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Cover-ups Are For Beds, Not Internet Products

By Sanya Weathers

Have you ever seen a dog try to hide after doing something bad? He sticks his head under the couch or possibly a blanket. Of course, the entire hind of the dog is hanging out there, completely visible. And yet the dog always manages to look shocked that you found him.

Don’t be the dog.

If you have done something that will probably displease your potential users, the worst thing you can do is stick your head under a blanket and assume that no one will notice. It’s not just that people will notice, although they will. It’s that if you’re making an internet product, your users are by definition online and more connected than the typical consumer. Your harmless little secret is tomorrow’s internet drama.

Whether you’re shutting down customer service, outsourcing more than your art to China, changing your banning policy, fundamentally altering your income stream, or just updating your typical usage flow, you have reasons for doing it. A simple explanation without any defensiveness or apology removes the wind from the fire.

You also probably have a plan for how your users will enjoy a great experience in spite of, or perhaps because of your change. Communicate that plan to your users.

If you don’t get in front of the public reaction  by virtue of allowing the public to get in the first comment, you’ll never stop playing catch up. And while an apology will defuse the situation to an extent, it will have an insincere right unless you have honestly come to believe that your plan was in error.

Believe me, customers can smell it when your apology really just means that you’re sorry they’re mad.

So here’s the takeaway: If you’re doing something that you’re tempted to hide from your customers, explore your reasons for feeling tempted. If the concern is simply that the reasons behind the decision are complex, hire a good community manager to explain the issues. If the concern is that players will not support the product after they hear your reasons, you should consider a different course of action – because the truth will come out with an even bigger complicating factor: Anger at having been misled.

Don’t be the dog.

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