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Make or Break Yourself

How you react to adverse situations is what makes or breaks your business, not the fact that you had one in the first place.

How you react to adverse situations is what makes or breaks your business, not the fact that you had one in the first place.

Taylor Swift recently penned an open letter to Apple Music. To Apple, Love Taylor lets us all in on a fact of the new Apple Music (their streaming service, coming soon for free for 3 months) that a lot of us didn’t know.

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

Three months where we get free music is great, but the cost of that free music was astronomical. As Taylor points out, it doesn’t hurt her, she has money. But the indie people will be terribly hurt by this, to the point that many of my indie friends pulled out of the trial too.

Apple kowtowed in under 24 hours from that post. Eddie Cue (who’s the Apple mogul in charge of this project) replied on Twitter:

I see a lot of people take criticism in some pretty appalling ways. I’ve been threatened with legal action for not deleting a one-star review of a plugin on WordPress.org. I’ve been vilified, called a Nazi or worse, and had my reputation blasted because I stood up for a user who didn’t like a product and left a bad review. I get insulted daily because I tell people “If someone misunderstood what your documentation said, you need to review your docs and consider updating them.”

I’m glad I have a thick skin, because some days the things people say and accuse me of would make me cry. Sometimes they do, and those are the days I walk away and let someone else handle that person, or just take a break.

In general, I believe in the inherent capability of goodness in humanity. I assume good faith. I presume that people who are leaving reviews aren’t generally doing it to attack me personally, but because they’re having a terrible day. Maybe they’re having the worst day of their life. And I, as an experienced support tech, know that they’re pretty much always going to be irrational.

That’s the thing. People aren’t usually intentionally misleading, nor do they plan to make my life miserable. They’re having a bad day and it’s perceived to be my fault, so I’m sorry, but let me try to understand things better. How I reply to them depends on how they come to me with their issues, though. If they say ‘it’s broken!” (a common complaint, right?), I tell them I’m sorry and ask them if they can explain what, exactly, is broken. I may spend time clarifying with them “Do you mean X?” and I may ask “Why are you trying to do Y?” so I can understand the big picture.

And then… those people who come at me and say “This person is lying and gave me a bad review!” I’m often inclined to side with the users, since a bad review is something that makes people overreact. But that doesn’t mean I dismiss the complaint out of hand. I check if the reviewer is a fake account (we have ways), and I check their history and their information and validate they’re real people before I reply. If they’re fake, I remove the reviews. If they’re not, I leave them be.

Leaving them be is where most (if not all) of the hate comes from. You see, leaving them be is hurting businesses and ruining reputations.

No. No they’re not.

What ruins your reputation is how you reply to them. If you accuse them of being spammers or harassers, you make yourself look bad. If you lay into them because you disagree with their review, you make a fool of yourself. A review is a ‘how I feel’ from a user, and even though you may not agree with their conclusions, that doesn’t make their experience invalid. It means there was a breakdown in communication somewhere between you and them.

This is why I tell people to check their documentation. If they’re getting a lot of bad reviews that are plain wrong, and they’re wasting a lot of time talking to people and correcting them, then the issue has to be, in part, the information they’ve presented up front. If its not there, add it. If it’s there, point them to it. “Actually I answered this in the FAQ where it says this plugin is Multisite only.” True story, I have to use that a lot.

But when that question comes up time and again, I may ask “The FAQ covers this here LINK. Do you think there’s a better place I can put that? Where were you looking so I can make it more obvious for the next guy?”

Maybe they never reply and fix that one-star review, but when people go and look at the reviews and see a one-star, and read it, they’ll see my mature, reasonable, honest reply. And that will do far more for my reputation than anything else.

3 replies on “Make or Break Yourself”

It is my belief that great support is what makes or breaks an OK plugin, really (a great plugin might be able to do with OK support).

When I get a bad review (and who doesn’t, now and again) I try to understand (or ask) what went wrong and will explain users how to fix things (one of my plugins can require extensive configuration to get thing going). This regularly results in the bad review becoming a good one actually.

The wordpress.org plugin FAQ sections can be a great tool. I tend to update that regularly based on feedback and point users to it if a question is asked that is answered there. My only gripe; there is (as far as I know) no support for anchors in wordpress.org’s markdown-implementation, meaning that one can’t link to a specific question in the FAQ.

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