METAVERSE

Digital engagement services and the teams that engage customers and communities on a human level across online, e-commerce, in-game and social media channels.

Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

by Sanya Weathers

I love reading case studies. I wish I hadn’t signed so many NDAs over the course of my career so I could provide more ;)

For now, enjoy this link that came to me over Twitter yesterday. It’s from last August, but it’s pretty timeless stuff! http://mashable.com/2010/08/30/social-media-attacks-brand/

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

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Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

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Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

As the retention series winds to a close, and I look over months of columns, two themes have stood out to me. We’ll hit the other one next week for our conclusion. (Not to my blogging. Oh, no, you can’t escape me that easily. But this theme is played.)

This week’s theme is “the details let you know your customer.” Over the last 38 weeks, in nearly every column, I’ve tried to avoid generalities and provide details, or if possible step by step directions. Partly, that’s because I’ve been trying to use this column to give advice to startups, small businesses, and one-man bands out there who know they need community management, but hiring the manager is two rounds of funding away. Fluffy generalities wouldn’t serve you very well.

But it’s also because that’s what using community management to bolster retention is all about. We are the detail minders. We’re the ones who know what’s fun for our users. We’re the ones who know the users as people – what makes them happy, what annoys them, what they’ve got going on in their lives besides our shared interest in a product. We know how long it’s been since the biggest fansite got an interview, we know when the last in-game event was held, and we know exactly how much it will cost to ship a box of t-shirts to a player-run gathering in Kokomo, Indiana. We know the demographic information for our core customer – but we look for ways to increase retention in the other groups at the same time that we keep our primary group happy.

Knowing your customers is the key to retaining your customers, and to know them means quite a bit more than looking at aggregated data or pie charts. That stuff helps. Mainly what it helps with is planning and budgeting. No pie chart ever offered empathy. Knowing that your typical customer is a North American college student is useless – unless you take that information and avoid scheduling major releases during the final exam period or the first week of school.

The big picture is important. But your community manager sees a different big picture than you do, one that is far more textured, and one that allows for infinite drilling down to the needs of the customer. Meet those needs, and retention takes care of itself.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

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Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

Someone once asked me for my philosophy of community management. I said, “Treat customers as I want to be treated.” That’s it. No buzzwords, no B-school thesis assignments. It’s easy to remember on a crazy day when problems are flying overheard and splattering your desk, and it’s the one method that can be applied to every possible situation you might encounter.

The only requirement is basic human empathy.

This is, of course, trickier than it sounds. Empathy is not a skill emphasized by the internet, schools, the media, the entertainment industry, or pretty much anything a human being is likely to encounter. It cannot be taught by lecture or instructional pamphlet. Anyone with the rudiments of human empathy will have it eroded by the reality of front line customer service.

But it isn’t just customer service people who need training/refreshing in customer empathy. Designers need it. Decision makers need it. People who have been completely removed from reality by virtue of too much sycophantic behavior or too much money especially need it. Here are a few tips for introducing empathy to your staff:

-    Use the product as a customer. Go through account registration. Create a profile. Roll a character, do a quest, send friend requests, whatever. Do it outside your network, on a crappy internet connection, when you should be doing something else. Take note of the points where you get annoyed or bored.

-    Related: Use the product customer support as a customer from an account that isn’t marked as an internal account. Try the FAQs, the knowledge base, the human support. Take notes, but not names (unless it’s to recognize outstanding examples of awesome service). This isn’t a “gotcha” exercise for your team– this is about putting yourself in a customer’s shoes.

-    Call your own tech support line from a number the team won’t recognize. See how long you sit on hold. See how you’re spoken to when no one knows you’re Important. Feel for yourself the joys of being asked if your computer is plugged in. (Yes, this is a reasonable question if your target market is not technology-savvy. This is a stupid question to ask if you’re running a niche-market internet game requiring top of the line machines. Please don’t copy and paste tech support scripts that you find on the internet, except as a framework.) Have every member of tech support do this, both as empathy training for the callers and battle hardening for the staff. They say doctors make the worst patients… but nothing beats a tech support person calling tech support.

-    “If I were you.” Before responding to a customer, make sure the first thing in your head is a response that begins with “If I were you.” You don’t have to say it out loud, though you’ll often find that doing so helps, especially in emotionally fraught situations. But if you do no more than think it, you’ll find it gets you into the right frame of mind to solve a problem without being condescending or rude: “If I were you, I’d probably be pretty angry.” “If I were you, I’d be confused, because I wouldn’t have any way of knowing the background.” “If I were you, I’d be insulted.”

