Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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Miss Metaverse Manners Rants: How to Contact a Second Life Content Creator (Without Being a Jerk)

SL Fashionista Postage
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

So you just bought a fabulous new pair of Second Life shoes... But the left one is the wrong color. WTF. Thankfully it's easy to contact a content creator in SL: Just open an IM window and MESSAGE THEM IN ALL CAPS, right?

That might sound crazy, but a lot of content creators tell me that's exactly how a lot of people contact them, and they've shared horror stories about rude or oblivious customers with me for years. There's a lot of unspoken etiquette that goes along with contacting anyone in SL -- ignorance of this etiquette is a huge grind on a virtual economy where content creators often make just a few pennies on each sale, causing them to wonder if all this rudeness from entitled customers (which I've covered before) is worth their time. So let's limit future damage with a few questions to ask yourself before you hit 'Send':

Who are you?

Do they know who you are? Have you spoken before? Be brutally honest with yourself, particularly if you're a blogger -- stow your ego and operate on the assumption that designers have no idea who you are, because many of them won't. Don't approach them acting like it's a treat for them to speak to you... And for the love of god don't hand out unsolicited applications to sponsor or be blogged by you, it makes you look like a joke.

Who are you contacting?

Read someones Profile carefully before you contact them. Many designers use alts to upload and assemble products, or have CSRs to specifically handle inquiries for them, so IMing the wrong person will be a guaranteed dead end. Likewise using the wrong method means your message has a high chance of getting lost in the shuffle. Most content creators should have a section somewhere in their Profile about who to contact and how to do so: Some prefer IMs, some want notecards, some even want private Plurks, emails, or web forms sent instead. Always follow any special instructions provided, they're there for a reason!

How important is this issue, really?

Don't waste your time (never mind theirs) contacting people over non-issues. Stop and ask yourself how you would respond if someone approached you with the same issue. If there's a problem with a product then you should absolutely contact them.... but if there's a minor typo in the Read Me? Use your best judgement.

Do you need that review copy, really?

This is just for bloggers: Blogging virtual fashion is generally not a profitable hobby. As with modelling you will usually spend more than you earn, and review copies are one way to balance that but they are not guaranteed. Many designers are happy to provide them while others won't (check their Profile first, since many will mention exactly what their policy for review copies is,) so you should never ever feel entitled to one. And to be frank, if the item is under L$150, you probably shouldn't even ask. It's incredibly insulting to approach a designer and essentially say that their work is not worth an actual dime to you.

Everyone is different, but in my case I only request review copies for items that a) are around or above L$1000 and b) I likely wouldn't have bought for myself if I wasn't planning to write about them. When I approach a designer for a review copy, I always outline exactly what I'm planning to do with it, especially for popular products that high-profile bloggers have already written about. Obviously I can't say whether I'll have praise or criticism, but I can say the angle and approach I want to take that will set my review apart from others. This demonstrates a genuine interest in the brand/product and thoughtfulness as a writer in a way that a recycled and formulaic review copy request doesn't, so they're less likely to get the impression that you want to milk them like a cow for their products. If you don't have that information in your mind before you contact them (or can't be bothered,) you likely don't need to review the item at all.

Are you submitting a complaint?

Do you have the SL Marketplace open? Good. Close it, and contact the designer through SL first. It's not that you shouldn't give an honest review on the Marketplace after you've bought something, it's more that you're more likely to get a response and a resolution by politely contacting the designer first. After all, you're dealing with a person, not a massive faceless organization. You won't always get a satisfying solution so you may need to leave that negative review anyway (and yeah some creators can be jerks about these sorts of things) but you'll never know unless you try.

The other thing is... How to say this delicately... The problem you have might be totally ridiculous? You might be complaining that a suit doesn't come with shoes, when it never claimed to come with shoes and most people wouldn't even expect it to. True story. (Edit: As Siddean mentioned in the comments, make sure that you've read the instructions, too!) A ridiculous review on the SL Marketplace will hurt their business and make you look like a moron in one deft stroke of the enter key.

Are you making a request?

Most designers these days don't do custom work, and those that do will usually outline it in their profiles. I cannot overemphasize the importance of reading someone's Profile before you contact them, in almost every scenario. You can always ask, but be prepared to hear (and accept) a no. Many designers are happy to receive requests or suggestions for future work or variations of past work anyway, but once again you should be prepared to gracefully accept rejection. Maybe they don't have time, maybe your suggestion doesn't suit their own style, whatever -- Don't take it personally, and don't nag them about it.

Are you thanking them or complimenting them?

Do it! Please! You will probably make their day. This goes for just about anyone.... But only if you really mean it. Drop them a notecard or send them a little IM or PP. Don't drag it out or contact them over and over again for a response because then it will feel a little less flattering and a lot more creepy. Consider it like an admirer's note slipped into a locker: One note is sweet, five notes is stalking.

Just remember that a compliment is not a means to earn someone's friendship or get close to a content creator for perks. Don't be an asshole. Most people have a good sense of when you're just using them for the benefits.

What kind of answer are you expecting?

