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Listening and Responding: Improving the way we work together

by James


In the past few weeks we’ve taken some time out from coal-face design, development and marketing work to assess how we liaise with you, the community of designers and makers who constitute the thousands of people selling through Folksy.

We currently have a few different ways in which we listen and feedback – email and support (usually private correspondence), the forums, Twitter and Facebook as well as more niche services like Flickr and Instagram. As you’ll know, each of these spaces has its own ‘ecosystem’, its own form of etiquette and rhythm, and we try and work to these differences when we talk with you.



Different types of communication

There are lots of different types of things that we both want to talk about, for example:

  1. Needing help with something (technical, legal etc.)
  2. Wanting to report an issue or a problem or a bug
  3. Just saying “hi” and reaching out to chat with other designers and makers – informal support
  4. Sharing things you’re doing
  5. Announcing something new or different
  6. Getting feedback on something you’ve done (could be a new development at Folksy or some new product you’ve made)

Some of these things are better suited to more private conversations because they relate to personal experiences and some only work when they are publicly stated. We try and be involved in all these communications wherever you feel comfortable having them. However, to try and be as efficient as possible with the limited resources we have we tend to ask people with communications 1 & 2 to go through the support channel where we can log it and get the right staff member looking at it and check that it has been dealt with. In short we have a process for that kind of communication.

Many of the issues raised in 1 & 2 are actually covered in the Knowledge Base on Folksy, but we don’t feel this support area is effective enough and we’re currently reviewing different tools which will provide more accessible ways to find answers to questions and also allow feedback on features and functionality (and request new features, currently rather clumsily managed through a forum thread) more easily.

Listening and feeding back

When we do something you don’t like you generally tell us through all the channels. This can be really helpful but it can be a challenge to respond effectively through all those channels so you feel you have been heard. In the forums and on Twitter particularly when we respond to one issue, other people with the same issue don’t hear us. When the site is down, for example due to maintenance or when there’s a problem as there was last week with images being indexed on the site, we use the status blog to provide updates and refer to that on Twitter and Facebook and in the forums. A single point of reference for announcements is generally best – then everyone can see the same thing (rather than trying to provide updates for people individually).

Forums tend to be the heartbeat of any community – they are where fans live. The Folksy forums have always been a lively and usually very supportive environment and we have sought to moderate them with a light touch. This light touch moderation is partly out of a recognition that it can be very time consuming – being visible in one thread can then create the expectation that you will be as visible and responsive in another thread and if you’re not then that may be construed as unfair (why are you listening over there, but not over here?). Managing how we talk with you in the forums is one of the things we’ve found hard to get right.

Could do better

Recently you have let us know that we haven’t been active enough, that we haven’t been listening to the things you want to tell us and that perception started last year with the clarification around the definition of “handmade” and then the re-design work, with a sense that there was a lack of consultation. This sense is felt most keenly in the forums but has surfaced on Twitter and Facebook. It’s largely irrelevant to state now that we were listening and that a lot of feedback through support channels went into both decisions, the perception is we weren’t listening and that’s what we want to address: we want to find ways to listen and feedback with you more effectively.

So what are we going to do about it?

We have a few suggestions (well actually one of the suggestions came through the forums the other day!) that we’d like to trial:

  • A weekly Q&A with members of the team on the forum.
  • Respond to queries, where possible, as ourselves in the forums so you get a sense of the voice and us as individuals.
  • A monthly round up of activity, work undertaken, work planned (including marketing and PR as well as development) and feedback on general issues raised across all channels (forums, Facebook, Twitter and support etc.). We’d like to trial this as a video posted to the blog so you can actually see us, real human beings (mostly).
  • More regular announcements on the Folksy blog about what we’re up to, almost like extended tweets.

We’re going to kick-start the weekly Q&A today. It is a trial and we’ll be listening to see how effective it is before deciding how it could be improved. The other initiatives will also follow in the coming days and weeks (the first video update coming in mid February).

I hope this can be the start of a more constructive way of working with you, the community of designers and makers on Folksy, to progress the service and promote craft and your craft work to a wider audience.

Link: Forum Q&A

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1 comment

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