You need to make it personal for yourself in order to give personal service.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

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Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

It’s long been established that the best method of retaining customers is to form a relationship between the company and the customer. But a healthy relationship isn’t a one way street. Showering people with gifts builds a bond, all right, but it builds the kind of bond that can be snapped whenever someone else offers better gifts.

Another thing we know for certain about customer retention is that people who are invested in the product are more long term consumers. Generally, the investment is time. The more time poured into a character or profile, the more reluctant customers are to abandon the product. (Making it clear how much money has been poured into a product is counterproductive. Sometimes the sight of that bottom line figure shocks people right out of the computer chairs.)

Now, take the two concepts and combine them. A healthy relationship requires a two way street, and investment powers retentions, equals involving the customers.

Doing so productively requires nothing more than willingness on the part of the company to listen, and an employee to oversee the process. Enter the community manager!

Here’s the how to:

- Identify the problem you want to solve. This sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you’ve spelled out exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, your customers may end up wasting quite a bit of time trying to figure it out – or spending time barking up the wrong tree. That’s not the right way to start off.

-    Define the parameters of what you need to solve the problem. See above about barking up the wrong tree. The force that your customer base can exert is tremendous. Apply it in the right place.

- No tokens. Don’t waste your time or your customer base’s time by inventing fake problems to solve. They will know, for one thing. Customer involvement only works to build relationships if your need is legitimate and their help is necessary.

-    Promote the collaboration. Whether you’re trying to track down a bug, or get a lot of data on the value of 1H/s weapons, or decide on new items to build, or prioritize a feature set, you want as many participants as possible. You also need to avoid skewing the results by only hearing one sub-group’s feedback. Which bring me to:

-    No polls. Don’t bother using a poll to try and build involvement. They’re too easy to skew… and by that, I mean your skewing the poll when you write it, let alone what happens when a dedicated sub-group of users decides to campaign for one of the options. Forget it. Polls have their place, but not in this context.

-    Promote the results of the collaboration. Don’t forget to promote the results – if your users working together were finally able to help you isolate a bug, post that information along with the fix in your patch notes. Write press releases. Blog. Celebrate your new relationship!

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

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Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

It’s really, really easy to exceed customer expectations by doing one simple thing: Have the customer’s back. Customers want to feel like someone is on their side, and being on the customer’s side is the job of the community team.

There are really only two elements to this campaign:

Part One:  Set the expectations lower than the level you can consistently deliver.

We’ve discussed this at length on this blog. Briefly put, you analyze your own abilities and publicly state guidelines that you can handle. For example, correspondence: Will it take you a day to respond to emails? Tell people they’ll have a response within three business days. Will it take you more than that? Don’t promise a personal response at all.

Part Two: Find out what the typical expectation is and exceed it.

Okay, I can hear at least one of you saying “Thanks, Captain Obvious.” Here are some concrete examples:

-    If a fansite sends a Q&A, answer the questions in a timely manner – and throw in some exclusive screenshots.

-    If a customer asks a really good question, answer it – on the website, crediting the customer by name (after asking his permission to use his name, or asking how he wants to be credited).

-    If one of your own service providers goes above and beyond for you, thank them publicly – without requiring a reciprocal gesture or any hint of a quid pro quo.

-    If you send a form letter, add a personal PS to the bottom of the letters to your best customers and community leaders.

-    If the customer has a problem you can’t solve, surprise him by not making him repeat the story to the customer service department. Instead, have the person who contacts the customer (that’s right, don’t make the customer call and fight his way through the phone tree) repeat the story as you communicated it, and ask the customer for clarification.

-    If you couldn’t solve the problem, you can still be the one who follows up to make sure the problem was solved.

A good community manager is the champion of the customer, not a mouthpiece or a moderator. You can exceed expectations just by being that champion.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

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Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

Of course it had to happen. Today’s Music Monday set will be a nice mix of modern Christmas tracks for your listening pleasure (for those of you who are tired out on Bing Crosby). Wish you all a very Happy Holidays.

Featuring Christmas tracks from:

And many more… tune in!

