran into exactly the same issue when I was out caching the other day”. So we know the answer just from our own experience. And yes, you’re right, our game can be pretty complicated. So the more we play and the more diverse we play is also important. We have regular outings where we go out as a team and we always try to mix it up so we’re not just always go for like, “Hey. Just go for a traditional”. No, we go like, “Hey let’s do a Wherigo today”, or it’s like, “Well let’s do a multi-cache this time”. So that we experience all the different facets that our game has.
05:52 CR: I think people assume that in this day and age, with customer support, that when you send a question into a company, I know I’ve assumed this when I send one in. It’s either going to not be read by a human being, or the human being will be on another side of the world, maybe doesn’t use the product the way that I do. And I think one of the things that’s really nice about Geocaching HQ is that everybody’s here and working together. And as you alluded to, is aware of… Because you play the game, you’re aware of some of the issues that people are experiencing themselves. But most of all, a human is reading these things and is answering these things, which is kinda rare, almost, in this day and age.
06:42 Martin: Yeah. Definitely. Every single ticket that we get is read by a human being and will be answered by a human being. We use certain, what we call, templates, for some issues that are more common so that we don’t have to type everything so we will be more efficient, but even those will be modified and adjusted by a human being.
07:05 CR: Yeah. I think I’ve seen… ’cause I answer stuff too and sometimes people will say, “Oh, you gave the same answer to somebody else!” It was like, “Well, you asked the same question that somebody else did!” And while you can customize it to some degree, how many questions do you guys get a day? It can be in the hundreds, right?
07:25 Martin: Yeah. It’s a little bit dependent on the season we are in. Like, now is our busy season, which means we can get over 200 requests per day, easily. And as I mentioned, with only four people and in addition to all the customer support, we also do all the social media stuff. So there’s only so much hours in the day. So we need to be helpful and we also need to be efficient. Which means if it is exactly the same problem, yes, you will probably get a verbatim answer that another person got to make us… So we can actually help more people.
07:53 CR: Sure. What are the most common questions that come in to the queue?
08:00 Martin: That’s a good question. Often, especially in the summer, it’s people that haven’t cached for a while and now they wanna get back into the game. So they can’t remember their password, or they can’t remember their username or, for some reason, they have de-validated their accounts so they can’t get in anymore. So we basically help people get back into their account and go caching. It happens more even when we do a promotion, like we do at the moment, so there’s that. Gets more people out and then they realize “Hey, I can’t remember anything.” So that’s a very common thing. Payment related issues is a common thing, when people have problems paying for a premium membership, because somehow, something didn’t work, so we help them figure out what is going on. And apart from that, questions can be all over the place. They can be from, how does your game actually work? So when we get very, very basic questions to very intricate questions that go into the minutiae of statistics, and how certain things impact those… So it’s a wild variety of questions that we get.
09:04 CR: And then sometimes there’s technical stuff, like GPS related questions and app questions and things like that. You guys have track down if there might be a bug that happens with the website or with the apps, you guys are often right in the middle of trying to help the developers and trying to figure out what’s happening and how to fix it.
09:27 Martin: Yeah. That is one of the advantages of having one team doing the social media and doing the customer support. It’s like, we, very fast and very easily, can see a trend if there’s something. If people report the same things over and over again, on social media and then all of a sudden we get a whole bunch of tickets. And then, so we are often the first to notify our developers that, “Hey, we might have an issue here because this is what we’re seeing from the customers.” And then, highly recommended also for everybody listening to this, we also actually use social media to inform people, if there is a problem. So we will use our Twitter account to inform people like, “Hey there, we currently have an outage”. So that people know we’re working on it, that something is going on. And people don’t even need to be on Twitter. They can just go to our page, it’s like a website where they can see our status updates.
10:17 CR: You’ve talked about social media a little bit. So, what all does that entail? That’s what? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? How many different outlets are you guys addressing everyday?
