For ModSquad and the Games Industry, GDC is the Place to Be

ModSquad has always had a passion for the games industry, from our beginnings in a Second Life sports bar to our tireless work today on countless video games (for such companies as Trion, Bandai Namco, Wooga, Schell Games, and Konami). We grok gaming like nobody else.

So for us, trekking to the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) main event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center is akin to making a pilgrimage. This year’s event takes place February 27 through March 3, and ModSquad will be there in force! See us at location TT08.

From its humble beginnings 28 years ago as a gathering of game designers in founder Chris Crawford’s living room, GDC has become the largest yearly gathering of software developers in the video game industry. It’s a can’t-miss destination for those in the field who wish to network, gather insights, and discuss the future of gaming.

Rich Weil, ModSquad’s SVP of Global Operations, shares his insight with a captive audience at GDC 2016.

For the near-decade that ModSquad has been in existence, we’ve been right beside our colleagues in the video game industry at GDC. We’ve built relationships with many fantastic partners, have participated in numerous panels at the event, and have even expanded our ranks with gaming-industry veterans like Rich Weil, our SVP, Global Operations, whose background includes stints at NCSoft and Kaneva. In fact, Rich will be on hand this year at GDC, and will rep ModSquad at the conference’s two-day focus on virtual reality games, VRDC.

As the video game field evolves, ModSquad has remained at the forefront of supporting new technologies. We’re the wizards behind the support and moderation curtains for many of your favorite games, from classic desktop to mobile apps to augmented-reality experiences. The gaming industry is in our DNA, and our Mods are gaming enthusiasts who feel at home in the communities of today’s leading games. (And we’re working with many of the top names out there, even though we’re sworn to secrecy about some of them!) Our Mods are gamers themselves, which is why we are the premier partner for so many game developers around the world.

It’s always fascinating to see how the conferences’ summits reflect the ever-changing focus of the industry. We saw it with the rise of mobile gaming and the shift of community-based games into mobile. We were there as attendees buzzed about AI and inspected the offerings of the latest indie developers to leap into the field. And we’ve been part of the conversation as attention heated up on VR and AR over the past couple of years. ModSquad has been in the center of all of those conversations, working with developers and publishers to create the best player experience possible.

We’re excited to meet up with those developers and introduce ourselves to some new friends this year at GDC. We can’t wait to see what those creative geniuses have in store for us gaming geeks!

Moseying over to Moscone for GDC? Say hello to ModSquad. Rich Weil and Matt Hostler will be in the house!

 

_TXT7242” by Official GDC is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
_TXT5895” by Official GDC is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Lowe

The Alumni Spotlight fires up again, shining its lens on superstar J.Lowe! No, no — not that one. We’re talking about our very own superstar, Jennifer Lowe! You see, back in the day, ModSquad was graced with two fine social media dynamos, both named Jennifer Lowe. Since they both went by “Jenn,” we had to come up with another way to distinguish them. So we affectionately called the subject of this spotlight “J.Lowe.” We’re sure the jokes never got old, oh no!

J.Lowe (okay, okay, Jenn) came to us in 2010, a recently graduated high-honors student from UC Berkeley. She excelled at ModSquad for more than three years, working her way up to become our senior social media manager. These days, Jenn spends her time in San Francisco, working as a content and communications consultant for companies like eBay and The Rainforest Action Network. Let’s catch up with her and see if she’s still the old Jenny from the block. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

Tell us about what brought you to ModSquad.

I had recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in anthropology and a minor in education, and I was looking for my first gig. I was passionate about making an impact on the world through technology and media. I discovered ModSquad, and they were working with such exciting clients, from film production companies to virtual fashion worlds. I also found the people and my manager to be highly supportive with incredible backgrounds. The ability to work remotely was great, and it totally changed the way I envisioned the world of work.

What do you think about your time here?

