One of the things that I enjoy the most about Twitter is the ability to meet, greet, chat, and learn from other people in my field.
Granted, not everyone uses Twitter for the same reason, but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know certain people in my particular development space, and enjoy the conversation as much as the next person.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s helped make me a better developer because of the conversations that have gone from Twitter to this blog, or vice versa.
But there’s something that I’ve noticed on Twitter among my fellow developers – most notably freelancers or those who are at the head of smaller businesses – that I can’t seem to understand (or endorse): It’s complaining about customers.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve shared my honest thoughts on supporting products – especially free ones. And for those who are just now following along, you can see some of the following articles:
- WordPress Plugin Support: How Much is Too Much?
- Offering Support on Twitter? No Thanks.
- Avoid Free WordPress Support
And there are plenty more.
The thing is, I’ve tried to be as respectful as possible (and I hope I have!) when posing my questions because my ultimate goal isn’t to complain – it’s to learn from those of you who have done it and succeeded.
But here’s my question: Why complain about your customers in a public forum?
They Know Who You Are
When it comes to running a business, the costumer base is the lifeblood. They are they ones who are paying for support of your product and/or service and are thus responsible for keeping your business running and, thus, food on your table.
Because the majority of us are digital natives, it’s easy to find us online be it on Twitter, Facebook, our personal websites, or wherever else.
So, to that end, why risk complaining about the very people who are helping you to make a living when they can easily find out who you are?
I can’t speak for every development community that’s out there because I’m not part of them all – honestly, I’ve only been a part of a handful of them.
But I can honestly say that each community that I have been a part of has its fair share of drama. Now, I’m not saying that drama is wrong, per se – it’s generally rooted within the clashing of ideologies – but the way in which said ideologies are debated is what gets nasty.
The same can be said for talking about customers in a public forum: It’s usually a clash of ideologies. That is, the customers believe it should be one way, the developer or support provider think it should be another way.
This isn’t a statement that the customer is always right (because I don’t subscribe to that idea); however, at least in the context of community drama, two (or three or four or etc.) sides can chat with one another, but this isn’t possible when you take the drama from your business to the Twittersphere.
At the very least, you’re not giving your customers the ability to enter into the conversation. And, furthermore, I can’t imagine they’d enjoy seeing complaints about their questions out on public display.
After all, we, as the service providers, are inviting them to ask us questions when we give them keys to the support forum.
Everyone Needs an Outlet
Don’t get me wrong: support is tough. It can try one’s patience, it can take days to solve a problem, it can result in negative experience for both parties, and it can ultimately exhaust us.
But that doesn’t mean that it needs to be on public display.
Companies – especially large ones – deal with disgruntled companies all of the time. There’s a reason that the term “customer no service,” has become a recognized phrase. A professional developers, we should never be known as people who provide “customer no service.”
Instead, if we truly take pride in our work, then it should be pulled through end-to-end: From scoping all the way through supporting our customers.
Still, everyone needs an outlet. We get tired, we get frustrated, and it can be difficult. I just don’t think that a public arena is the best place to display it.
Maybe we should start up a “Support Anonymous” group ;).
But in all seriousness, I’d love to see us – as a group of developers, especially those of us who are self-employed – do a better job of demonstrating true professionalism in our industry not just in the code we write, but in the way we treat our customers.