This is part two of a series that I want to do regarding specific interactions between publisher and community. I plan to tell it from both sides, since I have been on both sides. Hopefully this not only gives insight, but also influences behavior of community and community managers alike.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one
One of the leading causes of strife for a community is issues within a game. No matter what a problem is, big or small, the community is going to point it out and want to know what the resolution for such a problem is. Unfortunately for both sides, when someone feels like they are not being listened to the inevitable escalation is to become filled with anger and to shout in the worst ways possible in an attempt to be recognized. That tactic, while seemingly viable, rarely results in anything of value happening. No one likes being shouted at, and there certainly becomes a point when you are the person getting shouted at just refuses to even be near the people doing the shouting. While some game publishers can get away with this tactic, it just so happens that the people really suffering is the community. Developer and Publisher interaction can be enjoyable and zesty resulting in a game that everyone wants.
5 simple rules for encouraging quality feedback:
Find a place for feedback and make sure everyone goes there
This sounds like a no brainer, but in actuality it is probably one of the hardest things to do as an effective community manager. Humans are lazy and always seek the easiest route to getting something done. I do it, you do it, we all do it. That is part of life. Creating a feedback space that players know to go to and use when they have something they want to tell you helps the management team because it’s a one stop shop for all feedback (at least that is the dream) but it also gives an area for players to help self-moderate and direct their peers to. Making a safe and engaged place for players to openly provide feedback is enticing and leads to more consistent quality reporting from your engaged community.
Make sure they know HOW to leave feedback
Making a place for the community to go is a great start, but we all know that you are trying to streamline the feedback collection process and wading through hundreds of posts trying to suss out what the issues are and how you can affect them is time consuming and painstaking. The most success I have ever had is giving clear examples of how I want to receive feedback from my community. Templetizing something like issue reporting does remove a touch of the individualism out of the act of giving feedback, but in the end it is far easier to report on how widespread an issue is. If everyone is saying the same thing with the same level of clarity, proving that there is an issue to the people you are reporting to is not as difficult as it would be if you had to wade through a thousand paragraphs of different information that you have to interpret for your development team into a language they speak. Short cut that bad boy by teaching your community the language (i.e. format that your bosses understand) so they can get to the heart of an issue far quicker and more accurately.
Show your community that you are listening
This one is hard because nothing speaks louder than results, but sometimes fixes for issues can’t be done overnight. What do you do? In my experience I have had the greatest success in recapping issues that communities have had with the games that I was responsible for. Maybe it is a weekly post on a forum where you characterize all of the feedback that you have had. Maybe you give a flowchart on what is reported, what fixes are in progress, what is ready for launch, and what has launched. Taking a peek behind the curtain can sometimes be just as impactful for your community as having something launched.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your community
Sometimes things can be confusing, especially on some upper level or end game issues. You may or may not understand the meta they are talking about, or maybe you just never experienced the problem like they have. The only thing you can do in this situation is get in there and work with your players to figure out what is going on. Post on the threads, call town halls, do anything you can to find out what the root of the issue is so you can explain it clearly to the team who will address it. If you can’t explain it, the odds of a botched fix increase and that doesn’t end well for you. Yes, the community may act outraged at first, but in the end they will be excited to see you interested in their reports and understanding them.
Early in my career, I screwed up Breadth, Depth, and Optics a lot. Usually to the detriment of the overall company and community. In the end, the community will always act like every problem is a category 1 issue that requires immediate attention, but you as a professional understands that this is almost never the case. So with every problem remember to apply BDO when categorizing issues to be addressed. A quick reminder on what this means for the community as well as the community managers out there:
Breadth: How many players are fucked?
is it affecting the entire player funnel from starting to end game or is the issue experienced by 5% of your end game users only [i.e. a percent of a percent]?
Depth: How fucked are the players?
Are they not able to even play the game or is the issue just causing a minor discomfort?
Optics: How readily visible is this issue?
Are your login servers down and throwing errors or is this an accounting error tucked away in some code that effects game economy slightly but not with real world currency?