I learned so much from my time at ModSquad. I received an incredible amount of personalized training from my manager. It was truly a world-class experience. My clients were fun and exciting, and I felt extremely fortunate to work with them. ModSquad was invaluable for learning all of the rules of business that they don’t teach you in college, everything from writing proper business emails to prioritizing multiple projects and tasks.

Did the flexible scheduling help you out?

Yes! Since I was saving at least an hour every day by not having to commute, it gave me the flexibility to take evening classes in subjects like Photoshop and go to the gym.

What was it like working with the various project managers?

All of the project managers were very professional and had a lot of personality! Everyone was unique and had their own interests. I felt fortunate to be working with such a diverse range of people who showed up to work as their true selves.

What skills did you take away from your time at ModSquad that made you a stronger asset in subsequent jobs?

So many! I learned the art and science of creating a marketing one-sheet (a one-pager that guides anyone through your project plan). I learned how to take detailed meeting notes and compile reports, focusing on takeaways, observations, and next steps. And I learned how to write emails that were both conversational and to the point.

Why do you think the ModSquad strategy is optimal for both Mods and clients?

The ModSquad strategy is great for clients because they’re not limited by the talent pool in their area. ModSquad has an incredible resource in its network of Mods. If you need to ramp up really quickly, ModSquad can do that. And then if you need to scale back quickly, you can do that too, and the Mods are assigned other clients or projects to work on. They’re quite flexible. For Mods, it’s great to have that flexibility to set your schedule. You’re not limited by location and can work for clients all over the world.

ModSquad Brings Blue Skies to America’s Friendliest Airport

Serving 44 million passengers annually, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is one of the ten busiest airports in the United States. When any organization is tasked with assisting more than 100,000 customers per day, it can be overwhelming to their support systems. That’s why Phoenix relied on ModSquad to implement a Zendesk customer support solution. Working with multiple divisions at the airport, contacts at external organizations, and key stakeholders in the local government, ModSquad established a user-friendly help portal and customer management system that’s cleared for takeoff.

In a fascinating (if we do say so ourselves) new case study, you’ll discover how ModSquad worked with scores of business units within the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) system — including restaurants, stores, independent vendors, and three sister airports — to develop an all-encompassing help system powered by Zendesk.

In one of the largest installation and consulting tasks in ModSquad’s history, our experts worked closely with key project stakeholders as we integrated the look and feel of their existing brand into a new solution. This was vital to the ultimate success of the project; proper implementation of the airport’s recognizable brand and style into this unique navigation system was a major factor in creating an effective self-help customer portal.

ModSquad ensured that the new help portal enveloped all existing customer data, eliminating the need for returning customers to re-enter information, and making it possible to track trouble spots for the end user. Thanks to the system’s improved automation, real-world support requests have plummeted, freeing the PHX team to concentrate on other revenue-generating projects. The addition of community support sites enabled super users to help other travelers, fostering a loyalty to — and connection with — the PHX brand. As a result, the new system isn’t just an operational cost-savings generator; it also drives loyalty and revenue to the airport.

With so many disparate groups brought together for this project, it was no small task to satisfy all the requirements of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. ModSquad’s consulting team helped bring it all together as one, a unified customer support solution that underscores PHX’s well-earned reputation as America’s Friendliest Airport. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how it was all accomplished in this new case study from ModSquad.

How to Plan Customer Support Needs for Product Launches

You’re ready to introduce your new product to the world. You’ve named it, done your market research, and have your release plan in place. You’ll need a customer support team ready for launch, but how much support will you need? Which support channels (phone, email, chat, social) will you staff? Will you offer around-the-clock support? What times of day will you need the most agents working? And most importantly, how can you possibly determine all of this before your product hits the market?

It’s a question we’ve helped answer for many clients, from large global brands to small start-ups. We’ve become adept at helping clients launch their products, because we take the time to work closely with each one, analyzing forecast numbers and translating them into an informed plan. As you prep your product for launch, ModSquad is there at your side, ready for action.

