Valve Is Not Psyched It Got An 'F' In Customer Service

Valve Is Not Psyched They Got An 'F' In Customer Service

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a curious fact: Valve, maker of the world's biggest PC gaming service, was given an F by the Better Business Bureau. Other major gaming companies largely have A's. The culprit? Poor customer service.

According to the BBB's page on Valve, people have filed 717 complaints about Valve and Valve-related products (Steam, games, etc), 502 of which they have failed to respond to. The majority of complaints stem from "problems with a product/service." More tellingly, the BBB says Valve has "has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints."

Here's a summary of the types of complaints the BBB has received about Valve:

"On June 25, 2013, BBB recognised a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding product, service and customer service issues. Consumers allege the games they purchase from Valve Corporation or Steam malfunction, do not work or have an invalid CD key. Consumers also claim the company blocks users from accessing their library of games. Consumers further allege they attempt to contact the company for assistance, but Valve Corporation fails to correct the gaming issues, does not correct credit card charges or issue a refund, or does not respond at all."

"On July 1, 2013, BBB notified the company of the complaint pattern. To date, the company has not responded to BBB's request to address the pattern."

When reached for further info, the BBB told me they re-review companies every six months to see if anything has changed. Evidently, in their eyes, it has not.

Now, it should be noted that the BBB as not as "capital O" Official as its name makes it sound. It's not a government agency, nor does it have any sort of regulatory power. Rather, it's a national network of non-profit groups that seek to, well, make businesses better. Services provided include dispute handling and resolution as well as consumer-focused information on many businesses (of which the 13-factor grading system is a part). They also lobby against fraudulent business practices. And yet, they have been accused of shady dealings involving good grades and their paid accreditation program (something Valve is not a part of), a program that foots some of their bills and leads to clear conflicts of interest. Also, their system is worrisomely self-focused. If, for instance, companies resolve complaints sans BBB involvement, the BBB can still count it against them.

So that's a minefield. Still, I decided to ask Valve business development authority Erik Johnson what was going on behind the scenes. He replied that Valve doesn't really consider the Better Business Bureau a priority, but that users have the right of it: Valve needs to toss its busted customer service program in the incinerator and start over.

"The BBB is a far less useful proxy for customer issues than Reddit," Johnson began. "We don't use them for much. They don't provide us as useful of data as customers emailing us, posting on Reddit, posting on Twitter, and so on."

"The more important thing is that we don't feel like our customer service support is where it needs to be right now," he said. "We hear those complaints, and that's gonna be a big focus for us throughout the year. We have a lot of work to do there. We have to do that better."

When an issue's got roots this deep, though, how do you even begin to untangle it? Valve, Johnson explained, is looking at a complete overhaul.

"We need to do a variety of things," he said. "We need to build customer support directly into Steam. We need to understand what's the most efficient way to solve customer problems. Right now we're in a state where we're doing a bunch of technical work on thinking through how does a support issue get raised, who has to see it, how do refunds get raised within Steam — we've done a poor job on all of that up to this date. We think it's something we really need to focus on."

So it's good to hear that Valve is finally trying to resolve this rather glaring hole in their service. Granted, none of this is in beta testing or anything like that yet. There's no guarantee it will actually come to fruition. Still, this is better than nothing. Between this and Valve's apparent interest in better all-around communication, it seems like they might finally see merit in knocking down their notorious wall of silence — or at least poking a few holes in it. Of course, only time will tell, and if there's one thing Valve knows how to take, it's time.


    Can Australian's get refunds easily yet from Valve/Steam?

    Sounds like there should be a follow up to that story to that considering what it was about.

      i got one last year, as i purchased the wrong version of something on the store - as long as you don't download it

      Last edited 14/03/15 2:45 pm

        I'm curious how easy it was to get your refund though... I know it's possible, but I've heard nothing but about how absurd it generally is to finally get done.

          It was pretty easy for me. I bought a game once, found day after that a friend had bought a four pack. Sent them a support ticket andgot refunded a day or two later

          Sorry for the extremely late reply, i read it somewhere in their refund policy that there had two version of the same game and they did in the same 24 hour period when i asked them as per policy.

          which makes them a damn sight better than sony who acted like i was a criminal when i requested a refund as i managed to purchase the same game twice on the PSN store for the PS3 in the same transaction.

          Last edited 21/10/15 4:29 pm

    Valve has a shocking record. ACCC were taking valve to court over their consumer laws in Australia but I haven't seen any update since August last year.

      I believe Valve changed their policy to fit in with ACCC laws. Not 100% sure about it though.

    The awesomeness of summer sales should bring that up to atleast an F+

      That's sales, not customer service.

      I may do a brilliant job of selling you a lemon at a deep discount, but in the end if you try to get service for the lemon and I ignore you, my customer service record deserves an F.

        So much hate for a bad joke, I think you need to clean the sand out of your vaginas.

          That was especially painful, especially the part where I had to get one installed...

          Apologies for missing the joke - it appears I'm not alone in reading it as straight. In my experience if you want to express a joke on the 'Net you need to make it pretty explicit. Explicit tags for example, or laying it on with a trowel, e.g:

          The SHEER AWESOMENESS of summer sales should bring that up to AT LEAST an F+ !!!

