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A Process For Dealing With Complaints

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Members might complain about a feature that they continue to use (a lot!).

Members might request a feature they never use.

Members might threaten to quit, yet continue to be the most active members.

Members might complain against the removal of a thread, even when the removal benefits the entire community.

Members might complain about other members, but continues to interact with them.

This presents a huge dilemma. Do you react to what members say? Do you react to what they do? Do you ignore the complaints?

There is a huge gap between what members say and what they do. We need to get better at understanding the difference. There is an even bigger gap between the vocal minority and the happy majority.

The danger here is managing a community according to the whims of the vocal few as opposed to using a proper process. A change to suit the minority could hurt the happy majority.

Worse, you can spend a lot of time trying to please members that will never be happy. Far too much attention is paid to trying to make unhappy members happy. That doesn’t happen too often. It’s certainly not an effective use of your time.

So we need to use a process. Your process might vary, but it might be one of the following.

1) Verify a complaint. Is there any data that supports the complaint? Has growth slowed, activity declined, or the sense of community dissipated? If you can’t track this, then track if other members are complaining about it. What do other members think? Anecdotal evidence isn’t great, but it’s better than no evidence.

2) Develop a criteria. If you have {x} complaints within {x} days, or a growing trend in increasing complaints over time, it might be worth addressing the issue. In addition, determine if it’s the same members complaining about different things (in which case ask the member to leave, this community isn’t right for them), or different members complaining about the same issue.

The goal is always to do what’s best for the community, not what’s best for the person making the complaint.

Complaints can be useful indicators of what might be wrong, but you need to verify that. Complaints can also indicate you have some members your community probably doesn’t need/want. Don’t automatically assume the member is right, it might simply not be the right community for them.

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