Archive for the ‘Amazon forums’ Category

How to get help in an online forum

July 24, 2013

How to get help in an online forum

I spend a lot of time in forums at Amazon. I probably read hundreds of “threads” (that’s a series of comments, or posts, all on the same subject…one person says something first, then other people comment on that and on the comments) every week.

Specifically, I’m in the

Amazon Kindle Forum

and

Kindle Help Forum

a lot.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have this blog or have written the books I have in the Kindle store if it wasn’t for stumbling on to the Kindle forum years ago.

I found the people there helpful and funny, and it became a big part of my life.

I was named by Amazon one of their “Kindle Forum Pros”, which is a way that they recognize people who contribute strongly to the forums. We aren’t paid, and we aren’t Amazon employees…we are just a group of Kindle owners who volunteer to help other people.

I do it mostly because I like to help people…I enjoy it. :)

With all those threads read and now several years of experience, I have a pretty good idea of how those forums work.

When people want help, sometimes they get it…and sometimes, they don’t.

I thought I’d give you some of my insight on why that is, especially the latter.

Let me say first, though, that not everybody who posts on a forum wants help. Some people just want to complain, and they just want other people to commiserate with them. They aren’t looking for a fix for anything…they just want other people to tell them they are right.

Other people just want to stir up trouble. They really don’t care what the forum is about: they are just about making people feel bad and get angry, because it gives them a sense of power. They do something, and it provokes a response which they have predicted. The bigger the response, the more they think they have shown their power over others. Online, those people are commonly referred to as “trolls”. I don’t like to use terms which denigrate and dehumanize people, even people who do things I don’t like…so you won’t find me using that term.

What about the people who actually want help? What stops them getting it? That might be the right way to express it, because I think the neutral level is that you will get help. However, I like to approach things more positively, so rather than setting this up as what you might do that won’t get you help, I’m going to explore it by looking at what you can do right.

1. Read the forum first

You want to start out with making sure you are in the right place. I’ve seen people post in the Kindle forum about problems they have with, oh, a guitar they purchased (I’m just making up that example). Take a minute to read a page or two of threads to see what the feel is. If there is a search box, go ahead and search for your topic…at least make sure similar things are being asked and answered

2. Be nice

I’m sometimes surprised by people who don’t seem to realize that they are being insulting. They’ll have a headline, or post a comment, calling Amazon “stupid” or “greedy”…and then be surprised when people who are regular Amazon customers defend the company. It’s like walking up to a table full of diners in a restaurant and saying, “Your friend is ugly…and do you know where the restroom is?” It would take an unusual person to focus on your question at that point. I have to really steel myself not to engage in a case like that…I used to do it, but I’ve gotten pretty good at just paying attention to the question and not the way it is asked. For me, even a jerk deserves my help. :)

I’ve alway been proud of my ability to work with difficult people. I always remember that I knew someone (who was somewhat of a public figure) who used to say, “I didn’t come here to make everybody love me. I came here to get the job done.” One time I said, “But wouldn’t it be easier to get the job done if everybody loved you?” The person just sort of blinked and fell silent…that was absolutely a thought which couldn’t be processed. I doubt that person even remembered I said it.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen somebody come in with guns blazing, have people make some defense (often not even an emotional one) of Amazon, and then the first person seems genuinely surprised by the response. They may then also resort to a dehumanizing term, like “fanboys” or assume the commenters are employees of Amazon. Somewhere in the first post, though, there may have been a real question.

3. Be specific

You aren’t typically going to see somebody complain that you put in too much information about your situation. :) I’ve seen posts where the entire thing was something like, “It won’t work.” No mention of what won’t work. :) Writing about a Kindle? Give the model…the solutions often vary. I find that I need to send people to

http://www.amazon.com/help/kindle/which

so they can figure it out, but that’s fine. I could give you three or four different solutions for different model families, but that’s going to be confusing.

Let us know: what is happening; what would you like to have happen; and what you have tried so far.

If there an error message? Tell us what it says, not just “I get an error.”

One of my favorite least useful things is when somebody says, “I’ve been having this problem, and I’ve tried everything.” If you’ve tried everything, by definition, nothing else can be suggested. :) Please tell the forum members what you have tried…a restart, turning it on and off, whatever it might be.

I’d say those are the three main principles. It helps if you aren’t too slangy or jargony. I’m not saying that you need to use completely proper English (that is vanishingly difficult), but you do want people to understand what you are trying to say. I do understand that some people are using adaptive technology because of disabilities…capitalizing something can be very difficult with some of those, and I can be forgiving of that. Personally, I don’t mind some common online abbreviations, as long as people understanding it is a reasonable expectation in context. I’ve mentioned before that I have an irrationally negative reaction to “serial puncs”*…when someone puts in multiple exclamation points or question marks, or both. That’s mostly me, though. I think most people are okay with it…aren’t they???? ;) I’m able to override that “trigger” for me and still help somebody. I’d also say that patience makes sense. I’ve seen someone post, and then post again two minutes later complaining that no one has answered yet. If you are in a community forum (one populated by people like you, rather than people who are paid to answer your questions), it can take a while sometimes. If you need help right away, you can always contact Kindle Support:

http://www.amazon.com/help/kindle/which

I hope that advice helps. You can always ask questions here, and I’ll try to answer them…but I do think the forums are fun and I’d like you to get the most out of them.

What do you think? Do you have any other important suggestions for people? Do you have a great story about being helped on a forum…or of helping someone else? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* Hm…is “serial punc” a dehumanizing term? I like the pun, but I’ll have to think about that one

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon forum gets moderators

February 24, 2012

Amazon forum gets moderators

When people ask me to compare the NOOK and the Kindle, I always go back to the Customer Service difference.