Whether you’re gearing up to face the Shark Tank investors, crafting a compelling story for Kickstarter, or bringing your product to market on your own, it’s a challenge to juggle all the moving parts. Have you considered the operational impact this product release will have on your organization? If you don’t correctly forecast how the launch will affect your day-to-day operations, you could face a situation in which you’re unable to answer customers for days or even weeks. In such cases, enthusiastic customers can quickly turn into disgruntled, vocal haters. Don’t let that happen. We’re here to make sure you’re fully prepped.

Leave the Calculations and Analysis to Us

Our decade of experience has taken us around the block a few times. We’ve seen how product launches play out and have been very successful helping clients predict their support needs. We look at things like estimates for products shipped and future revenue forecasts, translating those numbers into likely customer support requests and developing models to anticipate needs in multiple scenarios.

Your team has likely created a revenue forecast for your product or app. After all, you need to plan how many products to have in the warehouse, or how much traffic your servers will need to handle. We review these numbers, in a way no traditional outsourcing firm does, and help clients anticipate the operational impact and the expected customer support and social media needs. Dealing with customer requests doesn’t have to be your specialty; that’s where we shine.

From there, we build a support team to fit those projections. Included are the “unknown unknowns,” those things that we’re not even aware we’re not aware of, things that can throw a monkey wrench into your plans. No matter how well you forecast, changing conditions can trigger a million hits to your website overnight. We offer on-demand scalability to boost your efficiency. In addition to our endlessly flexible scheduling, our Mods are cross-trained, can cover multiple channels, and are proficient at implementing the tools you need to ensure scalability. We make sure all your bases are covered.

Flexibility Goes Both Ways

How do you maintain an effective process? Iterate, iterate, iterate. Just this past holiday season, we had the opportunity to help a client run a beta test of their product launch, and the response from customers was overwhelming. This reinforced the notion that until you ship enough products or see enough downloads of your app, you just won’t have a truly viable data set to understand all possible outcomes. That’s why we’re working closely with our clients to create better loopbacks and hold more informed discussions with their product teams. What we learn from these launches, we’ll incorporate into plans for future scalability.

All of this comes together in a support package that can’t be matched by anyone in the industry. Unparalleled flexibility; unique analysis of historical data to inform support plans; open communication with a team that’s just as invested in your success as you are. That’s ModSquad in a nutshell; that’s how we roll.

ModSquad is Heading to SXSW!

We’re pleased to announce that ModSquad will be participating in the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference’s trade show exhibition, taking place Sunday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 15 at the Austin (TX) Convention Center. This legendary conference is a gathering of the biggest names in the music, film, and interactive fields, and draws attendees from around the globe.

While we’re certainly huge music and film fans here at ModSquad, it’s the interactive track of SXSW that really caught our eye. Hey, we spend all day online with our groovy clients and their fans and customers. Interactive is our middle name!

Why Interactive?

And interactivity is what it’s all about at SXSW. The interactive track is a big draw now, but it came from humble beginnings. The interactive element of the show was introduced in 1994, eight years after the launch of the festival. It was part of a film-and-interactive initiative by organizers determined to expand the event beyond its already growing musical segment. The following year, interactive served as a standalone track, but it took a few more go-rounds for it to really find its groove, booking bigger-name keynote speakers and expanding to scores of panels. Today, it’s a major part of what makes SXSW so special.

Similarly, ModSquad has been at the forefront of digital interactivity, with our Mods providing stellar support on behalf of some of the world’s coolest brands. After all, being interactive online works best when that interactivity comes from humans, not machines. For just under a decade, we’ve maintained the human element of many client companies as they’ve expanded into the digital frontier. With people-powered customer support, moderation, and social media management, we help maintain that all-important human element, serving as the conduit by which our clients interact with their audiences.

Interactive Makes the Difference

ModSquad stands head and shoulders above old-school outsourcing firms by providing interaction that’s more dynamic than what’s typically delivered through the old-fashioned model. We provide personalized engagement to audiences through a team of 10,000+ Mods, comprising professionals at every level. Our global, multilingual network provides services in your customers’ regions and languages, across an array of industries. Just think: Many of the gaming aficionados attending SXSW have likely interacted with a Mod via in-game support, where we preserve the immersive gaming experience of our clients’ players.

