On the Promise of Communications
Hey folks, just dropping a note to let you know I have read the thread. The team reads the boards every day so they asked me to pop in to acknowledge that they read the boards and I have also read this thread. I appreciate the feature requests and bug notifications in particular.
For sure we can up the tempo of communication in blog posts and notifications to upcoming changes & fixes. We remain committed to our merchant community and I appreciate you taking the time to write down what you would like to see in the future for SL.
Again, it is good that Rod Humble is aware of mounting issues and is willing to step up and reply – and also to reply to a number of individual posts in the thread. However, as many have pointed out, it’s not just the frequency of blog posts and notifications which is the problem, it is the entire relationship between the Commerce Team and merchants – a relationship which could perhaps be best summed up as “non-existent”, and at worse little short of adversarial.
Being totally fair, the reasons for this do not totally lay with the Commerce Team. As I’ve said previously, the Lab aren’t always solely responsible when communications go bad; we users can be pretty aggressive and unforgiving (if not downright unreasonable) when we want to be. But – and there is a rather large “but” here – it cannot be denied that much of the tension in and around matters relating to the Marketplace comes as a direct result of the Commerce Team’s behaviour over an extended period of time. Behaviour which includes:
- Withdrawing from in-world meetings
- Claiming the forums are a better means for engagement, yet rarely engaging in actual dialogue
- Reducing all outward communications to little more than the status of repeated monologues with only slight variations in content
- Failing to openly inform merchants ahead of time of changes to the Marketplace or seek to engage in discussion of said changes, even when the changes are liable to have impact on the merchants.
Rod, if there is to be real détente in the Marketplace situation, you need to do more than just promise an upping in tempo with blog and forum posts. With respect, you’ve promised similar in the past where LL is concerned, and it is fair to say little actually changed.
If there is to be any form of restoration of trust and dialogue where the Marketplace is concerned, you need to get the Commerce Team out of their foxholes and off of the defensive, and get them working proactively to ensure merchants are kept properly informed and have reasonable and appropriate input. For example:
- Provide some form of roadmap of intent for the Marketplace. Allow it to cover issues, proposed enhancements, needed changes
- Give insight into what is being tackled, how it is being tackled and why things are being tackled in the given order
- Provide broad-based time scale estimates (yes, I know that is somewhat against the normal behaviour within LL, but the state of the Marketplace does warrant it). These do not have to be tablets of stone, a simple, “We are estimating X weeks of effort to complete Y”, with routine updates as these time frames change due to emergency issues, changes in priority, and so on
- Make this the mainstay of communications through the merchant forum, blog posts, in-world meetings, etc., and ensure it is routinely updated, perhaps on a weekly basis (although this could lengthen as matters are dealt with and people become more informed as to what is going on)
- Resume in-world meetings
- These may not be to everyone’s liking, but they do score an important goal: they help build rapport and reduce the level of “us and them” that can otherwise pervade matters – this is good for both sides of the equation, Commerce Team and merchants
- Allow the schedule for meetings to be flexible. Perhaps two a week to suit different time zones or different times on alternate weeks to encourage wider attendance, then in time perhaps schedule them as necessary based on longer-term attendance and response
- Publish meeting transcripts on the wiki so those unable to attend can read, and accept and engaging in any discussions which arise on the forum as a result
- Don’t avoid meetings because “not every merchant wants them”, allow for choice as to how people receive information and updates
- Get the Commerce Team to encourage feedback from merchants, seek advice where appropriate and ask questions. This doesn’t have to be a widespread effort – select merchants who have a track record of pointing out potential issues & solutions, etc.
- Use this as an opportunity to help inform and educate. When people are left in the dark and see things going on that seem to defy rational explanation, they will naturally assume the worse; keeping them informed is the most positive way of preventing this
- Commit to this approach for at least six months without backing away from it or putting it for internal review.
This is going to require effort and time, and not a little hand-holding. There may well be some hostilities to face down (on both sides of the equation), but on the whole, it is hard to see how, time and effort notwithstanding, moving in this or a similar direction cannot help but improve company / customer relationships where the Marketplace is concerned, for the benefit of both.
- Run silent, run deep: the SL Marketplace and eroding merchant trust
- Marketplace issues: not so much eroding trust as completely undermining it
- SL forum post: Update: Product Listing Enhancements and Stuck Orders – October 8th
- SL forum post: To RODVIK – Request meeting with Merchants on Commerce Team concerns – October 8th