Even if you're mad, phrase whatever you're saying in the tone you would like to receive a reply in. If you spray abuse at someone you should expect to get exactly that in return. Yeah some people will respond poorly to certain things no matter what, but that's no reason to draw your gun before you're even in the saloon, cowboy.

If someone doesn't reply immediately it's probably not because they hate you, or because they're a bad person. I try to give someone until the end of the next weekend to respond to something I've sent before sending a follow up to make sure they recieved it. If it's urgent give them a couple days at least -- Remember that everyone has lives and moods and schedules to follow and errands to run, just like you do.

In summary, folks: be thoughtful, be understanding, be patient... And always read their Profile first!

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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Pussycat Catnap

I usually use an IM and a note card, with the same basic info:

Hello, I just bought you widget at SLURL, and its dodad seems to have an issue with XYZ.

Here is my transaction info:

(paste in some lines from my account transaction log, or the dreaded MP order history if I had bought it there).

If I've got a folder with a bunch of items from them, I tell them exactly which filename I'm thinking has an issue, what I did to get that issue, what I did to make sure it wasn't me ("I cleared my cache, relogged, etc, but the problem was still there") - and maybe even a similar item in the same order that worked right ("The one for my right foot looks right, and the other two sizes for the left foot look good, seems to just be the one file").

- IM that, and then put it into a notecard as well.

Details, and being nice. The two keys to success.

Almost every single time, because I make sure it wasn't me, and I play nice and give details, they end up thanking me (usually it ends up something like the 17th file in a fatpack had the wrong texture, and I've just saved them a world of future headaches by alerting them before too many folks had bought it) and I end up wanting to recommend them.

Granted it doesn't happen very often, because MORE OFTEN in testing to make sure it isn't me, I find out it was, and fix the issue myself... :D

Dani Riaxik

Thanks Iris for writing this, its sad to say it but more people truly need to read this and follow the steps you listed. Pussycat thanks for the regurgitation of what was already stated in the article.

SiddeanM

I would like to add - Have you read the instructions? Many products have detailed, well thought out and simple instructions included in the notecards, and we don't write them for fun. They are time savers for customers and creators. The time we have to spend spoon-feeding instructions to people who haven't read the instructions or watched the tutorials is time we're not spending making new products.

Pierre Ceriano

Very good introduction to a customer service indeed ! This article is linked to my ingame profile for sure :)

Warm regards
Pierre Ceriano

AmyNevilly Resident

We have to run a huge amount of customer service in SecondAds. We even have our own customer service ticket system:

http://www.secondads.com/helpdesk/

I have seen every type of customer imaginable really in sl. I think the best strategy is to remain polite at all times with customer service staff. Tell them how important it is to you and emphasise that you acted in good faith.

Please don't threaten content creators ever, as usually they are just trying to do the right thing while working under a lot of pressure!

Sans

Good post, but I have to say, if they want me to go to Plurk or outside of SL to resolve the issue I get kind of meh about it and drop it. My loss, I won't buy from them again. If you do business in SL, you should resolve customer service issues IN SL, not making your customers sign up for a whole other platform to communicate with you.

cube republic

Manners make a man or woman ::)

Ayesha Lytton

Thanks so much for posting this! Of course most of the people who most need to read it won't, but perhaps a few will.

I have a couple more tips to add.

When contacting someone about a business matter, get to the point in your first IM. Don't IM and say "Hi", "R U there?" or "I have a question." Say "Hi, I'm contacting you regarding Product X, I'm having a problem with Y, can you please assist me?" I don't have time to play 20 questions with you, just tell me what you want and I'll take care of it or direct you to the appropriate person.

Don't send teleports or friendship offers without asking first. (Why do people send a friend request before even IMing someone? I get that constantly and it drives me crazy). Creators don't need to friend you to help you. Many business owners keep their contact list small to minimize distractions; although my list is large, I don't friend strangers, I get enough random TPs and club spam as it is.

Lutricia Roux

Very good post, seem so many forget common curtesy somewhere on the process login path :)

Lorelei

Hi Iris, I have a question and would like your opinion on what to do. Hope it's ok to ask here, didn't find a ask page.
So I sell some items that I custom color match to people's outfits. When they buy the item it gives them a simple form that explains how to show me the color they want, either take a pic or a link to something online and how to find their transaction info showing when they bought my item. Also, my profile asks for notecards cuz IM's almost always cap. So far no one has ever had a problem and even thanked me for the special custom color service.
But there's this one customer that just will not read directions! IM'ing me like crazy (even when I ask to please send notecards) and sending random IM's asking for customizing more than matching the color, claiming to have bought the item when it was refunded 2 times, when it finally worked then losing the form 2 times (how do you lose a notecard form??). I keep trying to answer politely and resending forms, but it's been 5 days now and this customer just won't read any directions and we're getting nowhere! I don't know how much longer I can be polite anymore. Obviously all my polite words are just not getting through! There are so many rude words that pop into my head whenever I see this person's IM's pop up when I log on, I just want to bang my head on the keyboard and yell at this person to read the darn directions already! Please some advice on what to do? Anyone? At wits end here.

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