The Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum

It's No BullYou keep looking at the guy, waiting for him to really explode into a million pieces. He’s pissed off. He’s making a scene. And he has clearly maxed out the Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum at this store. You can see it written all over the faces of the Customer Service people trying to keep him calm. No matter how good they are at acting, it’s obvious to everyone watching that they are quite truly done with his childish antics. Before long Security shows up and promotes him to “Departing Ex-customer.” So what is this thing called “Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum” and why does it matter to you?

Coping With Customers

One of the great truths and evils about being in business is the nasty┬áthing called “Customers”. They torment us, demand endless attention, want impossible things in even more improbable time frames. And of course they want it all for free or even less. But all sarcasm aside, Customers are also the one and only reason we are in business. Without them we do not have a business. What we have are piles of bills, angry spouses and usually angrier debtors. So we cope with Customers as best we can.

One of the mechanisms we all adopt is something I have come to call the “Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum”. Basically it’s the range of harassment received from particular customers that directly relates to how well we treat them. If they are totally intolerable annoyances then often they will receive less than stellar service and support. If they are gems and do their best to help us help them, more than likely they’ll get little extras to keep their loyalty and attention.

But it’s how we react, or perhaps “Pre-act”, that really determines how successful our businesses. It’s a pretty safe bet it also directly determines how happy our customers are with us too.

The Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum

Here is what I glibly refer to as the basic Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum:

The Basic Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum

At the far left-end live those Customers that do absolutely everything we say, never have a gripe, send in compliments on everything we do … and generally make us double-check that we aren’t sending them routine bribery payments. Opposite to that are the Customers that have never had a good word to say, continually insist our parents were the products of a genetic in-breeding experiment gone wrong, and really wish we were dead … but only AFTER we finish up the impossible thing they wanted yesterday.

Floating around the middle are two sliders: One Yellow (for the Customer) and one Purple (that’s us). When you move the Yellow slider closer to the sheep end, that means the current Customer is all that much happier and easier to satisfy. Closer to the bull and … you get the horns. The Purple slider is similar except it is used to indicate our personal and professional response to a specific Customer. Lots of things can move our Purple slider up and down the spectrum, but its “Average” setting is echoed in lots of other things we do as well.

My Personal Goal

As I run my Second Life business (DG Products for Second Life, in case you weren’t paying attention), I try and keep my own personal Purple Slider set something like this:

My Personal Purple Slider Setting

I like to help people right off the bat. By staying a bit to the easy side of the range, I find that it helps people open up easier and explain to me what they want and need. It’s a place on the spectrum that I’ve developed over many years, and it suits my own personality pretty well.

Second Life Merchants In General

Having kicked around Second Life for a few months or so, it’s been my personal experience that the “Average” is pretty much like this:

The Average Second Life Merchant

Frankly in a population as diverse as that found in SL, it’s quite commendable to find a truly average “Average”.

Linden Lab’s Perspective

Now I come to the “other shoe” part of this post. As Customers of Linden Lab and users of their primary source of income Second Life, we Merchants often feel like Linden Lab has their Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum set something like this:

The Linden Lab Spectrum

You may notice that both the Yellow (we are Customers here so that’s our slider) and Purple (Linden Lab’s attitude toward us) are set all the way toward the grumpier end of the scale. Far too often their actions seem not only to be absent any knowledge of our existence, they go so far as to feel like outright snubs or direct insults.

I set our Yellow slider up in the crabby grasses because that’s the only way I can explain the frequent lack of communication and inability to comprehend the problem that we often get from Linden Lab and its customer-facing people. Far too many people have lengthy horror stories … of recent vintage … that leave your mouth agape and eyes rolling with wonderment at how Linden Lab┬ástays in business.

I’d Love To See …

It would be nice to see an entire project that affects the life blood micro-economy inside Second Life, operated with its Tolerable Annoyance Spectrum set something like this:

The Ideal Balance Spectrum

Give us the time to get all our affairs in order. Give us the tools to make those arrangements with ease and as little stress as possible. Give us the documentation and information that we really need to know what is coming. Give us the dignity of acting like we aren’t half-crazed maniacs with sadistic tendencies and lifetime memberships to “Asshats-R-Us”.

Like, I dunno, for example explaining about the “Version or Top-Level Folders” decision you faced during development of VMM, but didn’t think to tell us about until a few of us tripped over it at full speed? That would have been a dandy place to stop, ask what WE thought could be done, and then listen to the answers too.

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