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The role of community managers

The Role of Community Managers
Despite the header image, Blizzard Community Manager Zarhym has been being a little less cuddly than he looks lately. Oh, wait... you're saying Zarhym's the one on the right? OK then. Zarhym has been weighing in on the role of Blizzard's Community Managers, following a couple of critical posts on the US forums.

One post was elicited in direct response to Zarhym's own replies on a thread about dailies.

Zarhym
Quote:

I think what should be taken out of the responses of those players frustrated at the CMs response is the standard of discourse that is being set, through said CM, in threads like this.

A CM is blizzards representative on these forums and the closest we come to hearing/seeing information straight from "the horses mouth". Now the wow forums are at times very cynical and baiting/trolling can be rife, but for a CM to come into a thread (one that didn't dignify a response) and basically condone certain behaviours through both the language he used and the context he used it in is quite disgraceful and reflects pretty poorly on both blizzard and the CM team.

It is up to the CM, not the players, to set the standard when it comes to meaningful debate and conversation. Showing otherwise further condones bad behaviour and meaningless posts in this thread and others all over general.

That's a fair point and I'll honestly think about that more as I'm flipping through the front page of the forums.

This is also a good time to remind people you can email WoWCMFeedback@Blizzard.com with your thoughts on our methods of community engagement. The posts in this thread commenting on my performance as a Community Manager, positive or negative, are better sent to my superiors so the topic of the thread stays on course. You can also personally give me feedback or chat with me on Twitter: @CM_Zarhym. I promise I at least read every tweet, and respond as often as I can. ;).



Another, swiftly locked, thread questions the posts of CM Draztal, while yet another more generally addresses the behavior and role of Blizzard's Community Managers. The latter was also locked by Rygarius, then subsequently reopened by Zarhym. Zarhym has subsequently spent several posts discussing the merits of and philosophy behind the Community Management team and their representatives, as well as drawing the line between Customer Support and Community Management.

Zarhym
I'm reopening this thread since it's a broader discussion about the role of Community Managers. Rygarius is right though. We strongly recommend that feedback regarding Community Managers or any of our specific posts be sent to WoWCMFeedback@Blizzard.com. We want to make sure gameplay discussions remain the central focus of these forums.

Umumaru, you make some fair points about professionalism. I'd rather not break them down to provide feedback on everything said, as I don't think this is a topic that most players on the forums would prefer I spend much time focusing on.

All that said, I want to briefly address this statement:

"Their job is to grin and bear it, regardless of how wrong the customer is. They tell them what they want to hear (and let's not pretend that Blizzard doesn't do this to us) so that they go away."
We just don't agree with this. I'd like to avoid a semantic argument so I'll agree that, on some level, the community team is a form of customer support, as much as we're also a function of public relations. But, while we're linked directly to public relations as a communications branch at Blizzard, we're not directly tied to customer support.

One of the biggest components of our jobs is community engagement. We can't effectively be functioning members of the community, relate to the community on a personal level, and maintain a two-day dialog in discussions which largely revolve around subjective experiences and opinion, if our job is to "grin and bear it."

Everyday I'm sharing with the community on the forums, Twitter, and email my view of things, even as an official representative of Blizzard. I wouldn't love my career so much if I didn't actually believe what I'm saying or have the freedom to share my stance on things, or if my only role was to be someone's mouthpiece. On a personal level, I approach the forums each day hoping I can do some good, share helpful insights or new information, and encourage people to want to come to the forums for constructive reasons -- to speak reasonably and frankly about World of Warcraft with other players and representatives of Blizzard.



Zarhym
Quote:


I know my brother would eject people from his store if they spoke to employees the way people on these forums speak to the Blues. There is a line between providing customer service and taking verbal abuse.

Oh, and what Zarhym said about them not actually being Customer Service.
So a representative of a company that interacts with customers has nothing to do with customer service? Riiiight...

This is what I meant by saying I'd like to avoid the semantic argument. :)

Yes, on some fundamental level we're providing support for our customers, but we're also not a part of the CS department at Blizzard. PR & Community form the Blizzard Communications branch. There is some two-way crossover between CS and Communications. Each side performs some functions that relate to the other. For example, having CS reps on the forums, Twitter, and Facebook links them to the company's overall communications/engagement strategy (which is largely determined by PR/Community). On the flipside, CMs answering player questions and sharing information with the public is a function of providing customer support (while CS policies and strategies are determined by CS).

There are major differences though. CS has access to tools that allow them to verify in-game matters and other situations reported to them, and offer billing and technical support to players on an individual basis. We don't have that same access and aren't trained to do what they do.

Meanwhile, we share design insight and philosophies to discuss World of Warcraft gameplay with the community in a public setting. This isn't a function of CS, as PR/Community is responsible for talking regularly to the developers about design, upcoming content, and gameplay feedback.

As I said before, our discussions with players tend to be subjective in nature, whereas CS is often assisting players with X issue which has Y solution.

I feel it's important to reiterate how I distinguished one-on-one interaction from public interaction. I never appreciate when people use some analogy to a retail customer service situation to make a point about how we don't treat customers correctly:

Go ask any manager of any store what he/she thinks a customer service reps job is to do in the face of a "rude" customer.

Are there tens of thousands of other customers standing around, listening in, and given the opportunity to share their opinion of how the interaction between the store manager and the "rude" customer went? I don't find this relevant.

You'd be better off comparing what we do to a town hall debate, but I'm not running for anything. ;).


What's your take on this debate? Is it good for Community Managers to show a little personality? Or should they defer to angry forum posters?

Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

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