Handling complaints from members can be one of the trickiest jobs for a moderator. Finding the balance between running the community how you would like it to be run and how members would like you to run it is not always easy. People often like to "get things off their chest". So their mail might be a bit of a rant, but by the time you read it, they're probably already feeling calmer. Bearing that in mind might help you feel a bit calmer too. Just getting a reply from a human being (you) will do a lot to make someone feel happier, as long as that reply is fairly level-headed. It is far better a member complains to you rather than local media and or friends.
We all get a bit frustrated at times, but we are all ambassadors for Freegle, and we want people to join Freegle and re-use. What we say to members will impact on how they feel about Freegle. A member lost from one group may be a member lost from Freegle for good and all their contacts in your community might be told how useless the group and Freegle is.
Composing a Reply
Try to address the facts of the complaint rather than reacting to the emotion.
Stop and think carefully - could they be making a valid point, and you might be in the wrong!
Always be polite (yes, always!) no matter how much you are provoked. Consider it a challenge to stay courteous regardless of what is said.
Taking the approach of wanting to help the member use Freegle rather than punishing them for breaking rules works better every time.
Keep replies neutral and understanding. Refer to other reuse networks in a neutral matter. Do not be drawn into discussing the rules of other communities.
Be careful not to be condescending. Type out your response then sit on your hands for a couple of minutes. Read it through. Is it a fair response to their complaint? Does it come across as condescending or rude? Consider asking another member of your moderating team to go over it.
If they are angry, acknowledge this and say that you understand their frustration. However trivial or silly you think their complaint is say that their feedback is very useful.
If you agree that there is a problem, say that you are sorry and explain what will happen in the future to put it right. If you cannot agree with their complaint, eg they are disagreeing with a rule that you will not compromise on, then explain why this rule is in place and how it helps with the smooth running of the community.
Be mindful of sensitive issues when forwarding or copying others into emails.
Noting the Complaints
It’s worth keeping a record of complaints to see if there are issues that come up repeatedly. If so, it may be that the members are giving you useful information on how the community can work better for everyone. It may be time to think about whether you can change things - there is no inherent benefit in remaining static as times change around us.
Asking for Feedback
It can be helpful to ask members from time to time if they have any feedback, what is working well and what is not.
We’re all human, sometimes its very hard to deal objectively with issues and it can be better to ask another volunteer in your team, if possible, to deal with a complaint. Sometimes if a volunteer has problems with a member a reply from another can calm the waters.
Consider having a shared account for all volunteer emails, that can encourage us to think about what we say. There is the facility on Chat for copies of all community chats, but also it can be used to chat to fellow volunteers.
If you work on your own or as a team feel you cannot handle a particular complaint you can ask others for help by asking on Central, or emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org