10:29 Martin: Our primary outlets are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Because those are the three platforms where most of our users are. And also, you don’t wanna spread yourself too thin. If we would expand to even more social media platforms… Every platform is unique so you kinda need to tailor the content you need to do. And then it becomes a question of, how many hours do I have versus what is more important? So that’s why we focus on these three main platforms.
11:01 CR: And there are definitely… Would you say it’s generally the rule that at companies, they have a social media team that is separate from the customer support team? There’s teams that just focus on social media whereas your team is doing a little bit of both. What I like about the way it works here is that, you guys are on Facebook, you’re on Twitter, you’re discussing things back and forth with the community. And so you’re really engaged in what’s going on in the game as opposed to being siloed a little bit if you just had folks working on social and then folks working on tickets. There would be a bit of a divide, I would think.
11:43 Martin: Yeah. That can definitely be an issue. And this team setup is unique. Every other company I worked in, you are right. They normally have a customer support department and then they have a community/social media team. But I think, yeah, one of the biggest advantages of having it combined here is that, like you mentioned, we’re not siloed. It’s like we not only see the problems coming in, but we also see the positive feedback and we actively see discussions between different geocaches, so we get a different take on it. And even sometimes we see somebody talking about a problem and how they fixed it, like with talking to other community members and by us being in that channel, then we also take that feedback back, which we can then bring to the customer support side.
12:24 CR: Sure. And we haven’t talked about yet, the help center that we have that can be really helpful to people, hence the name. But I’ve often found myself directing people there, because as you are able to identify issues, then you can go and sometimes put that information in the help center so that people can find it for themselves, right?
12:44 Martin: Yeah, that’s correct. We often direct people to the help center as well when we answer their tickets, because the information is already written up there in a very precise way, so that with steps, how people can help themselves solve a problem. And what many people don’t know, the help center is in English, but we include it like a Google translation to each and every page. So even if it’s not perfect, but even if your English isn’t that good, you can still try to read it up in your own language. Definitely, a good source for looking up some things about the game and how the app works and other things. So I highly recommend everybody, check out the help center.
13:24 CR: Since I’ve been here almost four years, and since I’ve been here, German and French have… German was… There was somebody here that could answer in German when I started, but it wasn’t as robust as it is now. There are more people on your team that can speak German. And then French was added, which is all awesome, but do you guys get a lot from other languages? And if you do, how do you… How do you try to communicate with somebody, for instance, who might write in, I don’t know, Swedish or some other language like that?
14:00 Martin: We get a lot of requests that are not in English. German is a really big market for geocaching and France is rapidly growing, so that’s why we have those two languages on the team as well. If somebody writes in, in a language that we do not speak we actually have to do a Google translation to figure out what’s going on, but our response will be in English because, as we noticed, a lot of people speak at least a little bit of English, so then we are more on the common ground in explaining. So I don’t think it would help anybody if, let’s say, they write in Czech, and then we Google Translate the problem, then we write our answer and then Google Translate it back. I think we would lose much more in translation there, if we just respond in English.
14:43 CR: Right. So the times when somebody asks a question that is really complicated or there’s not an obvious answer to it, is it often that your team has to try to find the right person at the company that can help answer that question, whether it be somebody, you know one of the engineers or one of the developers or stuff like that?
15:04 Martin: It happens on a regular basis because, as you mentioned before, our game is really complex. So it can have really complex problems. And some of them are really edge cases that we try to reproduce first on our own. And then for some reason, we can’t do this. We can’t do this. But a good thing is we work really close with every other department in the company, so we either use email or Slack to find like, “Hey, does anybody know about this before?” Or if we don’t get a response, then I just literally walk up to somebody’s desk and ask like, “Hey, we currently have this thing, do you know the answer to this?” And even if that person doesn’t know, then that person will direct me to the other person that can give me the answer. So collaboration is really great here at HQ. So there’s like no barrier and/or communication problems between the developers and us. We’re all in the same boat, so that’s really helpful.
