To a certain extent caring for your customer is simply a matter of getting stuff out and letting them buy it. You need to go a bit further than that if you really want to make things work and to make sure you get some good feedback, involvement and loyalty from the people who buy your hastily conceived and poorly executed shit.
In this day and age you’d think this would be an obvious thing, given the easy access to social media, the internet, e-mail, websites, blogs and so many other ways and means of talking to people. However, a lot of people still seem to hide their presence or make themselves difficult to talk to or get hold of. I can appreciate why you might want to do so, nobody wants to get harassed by fanboys or haters or hounded at every step but, if you’re engaged in this sort of business and you are – as so many of us are – a small operation, it’s down to you to be public relations dude, Q&A dude, help, assistance and person that gets to listen to people’s stories. Some of this is fun, some of it is not, but it is a necessary thing.
The Customer is Always Right
If there’s an alleged problem with a book or a file download, give the folks the benefit of the doubt and send them another one, throw in something free on top. If people don’t like something, offer them a refund or another product. If someone buys a bunch of stuff from your stand at a con, throw in something extra. The good will and reputation you get from being nice to people who buy your stuff is worth its weight in gold.
…Except When the Customer is a Dick
Some people are just fuckwits and they’re going to take you for a ride or give you shit no matter what you do. Some of these sorts of people aren’t even customers but they’ll go out of their way to criticise anything you do on little to no basis, even if it’s just on the title of something you do or some freelance project you had little control over in the first place.
Man, fuck them.
You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t even try, you’ll just end up with something insipid and timid and frankly, even if you do try to conform to everyone’s peculiar little hatreds and desires you’re still going to upset someone. So screw it. Integrity is probably worth more.
Explain, don’t Rant
If you are forced to answer criticism try to explain yourself rather than just exploding at people. Odds are they’ll ignore you and remain upset anyway, but to any bystanders you’re going to come across better and more reasonable and they’re going to look more like an irrational numpty.
Allow Yourself to be Human
Anyone who knows me remotely well will have laughed a little at the above statement since I do tend to ‘go off on one’ with some regularity. I think you do, occasionally, need to let yourself explode and have a go at people to get it out of your system. It’s not healthy to bottle everything up and – same point I’ve made before – professionalism is overrated in this sort of industry. Your games, your writing, your online personality are all one, you’re selling yourself as a brand as a small designer as much as anything else. Being an irascible curmugeon and a bit of a bastard didn’t seem to do Harlan Ellison any harm and many of the best known (as much as names are known) in the RPG industry are… controversial and opinionated. Just don’t let the one side get too far ahead of the other.
Next time, care and feeding of your favourite companies!