What’s more, we bring this human touch to our clients on demand, giving them the digital engagement services they need, in the volume they need, when they need it. We’ll cover customer contact channels by the hour, day, or month, and create customized, flexible scheduling that changes with our clients’ needs. We help boost efficiency through this on-demand scalability, a unique solution available only through ModSquad.

We’re excited to share our story with the thousands of attendees who’ll be stopping by SXSW. It’s our honor to be able to join people around the world as we explore what’s next in human interactive engagement.

We’ll be sharing more details about our plans for SXSW over the next few weeks. Stay tuned, and we’ll see you in Austin!

Mod of the Month – January 2017

If January is any indication, this is going to be an eventful year! As we round out the first month of 2017, we’re excited to once again celebrate one of our fantastic Mods. We were honored to spend the second half of December featuring numerous Mods during our 12 Days of Mods and 8 Nights of Mod Awesomeness series. Today, we’re excited to return with our first Mod of the Month of 2017, Autumn Harrison!

Autumn started with ModSquad in 2011, recently celebrating her five-year Modiversary. Highly skilled, dynamic, and dependable, Autumn has worked on all sorts of projects here at ModSquad. She currently provides email customer support for our client Giving Assistant, an organization that partners with retailers to offer its members exclusive discounts that contribute to charitable giving. She also works with one of our agency clients, providing community moderation for seven different brands they manage. Autumn’s skills as a Mod really shine on this project, as it requires her to track numerous channels for each brand, ensuring the detailed guidelines for each community are followed closely and violations are removed swiftly.

In the five years I’ve been with ModSquad, I’ve done pretty much everything. I enjoy working in social media and customer service, but community moderation is what I enjoy most. It’s fun to encounter people who have such a wide variety of interests and are so passionate about them. There are things I doubt I would have ever learned about if not for ModSquad!

Prior to joining ModSquad, Autumn worked in traditional customer service, and while those roles helped her develop skills and experience, she notes the culture of her teams at ModSquad is far above what she encountered in the traditional office environment.

It’s funny, because you’d think working from home would make you feel less close to your colleagues, but I feel like I have gotten to know my PMs and APMs so well, they’re not just my bosses, they’re my friends.

As her colleagues will attest, Autumn has done some brilliant work during her years at ModSquad, but one moment stands out for her as the most impactful. On a previous project, Autumn worked with a client of ours dedicated to helping young people in crisis.

Someone posted a very dire response, and it was clear they meant to do themselves some kind of harm. In the middle of the night, I called our project manager, who got in touch with the local authorities. The authorities went out to help the individual, who thankfully made the choice to go to a hospital that night and get help. It was pretty surreal to know that, for that person, my phone call could have been the difference between life or death.

In her spare time, Autumn is a proud mother of two, with a love for musical theater, singing, and performing. Autumn’s dedication to helping customers extends outside her work with ModSquad, as she also spends time volunteering and advocating on social issues.

As mentioned above, the project and assistant project managers here at ModSquad have no shortage of praise for Autumn. Here’s what they had to say about her:

“Autumn has worked on several of my projects over the last five years and has always been a rock star! My clients always love her. Our current client voted her their Mod of the Quarter for the last two quarters because she goes above and beyond for them. They sent out a newsletter to their entire internal staff letting them know what a fantastic job Autumn is doing.