    You know what a lot of these complaints sound like? Pirated games people are trying to get running through steam but ultimately failing (can't get it to work, invalid CD Key and so on). And then contacting customer support only to basically be denied any support on the basis that it is an illegal copy

      I doubt it. I've had some pretty piss-poor experiences with their customer service myself. They get enough wrong when dealing with REAL issues without having to worry about fake ones.

      (I've also had some GOOD ones, too, where they immediately refunded games I bought as gifts for people who had the game showing on their wishlist, because it hadn't updated yet after they bought it themselves, during a sale. But that doesn't mean that the times I DID get shitty service didn't exist.)

        my only experience with them was back in the day when I lost access to an email address and couldn't remember my steam details, the hoops I needed to jump through were rather interesting. It has also just occurred what tone my OP has :P

          Awh. Hence the downvote into oblivion... ah well. It's Valve people are hating on, really, not you. :>

      I was accused of cheating in counter strike at a time when I didn't even have the internet or the game installed. Said the anti-cheat software detected it and insta-ban me, no warning or anything. I petitioned it and after 2-months nothing. Roughly a year later I received an email saying that they reviewed the case and found ti was a false positive. Easily they have the worst customer services as far as game companies go.

    No wonder it is so low, valve's customer service is everyone else on the forums.

    Unsurprising. At one point I had a game that would fail to download. I bought it on steam and it had it's own launcher so I had to download it through the third-party launcher instead of through Steam. That wasn't made clear. So 40 hours of trying to download the game later, reconfiguring my settings etc... in order to get it. Still didn't have the game.

    My internets not the best so downloading a large game that has its download RESET every time a patch was issued... yeah. So I asked Steam, look, it wasn't made clear this wasn't going to be downloaded through the Steam client. I would greatly appreciate a refund and I know that you usually allow 1 refund per Steam account. I got an email back saying "We see you've been playing the game for 40 hours according to Steam activity, unfortunately you are way above our allowed time for refunds on a title of X hours". I guess they didn't believe that that was me just trying to download the damn thing. XD They never replied again. Oh well thems the breaks. I'm not mad at or 'em or anything it just kinda stinks.

      Holy crap, so their system can't differentiate between a game that is downloading and a game that is running?! So what happens when a game is downloaded but doesn't work? Valve won't refund because to them you might very well have been playing the game for a while - they just can't tell otherwise...

        Yeah this is true with some MMOs, when you click play it starts counting, even if it's just an automated patcher. The secret world is the one that come to my mind, but it would apply to anything which has a post steam launcher.

    Maybe they should try deleting their .blob files and maybe reinstalling steam to fix their issue.

    Colour me surprised.


    I've had to use their customer service before and they are entirely uninterested in helping you. They'll palm you off to the developer because it's "not their problem." Sorry, but if I did that to a customer at my work. I'd have the ACCC, my managers and anyone else who was considered my boss up my ass so fast...

    When it comes to trying to get a refund, especially through Australian legal avenues, Valve are one of the worst.

    The arrogance of Valves statements is overwhelming...

    He replied that Valve doesn’t really consider the Better Business Bureau a priority,

    I do understand what he's saying, but he's flat out wrong. Customer feedback comes from these sources, so you should be listening. Customer feedback comes from multiple sources. To disparage something just because it's not the governments chosen official outlet is ridiculous.

    “The BBB is a far less useful proxy for customer issues than Reddit,” Johnson began. “We don’t use them for much. They don’t provide us as useful of data as customers emailing us, posting on Reddit, posting on Twitter, and so on.”

    Now, while it's ok to say you get information from Reddit, I'm going to go on record and say you cannot possibly think the majority of your users are all on Reddit. For instance, I'm not. I use imgur but that's it. I know *one* person who uses Reddit? There's many who do, sure. But you cannot possibly assume your entire customer base does.

    I do like they said later they're going to look into it, but it's Valve, they've said they'd do this before. I'll believe better customer service is coming when they announce Halflife 3 is coming...

    But then Source 2 just debuted, so stranger things have happened right?

    I remember at one stage my Steam stuffed up and refused to download or verify games on any of my PCs (would download for a minute and then stop, even if game download could be completed, it would end up corrupt). The amount of times I had to delete .blobs and send MSInfo is uncountable (about 3), with no fix. This was around the time when games were converting to the new delivery system, so the problem pretty much fixed itself as more games converted over.

    Funnily enough, the only way I could download during this period was using a Windows 8 Beta VM.

    Steam's customer service *is* and *has always* been terrible.
    In general, support is "read the forums"...they simply cut and paste stuff from the forums. Most of my issues I have found solutions through other forums...

    Even for games which are theirs!
    I couldn't get Halflife 2 to work. Eventually I found that it was crashing because it was looking for old tech to handle sound, and a very simple .ini edit fixed it. (And I am mostly computer illiterate!). Surely they could fix that?!
    I gave up with Lost Coast...

    And as someone else noted, the Steam usage stats are a bit off...HL2 had about 3 hours of "play" by the time I sorted the bug. Game start, then splash screens, then opening sequence, then the end I quick-saved just before the crash point to save time...

    Not overly surprised - my experience with their CS could have only been worse if they'd thrown in a foul-mouthed insult or two.

    Last edited 17/03/15 7:35 am

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