The Inside Voice of Every Community Manager…

… Became the outside voice for Tseric. I’m not sure whether he is “the” community manager or one of the reps for World of Warcraft, but it doesn’t really matter–he’s an official voice of Blizzard. If you don’t know what happened, he basically snapped at players for a dozen or so posts stating things that have gone through the mind of every community relations person ever (and any developer who has ever visited forums regularly). I mostly agree with what he is saying, even though he probably shouldn’t have said it out loud to his community. There is a lot of noise to the signal on forums, and negativity can really run rampant if not monitored and controlled. Links to his posts and a little more commentary beyond the fold…

That’s no excuse to blow up on players, of course, but it is a great excuse to ban people who are harming your community. I’ve always had a ban first, don’t ask questions ever policy. There are some posters who will slip out of line just a little bit and deserve a warning or a short suspension, but you can generally tell on the first offense when someone will negatively impact the community. They are your forums for your game, so get rid of the problem children. Forums are a free service that are not part of the game subscription–they are a privilege, not a right. So yes, I agree that some people can really be bad for a community, and I agree that it totally sucks having to deal with certain aspects of game communities sometimes.

All that said, I won’t go off on players like that, not because I’ve developed thick skin, but because I realized something: Most of the time, players are freaking out about your game because they care passionately for it. Playing your game is one of their favorite things to do, and they are just trying to reach out to someone to help make their experience better from their point of view. And then there are trolls who thrive on conflict, and they don’t belong in your community. Get rid of them.

Here are the posts for those interested. Keep in mind that Tseric was probably pushed over the line not just by players but by the undying RL beast, and send him some pie or something to help him gather his wits. Believe it or not, community managers are human, and really do like pie.

Sure he went overboard a time or two, but I applaud him for speaking his mind even if I wouldn’t advocate or condone it in a business environment. So “bad” *slap* for actually doing it and *cheer* for this being archived somewhere for people to see what goes through every community person’s mind, at least until they start realizing a thing or two about why players are doing it and that they are actually people even with the anonymity of a forum avatar.

28 Responses to "The Inside Voice of Every Community Manager…"

  1. Wow, that cracked me up…..holy moly hilarity.

  2. Wow… I’m curious if there will be an official comment on this.

  3. Steve

    “they are a right, not a privilege”

    Should this be the other way around?

  4. I see nothing wrong with his comments.
    Thick skin. Take a look at today and there halo 3 beta forum. People crying for a class action lawsuit because a Beta version was not released on time.

  5. laethyn

    Here’s how I see it:

    poo-poo on him for continueing on. I don’t know if they get paid to do that over there, and frankly, I really don’t care, but it’s still a “job”. Volunteer or not, a job is a job. That should be kept in mind at all times.

    poo-poo on Blizzard for not stopping that nonsense before then. Another CM should have stepped in and done something, as the primary CM involved obviously was being drawn in.

    poo-poo on the players for drawing in a CM like that. Volunteer or not, it’s a thankless task. Even doubly so if it is a volunteer gig. You are giving your time and energy, and far to rarely are you ever thanked.

    Kudos to him, but he chose the wrong avenue to make those types of comments.

    Side note: I completely disagree with his comment that it’s not about A customer, but about customerS. When dealing with customers like that, one of the best tools you can use to make them happy is make them feel that they are your ONLY customer. That without them, you are nothing. Makes ‘em feel all warm and fuzzy or some such. :)

  6. Any customer who illicits such a response from Tseric, is probably too expensive to keep around, just kill their account and be done with them. One of the first positive things I can say about Blizzard in a while is, “Good management decision, giving the CM the freedom to acutally M the C.”

  7. laethyn

    IMO, you’ve also got to be careful with that type of thinking.

    “Too expensive to keep around..” can be a very dangerous thing. A single person, and their public interaction with someone who is the “face” of the company, can cause a ripple effect throughout the community.

