Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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The Return of Miss Metaverse Manners: How to Get a Stubborn Second Life Customer to Just Sit Down and Listen

Iris Ophelia Miss Metaverse Manners

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing take on etiquette & ethics in virtual spaces

Although the Miss Metaverse Manners feature isn't one I do regularly anymore, every now and then an issue comes up that simply needs to be addressed. I received a comment on one of my older MMM posts and, like a superhero emerging from the shadows when a citizen is in danger, I knew it was time for Miss Metaverse Manners to reappear and save the day.

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.

                                                        - Lorelei

Well first of all, I want to commend you for keeping your cool for as long as you have, and for even offering customization in the first place. It can be a whole kettle of fish that many designers won't or can't accommodate, so good for you for sticking with it. Hopefully this experience hasn't soured you on this kind of customer service.

Now, to the heart of the issue. The first thing you really need to determine is if this tricky customer actally speaks English fluently or not. That's a pretty significant obstacle for them to overcome, depending on how detailed your intructions are. You can usually get a pretty clear idea of this by talking to someone and checking out their profile rather than asking outright, which some people will take offense to. If you suspect that they might be struggling with the language side of things, the best thing to do is ask if you can help by arranging for a bilingual 3rd party to facilitate communication between you both. Google Translate can only do so much. There's still a risk this might offend them, and finding an intermediary isn't always easy, but it's a good way to resolve things.

If you're fairly sure that this is isn't a case of a language barrier blocking the dialogue, then you need to take a slightly different approach. You've been very patient with this person, so it's time to be a little more strict. Still polite, of course, but the goal is to make your instructions as clear as possible, and be firm when they stray from them. Prepare a notecard with very explicit and personalized instructions, first on how they should be contacting you for optimal service, and second on what they need to contact you with. I know this may seem like information you already have out there, but putting it all in one place and condensing it so it's as straightforward as possible is crucial. Break everything up into steps, with no step being longer than a couple lines. The more it feels like a checklist, the better, because it will be that much easier to follow compared to a wall of text that many people have difficulty digesting. You don't want to seem irritated or condescending either, so it might help to think of it like a recipe you're writing out for a friend or a grocery list for a roommate. Be clear, and be concise.

Send this notecard to them the next time they contact you, and if they fail to follow the steps, just point them back towards it. Make it clear that you do want to help them, but they also need to help you. Emphasize that following these instructions is important for your workflow, and that that needs to be respected for any collaboration (or progress) to occur.

This approach won't work for every stubborn case. At the end of the day, not every customer interaction can go smoothly. Sometimes there will be misunderstandings, even when you do everything in your power to clear them up. Beyond that, some people are just plain entitled, and that's well beyond your control. If all else fails, you might just have to accept an unhappy customer and move on.

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, 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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Nalates

Include the concept in your thinking that this person may be trolling you. If they are, it is important you remain polite. Once they learn how to push your buttons, they likely will try to push them as much as they can.

Be careful drawing that conclusion but when made at some point, refund their money, say thanks and sorry but bye, and then block them.

Orca Flotta

If she insists on contacting you via IM, why don't you just copy/paste your notecard and send it as IM reply?

Then see what happens ;) I mean the ball is clearly on her side now so the next action must be taken by her. She must give you the info you need, she must! Else sorry, no deal.

Samadhi Quandry

the article makes good suggestions, if none of that worked, i would die.
i would return their money and say they need to go back to elementary school, and then I would give them a landmark to one of those school roleplay sims...

Lorelei

Hi! Thank you Iris for taking the time to look into my problem. I didn't expect it to become a post, but I really appreciate the suggestions!

From what I can tell from the person's profile, language doesn't seem to be a problem. I already started to get strict in my replies (it was either be strict or be not so nice) but I will definitely try putting everything into short and simple steps. I really do want to help, but first this person has to help me! Hopefully, this will all work out soon.

By the way, I won't do it, but I love Orca's idea of putting everything into an IM - it's like, you like IM's, here are lots and lots of IM's for you!! Ha ha ha! :P

Lorelei

Hi Iris! Just thought I'd let you know the outcome of this problem. After giving this difficult customer some shorter simpler steps to take, the person finally sent in the info I needed to do custom color for the item they purchased (still all in IM's though ugh!!) . Glad got it all finally finished and good riddance to the person... but it would have been nice to at least get a "Thank you" from the person (but I guess that's just really too much to hope for). Thanks again for looking into my problem and for all your great suggestions! :) I'll keep this page bookmarked so I'll be prepared for any other difficult customers in the future. (Cross my fingers that no one will be as difficult as this one!)

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