Daily Archives: March 28, 2013

Conflict Resolution Takes Great Communication Skills

angry customer

We have been looking at many aspects of community management and while the position can be full of exciting experiences, inevitably you will run into a difficult or angry community member. What do you do when your peaceful, friendly, cooperative community is upset by an angry person? You know the type. They start with rude comments and remarks and continue to escalate while they suck your community into their negative vortex. Conflict resolution entails a journey into the unknown. No matter how much we prepare, we can never know for sure how another will react to us or respond to our message. Not surprisingly, this uncertainty leads many to avoid conflict rather than venture into the unknown, but as a community manager you will need the skills to resolve conflicts.

Olivier Blanchard has 15+ years of marketing management experience and gives us some rules to follow in his book  Social Media ROI. He offers us some practical advice that is relevant to the position a community manager may find themselves in. Lets take a look at a summary of what he offers –

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT – this is the Golden rule of any business. Even if the customer is wrong, they are right. This is where you begin the journey into conflict resolution. When you come up against an angry customer, you never, ever engage in an argument with them, especially online. Imagine the scenario, you post one inflammatory comment to an angry person, what happens next? Don’t think for one moment that an online argument is about finding a resolution or point of agreement. It is a smack down, pure and simple. There will be no victor and you will certainly lose creditability.

no winners

Conflict resolution online is very different from the real world experience. If you were face to face with a customer, you would have the opportunity to use your body language as a tool to deal with the situation. You do not have this tool available in an online scenario you are faceless. A best practice would be to take it offline and speak with the customer directly without an audience. Remember to always be polite and treat them with respect regardless of how they behave.

By Campbell Addy

By Campbell Addy

Blanchard states – “Unreasonable customers are not the enemy.”  This is a great message to keep in mind. They will help you to grow and develop your communication skills. Take the higher ground and be thankful for this opportunity. We all need to keep practicing to be the best we can be so embrace the challenge. This also gives us the opportunity to practice humility. Blanchard shares that we should not be afraid to apologize, even when we don’t have to. How do you feel when someone is compassionate and apologetic towards you? This is what your customer needs. Reach out to them!

reach out

 By acknowledging the customers dispute and engaging them in the process to resolution you are well on your way.  This would be the time to recruit your customer as a partner in creating the solution. Blanchard suggests that you use this phrase, “I understand your frustration. How can I help?” By asking this question you have engaged them in the process by “shifting them from complaint mode to solution mode.” These best solution will come when the customer is involved. If the customers solution is not reasonable Blanchard suggests that you “apologize and say you can’t do that, but offer another solution.”

Online conflict resolution:

  • should always be done calmly and politely
  • should be done offline if it will require a more sensitive approach
  • should be managed in a professional manner (crowds tend to take sides)
  • should use the individuals name when possible
  • should recruit your customer into the resolution process

By following these simple guidelines and using your own communication skills, you are on your way to becoming a master of conflict resolutions. What are some ways that you have learned to resolve conflicts? We would like to know so leave a comment.

Until next time, “Happy Trails”!

A Commenting Moderation Policy for the People

Retrieved from: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashmediaserver/segments/government/

Retrieved from: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashmediaserver/segments/government/

The #cmgrclass topic of the week is a tricky one: moderating commenting in communities. To me, this seems to be an art form reminiscent of governments and their people.

There is the dictatorial approach, in which the moderator has the final approval on all things, and nothing sees the light of day until it has been reviewed and stamped as allowable for community consumption. The second is more of a democratic approach, where community members enjoy a greater freedom in posting comments, but the system implements methods to protect the community from spam and undue profanity. The third, and least restrictive, is akin to anarchy where anything goes, and all community members, be them lunatics, posters, spammers or deviants, enjoy the same level of freedom in community conversation.

Of course, each of these techniques has its place in different communities with different moderators, and there are pros and cons that can make a strong argument for or against each.

In the post Moderating Comments and Managing Online Communities, Tara Coomans offers positive and negative aspects of each.

For the dictatorial approach, which she dubs the “Unlock Policy”, Coomans offers the following:

Pros: Keeps out all the riff-raff.
Cons: Delaying comments prevents organic timely conversation. Can you keep up with reading every single comment and approving in a timely manner?

Due to the pro, which is keeping out fight-seekers and spammers, this tactic may be aptly applied to communities that feature particularly controversial subject matter. However, taking into considering the con in this case, this may only be practically applied to a rather small community, as reviewing and approving each comment individually in a large, fast-paced community is difficult if not impossible.

For the democratic approach, coined by Coomans as the “Knock-First Policy”, she says:

Pros: Keeps the community free of junk without over reaching-gives the community a true voice that is consistent with the community’s own language. Not terribly time-consuming to manage.
Cons: Comments can create community drama without being spammy or profane.

This in-between approach takes a protective hand in filtering spam and profanity, but enjoys a greater level of freedom in allowing community members to post without the need for review and approval. This tactic is prime for a mildly controversial topic, because it will allow community members to rapidly reply to each other and offer bold opinions without being subjected to undue spam or profanity. Would also be well applied to a variety of other communities due to the harmonic balance it strikes.

For the anarchic technique, or rather the “Open Door Policy”, Coomans states:

Pros: The community is completely transparent to one another, with the exception that people will often use pseudonyms on communities like this.
Cons: Spam and lowest common denominator magnet. These two elements will likely crowd out your actual community.

While this gives community members the greatest level of freedom, it also subjects them to distracting spam and overly controversial or profane statements that may dilute the overall quality of the conversation.

While there are subsets of these categories that may be tailored to be applied to the full spectrum of online communities, it is these three main categories from which they are derived. For each community there is a commenting policy, and for each commenting policy, a community.