    That single person may have influence over dozens, or hundreds, of other players. And a negative public interaction with a moderator can put “the bug” in other peoples minds that perhaps they could be on the receiving end of a lashing, whether it’s warranted or not.

    I’m not condoning the board members here, nor the CM, as I am well aware that there is a fine line that needs to be walked between enforcing the rules, and coming across like a power-mad jerk.

  8. Steve:

    “they are a right, not a privilege”

    Should this be the other way around?

    That changes the meaning a bit, doesn’t it? Oops.

  9. Having thrown my share of tantrums on various oForums (as well as acting like a proper gent and helping folk out here and there) Tseric really does have my sympathy.

    Not a job you could pay me to take on. Nope. Or rather, not a job you could afford to pay me to take, ;)

  10. I’m sorry something pushed Tseric over the edge. I’ve had days when wanted to unload like that, but doing so would just have exposed me to more crap in the end.

    The Godwin thing at the end is beautiful, though!

  11. Ponos

    His position as CM forces him to behave “above” those that he is moderating.

    His fighting back is no different then perhaps a king rioting with the angry mob.

    Just shouldn’t be done.

    That being said, yes, it was funny. Yes, I got a kick out of it. But then again, I don’t play WoW.

    If Shwayder posted any of those comments in the EQ2 Official Forums when he was Public Relations Manager, there would’ve been shock and outrage throughout our community.

    Why? Because Shwayder KNOWS better.

    Tseric’s comments neither resolved, assisted, nor produced any sort of positive results and were therefore unnecessary.

  12. Thermoses

    While we may (or not) agree with Tseric’s thoughts, it was unprofessional to respond the way he did. I had a manager who once blurted obscenities to a customer over the phone. The manager later had to call the customer back and apologize. He told us that it was the most humiliating thing he ever had to do and that he hoped none of us ever had to face that humiliation ourselves.

    The farther one gets from face-to-face communication, the ruder people get; forums are some of the rudest places on earth. The ban is the strongest, simplest tool that a moderator has.

    The movie “Roadhouse”, although awesomely bad, had some good points in customer service, and I used them regularly when I taught new-hires.
    1. Be nice (until there comes a time not be nice, and then escalate it to your manager).

    2. If a customer causes a problem, walk them to the door. If you can’t do it alone, get help, and you both walk them to the door (i.e. remind the customer to remain professional, or they will be cut off).
    3. Only pain hurts (if they insult your mother, why do you care? They don’t know your mother…)

  13. jdun

    Yeah it is very unprofessional. I found that most CM act like children themselves. If you can’t handle the heat then get out of the kitchen.

  14. Makkaio

    As a PR specialist, I can’t help but totally identify with Tseric in those posts. I work in one of the most ruthless environments…government. I’ve done it for eight years now. It didn’t take me a month to figure out that for every opinion one way there is another opinion against it. And I get to land smack dab in the middle.

    Here is an issue that seems to be a no-brainer. Person calls the office and wants their street patched because there are several potholes and it damages their vehicle. Obviously, I have the road crews check it out. The road is bad. It gets fixed.

    Couple days later, I get a phone call from another resident on the street screaming at the top of their lungs. Can you guess why?

    C’mon…try a little harder to guess why…

    Now that the road is smooth…people are, of course, speeding up and down the street, namely the person who phoned in the original complaint. The once quiet and safe street that was regulated by the potholes has now been turned into the perfect shortcut from one main street to another.

    A justified as it might be to attack back, you just have to keep a cool head about you. I always thought it would be interesting for discussions to take place on game forums where community relations people could vent, in a controlled way, about what they go through on a daily basis.

    I think Tseric said it all when he explained his frustration about less desireable customers having an impact on new or more respectful customers. Unfortunately, even the bad customers are still customers nonetheless.

  15. laethyn

    Problem is, I think less desireable PR agents/CMs have a larger impact on new and more respectful customers.

    As a customer, I’m much more likely to shrug my shoulders at another customer being a jerk than I am at seeing someone who works for the company being one.

