Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Handle The Mundane in Online Community's Customer Support

You've got your Online Community up and running and it's going well...until the complaints start pouring in. You've got FAQs up for how to get login assistance and what to do if a password won't work..but what on earth are you supposed to do when two people just don'e seem to get along? Or how do you handle complaints that a poster's question aren't getting answers...or that someone else is being mean to them?

As anyone who has worked in customer support can tell you - the bulk of customer support is telling people answers to questions that have clear answers already written and functioning as playground supervisors.

So how do you handle the mundane in online community customer support?

First, craft rules that state plainly and simply what types of conflicts the site administration is willing to become involved in. These will have to take into account the ages of the user base, the purpose for which the site was created and miscellany abuses of the system that can occur.

Secondly, give your admins tools to make and enforce rulings, and support for those decisions. When someone on the frontline identifies an abusive personality, telling them they "have to work around them, because they are a sponsor" is the worst possible thing for the community.

Thirdly, provide a clear and concise method for complaints. "If someone is abusing/offending you on our site, do this:"  Then follow up. Quickly. Don't dither. Investigate the claims, make a decision, communicate it. Make sure that admins are audited themselves, so their bad decisions don't ruin the site. (This has happened at many of the communities I've been part of.)

Give users block/ignore/mute tools to users so they can control what and who they see. (I don't know why sites so often forget this. When a person is a troll, but a user can still see their comments, it's like a continuing slap to the face.)

Actually investigate issues. Don't write them off as "mundane complaints." It's annoying, yes, and you feel like a kindergarten teacher, yes. That's site adminning and moderation. If you have something else that needs your time, hire an admin to do the dirty work. Make the process transparent. There may well be a very irksome person serially taunting and just being a jerk. Get rid of them....quickly.  Because:

Make unpopular decisions. Be the grown-up. "You - you - to opposite corners!" It's annoying, but what on earth do you think humans are? ^_^ We're annoying. If a teacher doesn't make the bad kid leave the room, it will ruin playtime for all the other kids,

With every new wave of subscribers, you'll need to circle to the top of the list. You can never be perfect, or be everything to everyone, but with clear guidelines, and support tools, you'll be able to handle things more consistently than if you just toss your moderation out to the wolves with "block" and no rules. 

Project Wonderful