That comparison needs to be made both on policies and on people.

On policies, there is no question: Amazon wins.

Amazon allows the “return” of any Kindle store book within seven days for a refund.

“Returning Kindle Books

Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you’ll no longer have access to the book. To request a refund and return, visit Manage Your Kindle, click the actions tab for the title you’d like to return, and select “Return for refund.”

Amazon help page

Barnes & Noble does not allow the return of e-books at any time.

“Items That Cannot Be Returned
We are unable to accept returns for NOOK Books, magazines, downloadable PDFs for SparkNotes products, gift cards, and shrink-wrapped items that have been opened. Please note: Once purchased, NOOK Books cannot be refunded.”

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/help/cds2.asp?PID=8121

Amazon allows the return of a Kindle within thirty days. If you are returning it and there is nothing wrong with it, they do expect you to pay the return postage (a few dollars in the USA). This can be very important, especially for those with special needs who need to see how the device works for them.

“You can return any Kindle device you purchased directly from Amazon.com for a full refund within 30 days of the day you received it as long as it’s in new condition and the return is in accordance with our return policy. “

Amazon help page

In the stated policy that most floors me as a former retailer, if you don’t follow the proper procedure when you return a NOOK, Barnes & Noble will keep it…and not refund you any money for it. That’s even if you’ve labeled it nicely and they know who you are! I just find that truly bizarre. I do understand that they might have to charge you something to get it to the right part of the company, but I can’t imagine having somebody walk into my bookstore with a book they bought from, say, another store in the chain…and my employee just taking it and not giving it back or giving any money for it! I mean, I have to admit, I picture somebody opening that package at Barnes & Noble with an evil laugh and saying, “Sucker!” and high-fiving everybody. No, I’m sure they actually don’t behave that way…the employee who opens it may feel sad about it for the person. But their bosses’ policy is to take the property and give no compensation for it.

“Returning nook

You can return nook within 14 days of receipt. Either call 1-800-THE-BOOK (843-2665) for a return authorization, or return it to a Barnes & Noble store.

Please note: if you do not call for a return authorization number and send the nook to the wrong return center, no refund will be provided and your nook will not be returned to you.”

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/help/cds2.asp?PID=8121#nook

So, the policies, which can be looked at objectively, favor Amazon.

As to the people, admittedly, that’s harder to demonstrate.

We can look at surveys…Amazon is number 1 in the below survey, BN.com (not the stores, that’s different) is #26:

Foresee study

Oh, let’s get that out of the way…I’ve seen people say that they would rather buy a NOOK because they can go into the store if something goes wrong with it. I guarantee you, the store clerk in your local B&N is not going to be the one to fix that NOOK. They are going  to send it somewhere. Of course, if it’s just an exchange,  that might be easier, but don’t expect to be able to go to your local NOOK and ask questions. You can do that easily online…but my experiences online with B&N have not been good. That’s subjective, but I do love my experiences at

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

What’s a way you can tell if the support people are good?

You can talk to them. :)

That’s another place where I’d say Amazon really trumps B&N. They have Kindle forums where we can talk to each other. I’m there a lot  (a lot a lot). ;)

They also have a specific forum where we see answers from Amazon support people. Oh, probably 90 percent of the questions have been answered by Kindle owners, but we do see those support folks there.

That’s the

Kindle Help Forum

Well, I was fascinated to see a recent announcement that they had added forum moderators…and they named them.

Welcome, Will, Megan, Josh, Meg and David!

Right away, I wondered what their job descriptions were.

When you say “moderator” on an online forum, it usually means someone who reviews posts before they are posted…and may reject “extreme” ones. Moderators keep things moderate. :)

It doesn’t always mean that. A moderator could simply suggest that maybe it wasn’t appropriate to call someone a “troll” or a “fanboi” after something is posted…and who has the power to enforce that by blocking posts are removing posting privileges.

That’s the difference between a “moderated forum” and an “unmoderated forum”. Unmoderated forums are free-for-alls…it’s the Wild West.

That’s hasn’t been 100% true for the Amazon Kindle forums. There is software that blocks posts with obscenities, for example…”boterators”, so to speak.

I was curious if these new “moderators” were actually going to moderate, or were just going to post.

It appears to be the latter. I haven’t seen any difference when I’ve posted before or after their announcement, in terms of process…no “comment pending approval” message.

Amazon doesn’t always use terms the way most people do. :) There is another group of people identified by Amazon as “KINDLE FORUM PROS”. Pro, of course, is short for “professional”, which suggests that they are paid for it (some would say that it requires that it’s the way you make your living). Those are just people who are really dedicated to helping other people, basically. Amazon says specifically about a KINDLE FORUM PRO

“These customers have demonstrated not only skill and knowledge of Amazon and Amazon Kindle Products, but also a willingness to help their fellow customers.”

They identify them as customers…not professionals, not part of Amazon.

The Forum Moderators have the AMAZON OFFICIAL badge…presumably, they work for and are paid by Amazon.

So, the “pros” aren’t pros, and the “moderators” don’t appear to moderate. :)

That quibble out of the way, I think it’s a great thing!

The fact that Amazon would apparently pay people to hang out and answer questions on a forum shows their commitment to Customer Service. I love that customers help customers (I love doing that myself), but it’s nice to have the answer being “official”…it says that right by their names. :)

If you do have questions, that Kindle Help Forum is a good place to go…although I like it when you ask me here, too. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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