    Not to mention the absolute obvious: People are much more willing to talk to friends about a negative experience than a positive one, and as you said, even bad customers are still customers. Besides, these days, you never can tell who is sitting on the other side of the monitor. Ex. How many thousands of players have come into contact with Curt Shilling and R.A. Salvatore while playing EQ2 and had no idea?

  16. For what it is worth, Tseric is no longer part of the WoW CM team, which in the end is a loss for that community.

  17. Makkaio

    Exactly, Laethyn. I don’t agree with how it was done. I’m just saying I can identify with that inner turmoil. Being able to sit back and read over the entire discourse now that it is done is an advantage we have to judge it on several levels.

    In pretty much every case, however, it is more damaging to your reputation and the company/agency that you represent to engage in something like that. As justified as you might be…as right as it might be…the whole thing is still one big negative.

    Message board moderation is tough, too. A lot of stuff that would be against forum policies are still allowed on most message boards. Moderation is still as iffy as calling a hockey game.

    Quick example:

    Poster A simply writes: “That idea blows!”
    Poster B simply writes: “That’s a great idea!”

    Hypothetically, if Poster A’s post is dropped for forum violations, shouldn’t Poster B’s post be dropped, as well? Neither post adds to a conversation. They could both be considered trolling. And they both could just be there to add to message counts or other such forum nonsense.

    Just fanning the flames :)

  18. laethyn

    Tell me about it … I’ve been the messageboard Admin over at R.A. Salvatore’s messageboard for half a decade now. I still don’t get it sometimes. I make judgement calls, and do I wish I could go back on them sometimes? Absolutely! Obviously, a line has to be found somewhere that promotes a fun environment, while still maintaining some sort of level of control. Do I think the thousands of posts in the “The person above you!” threads, and the other silly forum games people play are a waste of time? Sure. So long as they keep that stuff in one thread, by all means, have at it.

    The thing is, I a) don’t get paid to do it. It’s purely volunteer work. (I’m not complaining, mind, as I wouldn’t WANT to get paid for this lol) b) Bobs messageboard is not so … business associated (I suppose that’s the best description I can give). People don’t come to his messageboard for help on how to read his books (they do, but still …)

    Being an Admin/moderator on a messageboard is really just simply judgement calls. There is no exact science to it, and personal opinion is just part of the job. Anyone who does Admin work can tell me they try and keep personal opinions out of the job, but I think as human beings, we are far to self-centered creatures to be able to accomplish this entirely. And because all of our meaning has to be portrayed simply with text it becomes a much more difficult thing to communicate. There’s no body language, no tone of voice, nothing. So with online communiction, you better say what you mean, mean what you say, and remember who you are representing WHEN you say it.

    And yes, I am absolutely a creature who can be dubbed “wind-bag”, and “overly verbose”. :)

  19. rulez

    Tseric snaps and gives back about 1% of what the so called customers throw at “him” on a regular manner? Now he is gone, fired and people still try to blame him? Well done customers LOL.
    Am I trolling? :P

  20. “Tseric is now pursuing other opportunities and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

  21. ninjadwarf

    This is a wonderful example of why our societies idea that customers need to be treated with kid gloves is so flawed.

    If it was the norm for customers to be told to go hang whenever they make stupid or unreasonable requests then most businesses would have an easier time of things.

    I get stupid and unreasonable demands from customers every day at work, and these customers are major businesses not individuals, but I can’t just tell them to sod off and stop wasting my time, instead I generally have to waste time that could be spent productivly dealing with their petty issues to keep them happy.

    When people act like muppets on message boards they should be slapped down for it officially. I admit I have occasionally lost it somewhat on forums, but generally I take a more rational view to things. And guess what, when I slap down muppets for being muppets I get the warning from the forum mods because the muppet was offended with being called such.

    If we want a society where people expect to be allowed to act like idiots without comeback then we are going the right way about it at the moment.