“Autumn is also my go-to Mod for covering extra hours and time-off requests. She identifies trends and issues as they arise and takes the time to research issues as much as possible so they can be resolved quickly. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does, and definitely deserves to be recognized for her hard work! She is one of the most reliable people I have worked with over the years.”
—Tera Tilden, Project Manager

“I’ve worked with Autumn for years and years now, both as a PM and as a fellow Mod, and she truly is a rock star. She is always willing to do whatever is needed to make sure a situation is resolved, and she’s not afraid to tackle more complicated issues when they arise.”
—Danielle Ditto, Project Manager

“Autumn and I have worked together in the past and she has always been reliable and consistent. I would never hesitate to have her on a project if the opportunity arose. She is an all-around all star who is well deserving of recognition as Mod of the Month.”
—David Follo, Project Manager

“Autumn has been a lifesaver on my project, picking up short-notice coverage and helping other team members when they have a question or an issue. I can always count on her to bring a level head to a project that requires a lot of thought and reasoning, and she is super-reliable. The team dynamic wouldn’t be the same without her!”
—Geneva Hopwood, Project Manager

“I haven’t worked with Autumn recently, but can back everything that’s been said about her. She’s an A++ Mod and one who’s been with ModSquad for a long time!”
—Michelle Ramage, Project Manager

In the Year of the Rooster, Will You Be Crowing About Your Business?

When many Western consumers consider the biggest retail periods of the year, visions of Black Friday madness and back-to-school shopping come to mind. But if you’re thinking globally, not locally, you’ll realize that the Chinese New Year is also a massive retail holiday, one that affects businesses all around the world.

What is Chinese New Year?

This year, the holiday begins on January 27 (New Year’s Eve) and lasts for seven days, ending on February 2. While the origin of the holiday dates back thousands of years, the celebration as it is recognized today (also called Spring Festival) dates back to when the country was primarily an agricultural society. This week-long break gave farmers time to rest and prepare for the next season, and the rest of the citizenry a chance to focus on home and family. Elders give money to children and practice rituals that are said to bring good luck and longevity to their loved ones.

Today, many Chinese families enjoy the annual festivals (including televised events) and downtime afforded them by the national holiday. And where there’s idle time and prosperity, there are companies creating opportunities for profit.

Why Should Retailers Pay Attention to Chinese New Year?

Look at Amazon. Many of their vendors are promoting merchandise (with a particular emphasis on luxury goods) that is associated with the annual celebration. Apple has Chinese New Year wallpapers available for their products. Harrod’s, a UK institution, is recognizing the holiday with assorted souvenirs. You can even send a Chinese New Year greeting card via Zazzle.

For years, this has been a massive event in China. There’s more rail and air travel as people visit family, and many businesses shut down for the week. The stock market closes, a break that traditionally wreaks havoc with the country’s economic data at the beginning of the year. Factories also shutter for the holiday, which means that exporting comes to a crawl, affecting businesses and their logistics all over the planet.

With this kind of impact on global retail, many businesses will find themselves in urgent need of increased support. While some brands recognize the ramifications of a disruption to one of the world’s largest economies, they may be unprepared to meet the demand of their customers, who have become accustomed to immediate gratification.

The wise move is to recognize and prepare for the effect on mainstream retail that this large-scale holiday celebration can have. Position yourself to ramp up and scale down as your business warrants. Our on-demand services empower businesses just like yours to achieve maximum scalability through a cost-effective solution that provides you with the coverage you need, when you need it. Talk about good fortune — consider that our red envelope gift to all of our fabulous clients!

Landing a Job (and a Career) in the Game Industry – ModSquad Reveals All at PAX South

Once again, I’ll soon be in San Antonio this year for the awesome PAX South show, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing some of you there. Over the past few years, I’ve moderated a two-panel series at PAX shows on both getting into and moving up in the game industry. I’m honored to be able to present the panels again at PAX South, with the typical lineup of experienced game industry veterans.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about some of the great advice I’ve seen the panelists give to PAX attendees. This year, I thought I’d talk about the background of the panel topics and why they were set up that way.

Getting Into the Game Industry: This is a popular topic at many conferences, and there have been innumerable panels on the subject. Many people want to know how they can start a career in the game business. It’s both easier and more difficult than you might imagine.

