Thank You, Come Again – The Spirit of Service

by bxrtley

Does it truly matter how you receive help, if in the end your problem gets solved?

After engaging in a forum post that sparked this question, I decided to create a suggestion in the Ideas section of the WordPress Forums page. It was for WP to develop a feedback or rating system to encourage volunteers to uphold the spirit of service that Staff seems to always sustain, if they were responding to a question (maybe because their jobs depend on it?). Did I open a can of trouble?

Here’s the discussion. You be the judge.

The leading argument so far is just because WP volunteers have donated their time, they’re automatically entitled to “good standing” or respect. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with the Western world today. We have countless philanthropists (or capitalists in disguise), volunteers, helpers, NPO personnel, etc who donate time and resources to charitable causes—but they suck at personally connecting with very people they’re helping! And I’m not excluding myself either.

I proposed the following analogy:

>It’s the difference between handing a sandwich to someone in need of a meal and tossing that same delicious lunch their way. The end-game is the same—they eat. But the “aftertaste” is what truly matters…And, well, I suppose if the goal is to keep people away from the forums then..toss away?

One person said my analogy was off. They suggested that because there was no food anywhere in sight, it wouldn’t matter how the starvin’ Marvin got his lunch. The focus is on the food. That’s it.

I understand. And maybe my analogy is totally off-base. But when Marvin is no longer starvin and he has time to think about the experience, what will he remember? I’d love for him not to only remember the sandwich, but the experience in unwrapping after it being personally handed to him.

It’s what makes the Moo business card company different from Zazzle’s. Or Zappos different from Payless. Or Apple different from [place tech company here]. Customer Service. It’s not just about answers. It’s also the discovery of the answer. The way you arrive at the thing. That’s an art. An art of service. An art of love.

Ultimately, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. This is why I enjoy digital public squares like the Desk community or Copyblogger. For them, customer service is not just tucked away in a short chapter of an unread handbook—it’s revered and practiced. And it forges loyalty. And maybe because these forums a filled with paying customers, they respect the rules and guidelines more, which limits the need for curt, cold, calculated responses? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to bet it’s more than just money that brings those kind of communities together.

I simply suggested we hold volunteers just a bit more accountable for how they deliver the great solutions and knowledge in the forums. A couple volunteers didn’t quite like it so much. Apparently, they are livid by the idea. Also interesting to note that they might reflect my point about the care taken in crafting positive, diplomatic responses?

And someone went as far to tag this post as spam three times: “spam spam spam” (Update: tag was removed a few hours later). Another said it was an erroneous principle and that volunteers shouldn’t be held responsible in the same way as staff. Yikes. Isn’t that a sure way of destroying a brand?

And in the end, maybe my suggestion itself wasn’t diplomatic enough! But I’m interested in seeing what others think.