Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Ethos of a Company

A company can posses many of the traits you would normally associate with an individual. It is the very concept incorporation is based on. It makes the company liable, as a whole, for its actions while shielding the individuals who make up the company from undue hardship. It is this concept that allows a company to buy land, or machines or to bind itself into contracts. This is all perfectly natural to us because we feel businesses do have a character beyond that of the employees who comprise them.

That character can be shown in many ways. Via the conduct of the employees in general, the quality of the product, quality of customer service etc... The most vital interaction is, I believe, the one-to-one service you get when you have a problem. The most important interaction most people with have with any corporation is the company Customer Service Representatives [CSRs]. They set the tone. If you feel fobbed off by customer support, you feel fobbed off by the whole company. Many people will never have any interaction with a company other than through CSRs. This is especially true in virtual worlds where purchasing is automated and the Owner is often not online if you have a question. A good company makes sure it has the best CSRs it can in place.

Accepting responsibility when something goes wrong goes a long way toward building trust. While nobody is interested in a product that fails constantly, we all accept that errors occur and mistakes happen. Look at the condemnation Sony brought upon itself for not telling its customers their PS3 online accounts had been hacked when it happened. Sony now says they did not think, at the time, data had been stolen. Good excuse? Even knowing what to say when things do go wrong means a company understands its target demographic. Not knowing the customer base can make even an honest apology sound hollow.

Corporations show their character with a good product. You can only get a good product after a lot of hard work. I find that people who put a lot of effort into what they do also support it. They want to see it thrive. It is hard to be invested in a shoddy product. A good product is well tested and it builds confidence in a company, we know everything has been checked. You can tell when a person is proud to stand behind the product they sell, they believe in it.

Bit of a lecture there, but I say all that to bring us to some recent events that Team Meeroos had to deal with, my opinion on how they handled them and what that says about the company. The first event, if you will, was Open Beta itself. Thousands of us joined the Group and optimistically waited for our first Meeroos. Even before they arrived there were questions about this and misunderstandings about that. Plenty of people tried to help in Group chat but the people who really stood out, spent 12+ hours a day online, were and are the Meeroos CSRs. At times when I was getting cross in Group chat they were calmly answering questions. Even if all they could do was direct people to the blog, they were there. I can't think of many times I have logged in and there was not a CSR available in Group chat. What does that say about the dedication of Team Meeroos?

They also made a mistake. Nothing major, just a flag in the database that released all the Open Beta Meeroos on the Grid a bit early. Could happen to any company with software in Beta and would, in most cases, not be any problem at all. If you're testing a fabricated database and you loose your temporary entries you are not normally too fussed. It might be a slight inconvenience and there might be an apology. Malevay Studios went much further than that. First off they acknowledged it as a mistake on the blog, no double talk, nothing about "looking into the issue" or prevarication of any kind. To quote the blog: "I'll be completely honest with you, this was our mistake." More than that: they understood their customers, or testers in this case. They knew how close we all were to the Meeroos we had. We knew they were Beta, we knew they were going to go. But when it happened without warning Malevay Studios realized what it meant to us, and they said so. On their blog they write "Although our intention was to have them vanish to the wild, we wanted to provide you adequate time to say your good-byes and prepare for the inevitable." For me those are the words of a company, a group of people, who know their customers. People who, if they did not work there, would be Meeroos customers.

What makes a quality product? People willing to put in the hours to make it quality mostly. What other company can boast the update turn-around time of Team Meeroos? The first phase of Open Beta was less than two weeks long and yet there are already updated items. Issues have been fixed, and complaints on the Forums have been addressed. Server side and InWorld both. Malevay Studios does not spend time talking about "agile development" they are agile! Imagine the internal testing: Before anything gets to Open Beta somebody has to rez a few, test them, test everything. If there are problems: send it back to the dev (Tiger, may you be preserved and kept safe while you work) then repeat. That is all before any of us get to have a go. As it should be.

What does this all mean? I have met some awesome people who work for Malevay Studios and I have seen an amazing product. I have been nothing but impressed with their customer [tester] service. I have faith that they will inspire the community and energize the company. Who knows what Team Meeroos has up their sleeves? I don't know but I want to find out.

= I'm reading about #Meeroos: The Ethos of a CompanyTweet this post!

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