15:56 CR: It is summertime. Well, it’s summer time in the northern hemisphere. I always have to remember to say that. [laughter] But it’s Mega event season and there are folks from HQ that are going out to the various events around the world. And your team does that too, right? And that’s very valuable.
16:14 Martin: Yeah. Everybody on my team will go to a Mega event as well and it is just really great meeting the community face-to-face. You hear like nice anecdotes. People bring up some problems they might have had. So you get a fresh feel and we always try to be diverse where we go, so that we get like, geocaching is slightly different in not the game itself, but the culture around it, and how people play the game can vary a little bit depending on which country it is. So we try to send people, like the people on my team that speak French, well we sent them to a French Mega event, so they can connect deeper with the French community. Or I for example will go to a Mega event in Germany, which I’m really looking forward to, so I can reconnect with the German community, who is often… The German community is often surprised, when we show up at a German Mega, that there is actually German people working at HQ and it’s not just all Americans. So it’s always nice to reassure them. It’s like, “No, you’re a big community, we care about you. We actually have Germans on the team that know the culture, and have an understanding for what you guys are doing. So…
17:22 CR: Yeah. And quite a few, not just one or two, but quite a few folks here that speak German, which is really good. Okay, so if a person has an issue, something they can’t figure out, a question they wanna contact Geocaching HQ, how can they make the process go as smoothly as possible, so they can get an answer as quickly as possible?
17:43 Martin: It is always really helpful, if the person tries to describe the actual problem in as much detail as possible. I know it’s sometimes really hard and not everybody is necessarily tech-savvy and that’s fine. We can figure it out, but to get to make it faster like if the initial contact with us includes as much information as possible about what is the actual problem, and even what is your user name, and maybe your email address, that might not be the same you write from, so that we can quicker look up which account it is. That is definitely helpful. So let’s just say, if we get a ticket, it says, “The app is not working”. That just means we have to get back to the customer and say, “Can you please provide more detail?” which means it’s another step, it will be another delay, it takes longer. But if it’s like, “Hey, whenever I use the app, whenever I click on a cache that is on the map, the map crashes,” then that is something much easier for us to go on, because we might have seen that case before, we might already know the fix for it and so that would expedite the solution. So if you write in to us, the more detail you can provide up front, the faster and smoother the process will be.
18:54 CR: So if somebody has an issue, they go to where, on the website? If they have to contact us and try to get a solution for something, if nobody’s done it before, how do you go about doing it?
19:07 Martin: If you just have access to email, you can just shoot an email to contact at Geocaching.com. That will get to us. If not, you should go to Geocaching.com/help. That will lead you to the Help Center, where you can first see if there is already an article that might solve the problem. Or if not, then you use the section called “Contact Us” where you can then specifically pick up which part you have a problem with. There’s some categories that you can choose, so the email we get is already categorized correctly.
19:36 CR: And then it sounds like if somebody wants to contact you directly, they can just come see you at a Mega event.
19:42 Martin: Yep, show up here at HQ. We have a lot of visitors coming by in our Visitors Center, so whenever you’re in the area, swing by, I might come out and give you one of my Trackables, so…
19:54 CR: And which Mega are you attending?
19:54 Martin: I will be at the Märchenhaft in Kassel. So there’s a chance that when you listen to this podcast, I will be actually at the Mega and you might meet me there.
20:05 CR: Alright. Well, this was educational for me. Hopefully, people enjoyed it too, so thank you.
20:12 Martin: I hope so too. Thanks, Chris.
20:14 CR: That was Martin from Geocaching HQ Community Engagement Team. Hopefully you enjoyed that. Keep an eye out for Martin at that Mega event over in Germany, or if you visit us here at our offices in Seattle, he is often out there in the Visitor Center, so hopefully you’ll get a chance to meet him.
20:34 CR: If you have something you would like to hear us talk about on the podcast, you can send us an email. Podcast at Geocaching.com is the address. That is Podcast at Geocaching.com, we would love to hear from you and try to answer your questions here on the podcast. Until then, from all of us at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.