Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible

Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible

This is getting ridiculous. In March of this year, I spoke with Valve business development authority Erik Johnson about Steam's dubious reputation for customer support. He did not disagree with general sentiment: Valve badly needs to step up their game.

Among other things, Johnson said:

"We think customers are right. When they say our support's bad, our initial reaction isn't to say, 'No, it's actually good. Look at all of this.' It's to say that, no, they're probably right, because they usually are when it comes to this kind of thing. 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 better."

When I inquired as to exactly how Valve might go about doing that, he added: "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 issued within Steam — we've done a poor job on all of that up to this date."

The year is nearly over, and basically none of that has happened. Accessing customer support is still a fiddly process that involves opening a web browser and creating an entire new account, and I still see multiple reports per day of people who've been waiting weeks or months to hear back from Valve on their support tickets. Cases in point:

I see posts like this on Reddit every day:

Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible
Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible
Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible

Tons of Steam forum posts like this one:

Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible

I've also gotten emails like this for months:

Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible
Steam Customer Service Is Still Terrible

When Johnson told me customer support was gonna be "a big focus" for Valve throughout the year, I was hopeful. I thought we'd see tangible change, or at least an update from Valve explaining how they planned to tackle the problem — not radio silence. This doesn't bode well, given that silence has been the issue from the start. If Valve still can't do general communication about an issue near and dear to everyone's hearts (and wallets), why should we be hopeful that they will improve their day-to-day customer service communication?

That's not to completely take away from the baby steps Valve has made. I see Valve employees popping up in Steam subreddit threads a little more often these days, and it seems like their communication and responsiveness to issues in games like Counter-Strike has gotten ever so slightly better. By and large, though, basic customer service — solutions to account issues, lockdowns, fraudulent activity, etc — continues to be inexcusably poor. Even if the customer service queue is so long that Valve can't possibly handle it all in any reasonable amount of time, they could a) give people an estimate on how long they will be waiting and keep them in the loop with regular updates or b) hire some more fucking people.

It's October. We've been waiting for a promised something for months — and a nebulous anything at all for more months before that. Come on, Valve. Talk to us.


    I get the feeling that Steam simply doesn't have a dedicated support staff like other companies do, and that they get developers and other staff to do the support stuff on the side.

    It's a shame though because it really does harm the Steam and Valve brand when you have issues. I know when my account got hacked it took several weeks, emails and photographs of ID to get it back.

    A company that boasts over 7 million concurrent users at any given time, they really have no excuse to not increase the funding to a dedicated support section like other smaller companies do.

      Every time I have a serious issue I speak to them like they are shit and infer they are incompetent. Two days reply is the standard.

        Lol, it's sad, but this approach to many things in life is often the most effective method..

    Steam actually has so much market control i bet they don't really actually care

    See that's the thing, when you are running a monopoly you don't have to do anything better than anyone else once you have established yourself as the only viable option. Maybe another service will come along someday but until then...

    It is disgraceful.

    Think about this, when Steams membership numbers have increased steadily of last few years, did they increase their support staff by similar or more numbers as a % ? Not really a question, of course they didn't.

    While gamers were struggling to play on steam due to support delays, valve pocketed that money that would've gone to support staff. Despicable.

    Last edited 03/10/15 9:31 am

    Valve are quick to take your money and slow to do everything else.

    So if Gabe Newell was such a hero, such a legend, the almighty Gabe, why has the service not been fixed? You telling me Valve can't afford a dedicated customer service department?
    People have complained about steam support FOREVER.
    Gabe Newell is just another greedy overweight businessman who doesn't give a stuff about the customer. Why is everyone always talking about the great Gabe?
    Gabe Newell doesn't care about customer service, he cares about how many games you're buying.

      What the hell are you talking about? Speak like someone's listening, appear less unstable if possible. Who said he was a hero anyway? Are you just calling him that because some people like him and you can't allow it for whatever sociopathic reason?

        Are you kidding? The internet swoons over Gabe like he is the second coming of Christ!

        Steam is AWFUL when it's not working properly and merely okay when it is. It played a major, major role in my jumping ship to PS4 after years of laughing at consoles. The master race is dead and Steam played a big part in that, Gabe is no hero.

        Gabe has been venerated as the hero of PC gaming because he's the face of Valve - beloved because of Half Life 2 and Portal, and Steam sales. Despite the fact that they basically birthed online DRM and killed a popular multiplayer service to force people onto it, they are the darlings of the industry. There's a cult like status attached to him. If you can't see that you might be blind.

    Valve are greedy and Gabe Newell is NOT a hero, all you fanboys get it through your head.
    Gabe wants more money, he doesn't care about support, how long has it been like this? Do you REALLY think he cares?
    Customer support has ALWAYS been crap.

