Customer support is one of those things that you hope you never have to deal with, but you like to know it’s there if you need it. Competent support is especially important on the internet where you can’t just walk in and talk to a manager. Being able to get help when you need it online goes a long ways in establishing a healthy, trusting relationship between the business and the customer.
If you’re going to trust a poker site to hold your money and provide fair games, the least it can do is provide you with timely and effective customer support. Not only does it come in handy, but it shows that the poker site actually values your business. The poker sites that you see below are ranked in order according to the competence and responsiveness of their customer support teams.
I’ve also found that poker sites with the best customer service also happen to have the fastest cashouts. It’s possible this is a random coincidence, but I think there’s a connection. Sites that are open, honest and available have nothing to hide regarding their financial situations. Time and again, sites that are secretive and unwilling to give clear answers to simple questions end up having major financial troubles and delayed payouts.
How Can You Tell a Poker Site Has Quality Support?
There are two effective means for determining the level of support offered by a poker site. First of all, you can reach out to the support people yourself and see how they respond. This is the first test I ran on each poker site to come up with the rankings you see above. A simple test query combined with past personal experience played the primary role in these rankings.
However, one person’s experience isn’t enough to draw definitive conclusions in this area. It’s entirely possible that your experience will vary from mine. So, I also took to poker discussion forums to see what other people have had to say about each of these poker sites. Doing so makes it possible to draw conclusions based on a larger sample size.
Poker players are quick to take to discussion forums to either complain about or praise a poker room’s support team. Complaints are bound to surface about even the best support teams, but you can get a pretty reliable overall sense of how effective a poker site is in this area when you draw from a broad selection of player comments.
Even better, some poker sites have a habit of sending representatives to poker forums to talk with players directly. Sometimes the representative does an excellent job in addressing issues and sometimes it turns into a disaster. I’ve seen it play out both ways in real time and it’s always entertaining whatever the outcome. Two long running examples involving Lock Poker and PokerStars display both ends of the spectrum. More on that in the next section.
Why Should You Care?
Investigating a poker site’s customer support tells you more than just how quickly you can expect answers. It is a strong indicator of how that poker site will treat you over the long run. Let’s look at a couple of examples from Lock Poker and PokerStars.
Lock Poker: Oh boy, where do I even start with Lock Poker… If you don’t know, Lock Poker
is was a US-friendly poker room that operates to this day. It has had a pretty website and crisp software but there’s just one problem: Lock Poker hasn’t honored withdrawals for at least a year.
The entire Lock Poker saga is worth a page of its own, so let’s just summarize it and say that Lock Poker is widely regarded by the poker community as a Ponzi scheme. Lock Poker once had a dedicated representative named “imjustshane” posted up at the 2+2 poker forums. He served as the face of Lock Poker customer service for about two years at 2+2 and provides us with an example of poor customer support.
Imjustshane was insistent that things were running fine at Lock Poker and continually assured everyone that everything was fine until the day he suddenly departed. Even with dozens of 2+2ers pestering him to please just tell the truth, he insisted that all was well. Near the end of his time at 2+2, nearly every post he made was met with scorn and ridicule. This is an example of not doing customer service the right way.
His last post at 2+2 says it all:
Lock Poker serves as a perfect example of why you should care about customer support at any potential poker site. If you would have visited the Lock Poker website without doing any research, you would think everything was fine and dandy. But when you do a little digging on Google, you find a very different story.
Update: Lock Poker finally closed for good in April of 2015, still owing players millions of dollars’ worth of deposits. In all likelihood, those players will never see a dollar of their own money.
PokerStars: At the other end of the spectrum, we have PokerStars and the venerable Lee Jones. Mr. Jones worked as the cardroom manager of PokerStars between 2003 and 2007. He went off to do other things for a few years and then returned to PokerStars in 2012.
Over his time at PokerStars, Lee Jones has maintained an active presence on the 2+2 Poker forums. He is engaging, open, honest and generally regarded by all as a good guy. He represents the brand very well and is constantly praised for accepting criticism and suggestions from normal, everyday players. And best of all, he actually takes those criticisms to heart and responds to them with action. This is an example of customer service done right.
The difference between these two examples of poker customer support are night and day. Obviously, it helps being employed by a reputable organization. If you’re stuck working at Lock Poker, well, you don’t have many options other than promote the company line or join the unemployment line. But that doesn’t really matter – what matters is the customer support you get as a player. Top notch customer support in online poker is priceless.
What Does Good Customer Support Look Like?
The poker sites with the best customer support all have one thing in common: they don’t BS the players. This is the golden rule in customer support. Don’t give stupid answers that you know the customer won’t accept. I don’t know why so many companies (in all industries) insist on issuing lame platitudes that do nothing to placate the customer.
It doesn’t matter if your poker site has 24/7 phone support and 300 agents who can speak 48 different languages. If your support team has a habit of BSing customers, those 300 trilingual agents are worthless. I would rather deal with an honest poker site whose only means of contact are smoke signals than a dishonest poker site with 300 Harvard graduates answering the phone.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but I think you get the point. I do actually like to see useful contact methods and hours of availability.
- 24/7 Live Support: This is necessary when we poker players routinely have large sums of money stored online. In the case of emergencies, such as being hacked in the middle of the night, we need to have someone to talk to right now.
- E-Mail Support: E-mail is my preferred means of contact for non-emergency queries. It’s easier for someone like me to send off a quick e-mail while at work and have an answer waiting for me when I get home.
- Live Chat: Live chat comes in handy when you need quick answers but can’t speak out loud for whatever reason (maybe you’re at work or it’s 2 AM and the baby is finally asleep).
These are the main points of contact that any poker site worth your while should offer. Live support, e-mail support, honest answers and quick responses all combine to make for a positive experience for the player.