There are many entry-level ways to get into the industry, with customer support, moderation, and QA being the primary routes. These are services that ModSquad provides to many of our gaming clients, and we have a large network of game enthusiasts working on those projects that can certainly count their experience here at ModSquad as game industry knowledge.

Finding the right first job in the industry is a matter of research and preparation. All the standard resume and interview tips apply, but of course the game business has a unique culture. (For example, it’s probably not a good idea to wear a suit to a game company interview.)

One of the most prevalent misconceptions that the panels work to dispel is that even though someone might love game design, it’s extremely difficult to jump into that job right from the beginning. Managing expectations at the entry level is key.

Moving Up in the Game Industry (Managing Your Career): The second panel is a bit more abstract and focuses on the opportunities and potential pitfalls that await those with a few years in the game industry under their belt. This tends to be a more free-wheeling discussion, but past installments have covered a wealth of helpful information.

Wondering about the best way to change jobs and/or companies? These panelists have been through it all, and can offer the best guidance to help you move up in the field.

Sometimes those moves aren’t premeditated. What happens when you’re laid off or your company is shuttered? Many of our speakers have, unfortunately, been down that path – not uncommon in this industry. They’ll share how to make lemonade out of that sour situation.

Even if you’re content in your current position, it’s always wise to keep moving forward in ways that will help you in the future. Learn how to focus on the big picture by proactively developing your skills and experience and managing your own personal brand.

I’ll be joined on these panels by some whip-smart folks from such companies as Trion World, Spacetime Studios, and Daybreak Studios. They always appreciate the opportunity to share their insights into this fun but challenging industry. It’s a field that we at ModSquad hold close to our hearts, as we have a unique understanding of games and the gamers who enjoy them.

I hope you’re able to make it out to San Antonio on January 27 through 29. If you’re going to be in town, drop me a line. I’d love to chat.

Rich Weil
Senior VP of Global Operations

Whatever the Weather, ModSquad’s Ready to Rock

In case you’re in one of the seemingly many regions of the world where the recent abnormal weather made it seem as though the world was coming to an end, we feel your pain.

We’ve seen stories of weather anomalies ranging from the quirky to the downright apocalyptic.

In normally sunny California, the Pineapple Express roared into town, with the rain wreaking havoc with our staffers newly submerged garages…

and forcing commuters to choose between wet and dry lanes…

and the heavy winds turning Porta-Potties into flying death bombs of blue-tinted waste.

In Ireland, which in some regions normally sees little winter accumulation, recent snows were cause for travel disruptions and hand-wringing by headline writers. Fortunately, the staff of our Operations Centre in Londonderry bravely weathered the storm, reporting no adverse effects.

And in the land of Oz, our Australian workmates are suffering from a summertime heat wave that one news report gently describes as “Australia Descends Into Literal Hell.”

Heck, even in Orlando, Florida, where bad weather is forbidden at the Happiest Place on Earth, a recent RunDisney marathon was canceled due to severe weather. Must have been a brief anomaly, as local Mod Tim Hayworth reports, “Crazy weather? Yeah, it dropped below 60 degrees for like three days in a row. That was nuts!” So at least it’s not that bad everywhere.

We extend our deepest and non-ironic sympathies to those negatively affected by Mother Nature’s recent bad mood (particularly the unfortunate soul who has to clean up that Porta-Potty if it’s blown over).

But we’re happy to report that ModSquad, like the famous wind-up bunny of old, keeps on going. We’re not restricted to a handful of locations that can be disrupted by extreme weather, power outages, or free-donut Fridays. With our network of 10,000+ Mods situated around the world, the ModSquad solution is an effective preventative against any regional disruptions. Our global network offers clients a built-in redundancy that assures constant coverage and peace of mind.

We’re not ones to tempt fate (or Mother Nature, for that matter), but we’re confident in our ability to be there for clients, rain or shine, day or night, weekday or weekend, 24/7. In the meantime, if the weather in your neck of the woods is pleasant, make the most of it — get outside, enjoy yourself… and send us a picture! Some of us haven’t seen the sun in weeks!