Guardian GamesBlog spotted 15 ethnographies written by Trinity University students, exploring sociological issues in MMORPGs. One student determined that the majority of MMOG players are willing to tolerate bad customer service if the game itself is generally fun. This jives with my personal experience; if I had held World of Warcraft to normal levels of expectation for customer service, I would have quit the game within weeks. The vaguely “addictive” qualities of MMOGs surely have something to do with this — it’s hard to quit a game when you’ve invested so much effort into it (and have built so many relationships.)
Still, it is probably unsafe to assume that customer service will always be a negligible factor in player retention. Even if personalized customer service is hard to provide profitably, automated help systems have plenty of room for improvement. (Some commonly reported errors, like finding yourself physically stuck in-game, should never require human assistance.) A greater degree of faith in user honesty (re: complaints that require in-game restitution) is probably appropriate, too — at least in the absence of better automated help.
Not that the handy-dandy Customer Service 3000 isn’t doing a great job. *grin*