    Valve are greedy and Gabe Newell is NOT a hero, all you fanboys get it through your head.
    Gabe wants more money, he doesn't care about support, how long has it been like this? Do you REALLY think he cares?
    Customer support has ALWAYS been crap.

    Lol for some reason, 3 or 4 games on my steam account have been removed and I have no explanation why. Have receipts and proof of purchase by credit card but it just boggles me how they could just do that. 2 months after I opened my ticket and it still hasn't been responded to.

    I don't understand how people have these sorts of issues. Maybe I'm different, maybe I'm lucky but I've never had an issue with Steam and have been using it since its inception. Never had my account hacked and have never needed to chase "refunds" as I don't buy game's that I don't want.

    1st world problems.

      Just because you personally haven't had these issues doesn't mean they don't exist - this entire article documents it in a lot of detail.

      That's an extremely narrow minded statement. I don't have any issues with Steam either and I've been using it for years but I have absolutely no doubt that Steam's customer service is extremely sub par if something does go wrong.

      The old 'it doesnt effect me so everyone else are just whingers' argument. Nice.

        With a splash of zero-sum concentration, for flavour.

    One thing you forgot to mention this is NOT a STEAM issue alone, in fact this fairly typical of many global tech giants. Microsoft is the same, Apple (itunes especially) is the same. Companies so huge and global, trying to get personalised service for any of these is impossible. Last time I had a huge problem with itunes I could not speak to a person about it here in Australia for physical customer service didnt exist.

    So less about STEAM being awful and look at the wider picture, yes it is awful but so too are many other high tech companies. Thats the real story: Given the world is moving more towards global companies, how can they seriously service the mass global market .

    Last edited 04/10/15 8:53 am

      You are correct!
      Ever had a Gmail or Hotmail account hacked? I've had both.
      I'd take contacting steam support via the separate support website using a separate community account any day over trying to get Microsoft or Google to help you... It took me days alone just to find out how to even contact support, and that involved creating new accounts for both.

    "The year is nearly over, and basically none of that has happened." -
    Nathan Grayson

    So...the games I have refunded through Steam's new refund system never happened? I did none of that happen when it is clearly stated "how do refunds get issued within Steam" as one of the issues, and they have taken care of that by adding a refund system.

    Do writers at Kotaku even use Steam or was this written just to get people to get views? Do people expect a company to change their system over night? Sorry, but some realism needs to be added here, not propaganda.

      Whoop-de-doo Basil, Steams been around for 10 years, I'm preeeeeeeetttty sure refunds should have been a thing since year 1. Australian Consumer Law n all that. Regardless, they did something they should have a long time ago, not going to applause them for it, this doesn't address their complete lack of customer support or response times to other issues people having NOT regarding refunds. I've been using steam for 9 years, it was crappy then, it got slightly better halfway through, and they've barely made any improvements to the core steam experience (not looking at fancy half useful addons like crossplay sharing streaming or all that rubbish, talking about making the client a more friendly and useful and good experience, and maybe, just maybe, charging australians australian prices in AUD rather than charging australians australian prices in USD)

        What that what I was posting about? No it wasn't. Can't argue so you try to change the subject.

        10 year? Why has it taken them 10 years to get off their butts about it, if it was such an issue? Even under that law, they were not required to give a refund, they just couldn't state no refunds.

        The point is we have it now and it was added a few months after the first article, so to say nothing has been done is a fallacy on the authors part.

        The delay in adding AUD is most likely due to the lawsuit, so you can only blame the ACCC for that.

    Thought I had already posted this, but...

    Does the author not use Steam? I guess the games I have refunded by Steams Refund system didn't happen?

    The author quoted "how do refunds get issued within Steam" then states "The year is nearly over, and basically none of that has happened.", yet Steam has a refund system in place, so things did happen. It obviously wasn't nothing that happened.

    One not-all-that-minor improvement: refunds are now a hell of a lot easier. In my experience, anyway, and from when the service was introduced, for other people as well.

    Of course, that's probably because they have (presumably) removed humans from that particular loop.

    So lets say your account is hacked...
    You're gonna sit there and shrug, "Hmmmmm, all my games are gone, oh well, 1st world problems"?
    Yeah, thought not

    You can actually tie your account to your phone/bank details now I believe. Pretty surprised people are still allowing themselves to be hacked considering, I think allot of people are super dumb when it comes to security and Valve just doesn't know what to do about it.

    You can lead a horse to water but you can't force it to drink, kind of deal.

    It's a shame, because this could be done so well. I hadn't accessed my Blizzard account in a few years (not since the launch of Diablo 3) and all I had was a username and an old emailed invoice. I sent it to Blizzard with little hope. The next day I was asked for my scanned driver's licence, and a few hours later my account was unlocked. Literally the best customer service I've ever received.

    Valve really need to step up their game. I've never had a problem on Steam, but I wonder what will happen if I do.

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