    Oh for some accountability.

  22. Thermoses

    The best CSRs/CMs/PR agents subtract their own egos from every transaction. With every customer request/comment/flame, they ask themselves “What is this customer’s need? How can it be satisfied?” Sometimes the customer can’t be satisfied, and then the CSR must inform them of that in the most neutral, inoffensive way.

    It’s not easy, and it requires an incredible amount of patience and empathy. Not everyone is cut out for it. Not everyone lasts at it.

    I had a brilliant coworker who could handle the most volatile customers. After a half hour on the phone, the customer was calmed down, informed, and thanking my coworker for spelling things out (seriously). Part of his success came from being able to read each customer correctly and adjust his communication accordingly.

    Now, some customers are inconsolable. We had one that was an absolute horror: yelling, profanity, verbal abuse. Finally our management contacted their management, and said “We will support your company, but this person is blackballed unless they calm down and cut out the abuse.” They pinched the right nerve, and every phone call after that was pleasant and professional.

    Customer facing jobs are not easy, and companies have to do a better job of selecting and training personnel to handle the job properly. Too many companies view customer service as overhead, and allocate far too little money and attention. As a result, they have CSRs who have no business talking to customers.

  23. Sanya M. Weathers started a blog, and I figured I may as well dump my comments from her blog here too.

    Sincerity is the mana of the Community Manager. You damn well better not run out of it, though, and you damn well better have the skills and stats necessary to be the Community Manager class or you will go all Tseric on your community.

    I personally felt that the way we used the Community Relations Manager position on EverQuest II was perfect–I was a lead on the development team who acted as one of the mediators between devs, players, and PR/marketing/web.

    Some companies make the “Community Manager” position “Forum Moderator.” That’s, of course, dumb. Others don’t integrate the position into the “team,” which I also feel is dumb. At the very least, the Community Manager needs to be one of the most informed people about the game they are working on; information is one of the CM’s greatest assets.

  24. Ian

    Customer support work suffers from the classic 80/20 rule, where 20% of your customers generate 80% of your work. There -must- be a check in the process of the customer behavior, whether referring the really abusive customers to management, terminating a call or forum rights “until they calm down”, or terminating the account of the truly vicious customers.

    I’ll grant that any terminated customer who leaves will take some of the social network with them, but how much of the CS workload do you think is caused by the top 5% worst account holders? When your larger customers hold multi-million dollar contracts that would cost alot of marketing time and money to replace, you do basically whatever is required to build a relationship that keeps them happy. When someone is seeing how much frustration they can vent for 14.95 a month, there will be a point they are not worth keeping as a customer. That point isnt that hard to measure with standard numeric metrics that exist in almost every CS organization.

    The statement “A customer is always right” is good marketing, and the byword for the value most customers should get for their expenditure of money and time. Realize, however, that the worst customer support drains are not only direct, griefer style attacks on the company and player community, but they take resources away from valid, day to day customer problems.

    To sum up, this isnt about entitlement or “customer rights”. This is about what you bought for a monthly subscription fee.

  25. Derek K.

    In his defense, Tseric has done a lot. And personally, when I read the WoW forums, they make me want to quit playing.

    But yeah, having been in his position, relatively, you just don’t go there, as much as I wanted to. Not to say I didn’t go there privately, to friends, etc.

    But publically, ya gotta keep it reigned in….

  26. Kinsella

    To Tseric…

    Can I have yer stuff?


  27. Dhampire

    I know that this wil be hard to believe, but I was trying to quit wow around this time and when Tseric left, it was the final straw that I needed to put down the game. So i guess thats a good thing?

    Anyways, I think Tseric really did have an overall positive effect on the WoW community.


  28. laethyn

    I just wanted to clarify that while I really did disagree with the way Tseric handled himself in his communication with the players, in no way did I wish upon him anything ill such as leaving his position. I wish him the best of luck in finding something that he enjoys

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