Open [this link] that will download a .pls file. Open the .pls file to automatically start the stream in your default music player. Or, if you prefer, plug the following URL directly into iTunes under “Open Audio Stream” : http://91.121.119.152:16642/

Feel free to tweet requests @ChaseStraight or @Metav3rse. Streaming until 5:00pm EST or so.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

Read More

Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

In writing this series on retention, I have often felt the urge to apologize for not being able to give you an instant answer to the question of retention. There aren’t really very many shortcuts, and there are no vials of magic retention potions. Sure, there are lots of things an experienced community person can do, lots of campaigns and processes that will make an immediate difference, but there’s no substitute for nailing the basics.

One of those basics is value. Are you offering your customers good value for the money? And do they know it?

Being able to compete on price is not the same thing as having the lowest priced product in your niche. Being the best value isn’t about the sheer number of features you offer. There are entire books on value, but briefly: Know your audience. Know what features are high priorities for that audience. Clearly explain what you will offer, and follow through. If no one else is offering what you offer, you can charge whatever your target audience can afford to pay. If other people are offering the same thing, you have three options – one, alter your product until you’re unique, two, charge less than the competition, or three, execute better than the competition.

As important as offering value is communicating that value to customers. It’s not that a tree falling alone in a forest doesn’t make a sound, it’s that nobody gives a damn.

For example, many readers balk at paying more for an e-book when the paperback is almost the same price. I myself was just nerdraging that a fascinating book about the Mutiny on the Bounty was available in paperback for three bucks, but getting it on my Kindle would be FOURTEEN. Seriously, WTH? But discrepancies like that aside, the fact is that the paper is not even the main cost of producing a book. Your basic paperback, found on the rack in a supermarket, didn’t cost much in ink or dead trees. The publisher paid bulk prices for the raw materials.

What publishers have failed to get across to readers is that the value of the book came from intangibles – the writing, the editing, the formatting, the marketing and distribution. Hundreds of hours of work went into the book, and everyone in that chain needs to get paid. The price of the physical object is a relatively tiny percentage of the price.

Those of us operating in the virtual realm need to express the same things. What do you offer in addition to the visible product that has value? What are you doing on behalf of customers behind the scenes that adds value to the product? What unseen elements are you spending your money on? If your customer can’t see it, it doesn’t count.

So tell me your customer service pit is manned 24/7, and show me pictures. Introduce me to the full time QA team, and show me the process running from bug report to patch. Talk about the backgrounds of your superstar writers and artists. But don’t talk about free donut day, unless you’re planning to bring me one.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

Read More

Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

Things happen. Systems fail, expectations are not met, and sometimes accidents strike out of the blue. Whatever the cause, you’ll eventually have to deal with angry customers. As with everything else in the community sphere, you can plan ahead and have a process in place for how you’re going to handle it. Here are a few tips:

Create the lightning rod yourself: Make the post, create the Twitter hashtag, say something on Facebook. If you don’t, someone else will, but using their choice of words/focus. Think of it as a lightning rod on a tall building. Lightning is going to hit your building. But you can choose where it hits and whether or not it burns down your structure.

Consolidate and direct. Forums: With hot issues currently causing distress for your customers, create the thread for commenting. Merge all user-created threads into your official one, or lock new ones with the explanation that the topic is in progress. Customer service: Add the topic to your phone menu (i.e., press 2 if you are calling about Topic A). Make the topic the top issue on your FAQ. Make a hotlink on your website. No matter what channel we’re talking about, directing the frustration into clear paths will keep your customer service and social media channels from being utterly overtaken.

Keep your perspective. There’s a difference between irritated, justifiably angry, and abusive. If you crack down on every little complaint, you won’t accomplish anything. Also, you’ll need a much larger staff in order to keep up with it all. Who wants to spend money trying to empty the ocean with a bucket? Save your banning energy for abusive behavior. Talk to the angry people.

How do you tell the difference? That’s usually a judgment call, frankly, and requires each person to decide “is this the hill I want to die on?” But the general rule of thumb is that if the customer is making a threat of violence (whether or not he has any intent of following through), it’s abusive. Personal remarks are abusive. Delete/refuse to respond, because a response to either will only escalate the situation.

Do not attempt to transfer blame. Do not post long explanations while the problem is acute. If the problem occurred within the context of your customer’s interaction with your product or service, it is your fault. Don’t waste your time talking about third party service providers, or breakdowns in communication, or whatever, until the problem is resolved. No cheating with the “So and so did it, but I accept the responsibility” either. It is your fault. The end. Hand out the refunds, fix the sprocket, roll back the servers, whatever. Then talk about what went wrong in whatever exhausting detail you want. The hubbub will be less and the audience more receptive if you solve the problem and then explain.

