Lex Neva's thoughts blog of Lex Neva in Second Life

February 18, 2007

on screaming at customer service

Filed under: Reputation — lex @ 11:59 am

I ended up writing something in the forums just now that has been on my mind for awhile. You can find it in the SL forums, and I’ll also repost it here:

Talarus Luan wrote:

A lot of times, verbal abuse comes as a result of lack of communication. I’ve seen it before; lived it, even.

Basically, as a customer, when you ask nicely 100 times and get ignored, then switch tactics on the 101st time, and things start happening, you tend to stick with what works. As such, it is as much the Lindens’ fault as anyone’s for not having effective and consistent communication channels set up with the customer base. It is true with every other business in the world; why do game development (and, more generally, software development) companies think they can get away with it?

They need someone to communicate, and not just delegate communication to the lunchroom announcement board. Communication is a two-way street. They need to listen and respond to what they are hearing, directly. I would estimate that a large percentage of churn is a direct result of the lackadaisical communications policy that they have fully embraced in the last year.

I don’t think you can entirely pin this on the Lindens’ difficulties with communication. For one thing, you have to remember just how many residents there are, and how few lindens there are. If they really spent the time to read and acknowledge the huge body of text that’s directed their way in the forums, the blog, and on various blogs throughout the web, they wouldn’t have time to actually implement anything. Don’t get me wrong, I think maybe they could be doing a little better than they are now, but I’m realistic and know that they can’t have perfect one-on-one communication with everyone.

I think that a lot of the time, customers have unrealistic expectations about communication with a company, and customers of LL are no exception. Especially in my country (the US), it seems like people who are buying a service or product automatically feel like the company is evil and they have to fight tooth and nail to get heard. People seem to feel the need to go in swinging to get any kind of attention. Ask any customer service representative and you’ll know that no matter how reasonable you are, customers will always come in and be incredibly rude, when soft, persistent tones would be just as effective if not more.

We see that in these forums every single day. Customers come in here and scream their heads off, berating LL and telling them how horrible their service is (and yet, more often than not, not choosing to end their business relationship with LL). There seems to be a feeling that LL is completely ignoring us, which is not true. There’s an unrealistic expectation that every single thing we say or suggest, constructive or not, must be read and responded to by LL, no matter which dark corner of the forums we speak it in, and no matter how unclear and unconstructive our comments are.

It’s not constructive or efficient for LL to personally address everything we say about/toward them. It’s not even possible: for every single suggestion made, at least one other person will be vehemently opposed. For every feature that LL implements that a large part of the community celebrates as having been a long time coming, at least a handful of people will come out rabidly against it. It happens every single time. If LL listened to everyone’s feelings all of the time, they would be frozen in indecision and unable to take any action whatsoever.

Simply put, I’m saying that it’s never okay to be belligerent, rude, obnoxious, loud, and personally abusive in the course of business. We must never forget that we’re dealing with real, normal, everyday people when we do that. Most of the time, when a customer is belligerent, they’re being rude to someone who wasn’t really responsible for the decision that made them mad, and maybe can’t do much about it. Shouting at someone just makes them feel horrible inside, and hardens them against customers, which is exactly what we don’t want to have happen. If you wouldn’t treat your neighbor that way, you shouldn’t treat an employee of a company you’re doing business that way.

And if that means that you can’t manage to get your way, even with as much persistence, patience, and compassion for the people you speak to as you can bear, then it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing. It’s not worth making someone go home and feel horrible for the rest of the day just so that you can get your way. If the company is truly so horrible that you feel you need to scream at them to get what you want, then it’s not worth doing business with them. If it still is worth it to you to continue doing business with them, then you need to be calm and reasonable. In the case of LL, maybe it’s time to email Philip Linden. I’ve done it, and I even got a personal response.

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