Listen, apologize, offer options. It’s a three step process:

* Step one: Angry people want to be heard, first and foremost. So listen. If in person, don’t interrupt except to ask clarifying questions for your own records. If online, don’t immediately respond to a post with paragraphs of explanation. Just listen.

* Step two: Apologize. Even if it’s not your fault or problem, apologize, and then specify how much time you need to solve the problem/fetch someone senior/get more information.  (Because you set up your emergency plans in advance, you already know who to call for each type of crisis, right?)

* Step three: The thing that makes people the most angry is the feeling that they have lost control. To make angry people happy, you need to give them something they can control. So offer them options – “would you like a refund, or free play time?” “Do you want this virtual item now, or in-game currency next week?” Choice is power. By giving your customer a choice, you’re giving them back the control they lost.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

Read More

Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

by Sanya Weathers

If you need to apologize, make sure the person who writes the apology is actually sorry. Have that person say so simply, in short, heartfelt words.

An apology where the writer doesn’t think that anything bad really happened, or is more concerned with liability than with anything else, is an apology that will make a bad situation worse.

If in spite of your best efforts, you find your apology containing phrases such as “I am sorry if anyone took offense,” your writer did it wrong.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

Read More

Your world. Your story. Our people.

We do that

By Sanya Weathers

You may have experienced this scenario – you’re on a free trial, or a limited use trial, or you enjoyed your free sample of something. However you got to the provider/seller, you are now ready to release the credit card hounds. You are, in short, ready to switch from being a parasite into a full-fledged customer.

And then you discover the company didn’t want your money.

You know what separates mass market pleasers from the niche groups? The big dogs made it easy for you to give them money.

Here’s some helpful advice on making it easy:

-    If the method of payment is popular with your target audience, offer it when you open your doors. Got a family game? I know a lot of parents who use their Discover cards whenever possible because they’re saving miles/points for special vacations. Make ‘em happy, add Discover to your list of acceptable cards. Do your users like Paypal? Offer it. Are you going after a group that likes time cards? Stop making excuses and offer them for sale, at least through your own website.

-    Don’t stand between the customer and the purchase button. Do not pop up other offers. Do not redirect the user. Do not try to upsell anything. Once the customer has pressed the “checkout” button, do not put up any obstacles. Keep it about that transaction, and let your “continue shopping” button speak for itself.

-    Browser compatibility. Test your billing/checkout programs with as many browsers as you can. If there is a browser (or a popular plug in, like NoScript) that will render your checkout process invalid, say so up front. (I.e., “Chrome users, please try another browser – we like Firefox!” or “NoScript users, please allow our page.”) Once someone has typed in his name, address, password, billing address, code phrase, shipping option, credit card number, mother’s maiden name, expiration date, and unchecked the newsletter button… he’s not going to want to do it a second time unless you’re selling something he can’t live without. Are you willing to bet your business on being that indispensible?

-    Don’t reinvent the wheel. Go to the market leader in your niche. See how they take money. Now copy it. There are all kinds of features that should be standard. If you require users to have an account, then your forms should autopopulate with the data you have for them once they’re signed in. If you’re selling a physical product, there should be a checkbox that says “shipping address same as billing address?” There should be a newsletter button – and a note saying that subscribers get discounts and freebies.

Because subscribers get discounts and freebies, right?

-    Error messages that tell the user something. If the card is declined, don’t flash up “ERROR 273.” Say the card was declined. If the user will be double charged if he presses the buy button while the system is processing, say so. If you’re not careful with your messaging, you’ll make quite a bit of work for your customer support staff. Speaking of:

-    You need customer support if you’re going to be taking money. Once money is part of the process, customers become remarkably invested in your product and in good outcomes. Every billing page needs to offer the user some method of contacting you should there be a problem.

The entire billing process is your first retention opportunity. Customers quite rightly realize that if you’ve messed up the billing process (an area where you have a lot of motivation to get it right), you might not have polished the other parts of your product or service.

Metaverse: Your Squad for the Digital World.

The latest happenings at metaverse

From the Blog

Have you changed your passwords yet?

04/18/2014 | Posted in Customer ServiceMusingsPrivacy and SecuritySocial MediaTechnology

I hate passwords. Over the last decade my digital presence has grown in importance year after year. I work online, I shop online, I do my banking online, I play games online, and I communicate with friends and family online. Just about …

Read More