How to Support an Angry Customer

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Last month we released a new version of Nelio Content, our WordPress plugin to manage content and share it on social media. It was a major update with a complete redesign to adapt it to the new WordPress standards. That is, it introduced a new user interface built using React, it leverages the REST API, and so on. I honestly think Nelio Content 2.0 was a step forward in every possible way.

The editorial calendar of Nelio Content
The editorial calendar in Nelio Content.

If you take a look at our plugin’s changelog, you will see that, during this month, we have released minor updates to fix a few bugs we’ve identified since this release. But that’s actually business as usual: whenever a user (subscriber or not) has a problem with one of our plugins, we try to solve it as quickly as possible. And the changelog is (I believe) a proof of that. But don’t believe me; just look at some of the latest opinions from our users:

A first-class plugin, it does all the work for you and the support is extremely fast and friendly.

Sven Hauswald en WordPress.org

Of course they have to limit the functions of the free plugin version, but that is totally fine and allows you to at least schedule some social messages. It’s a bit buggy here and there and I always wait for the second or third update version due to a lot of bugs and errors, but recently found out that their service is really great!

zemase en WordPress.org

Nelio Content is a serious and worth checking plugin when it comes social media handling. This rating regards the free version of this plugin. I am skipping the part of outlining the plugin functionalities, since a detailed description is already provided by the developers. It is important though to highlight the quality of both the functionalities as well as the support which are not only offered for free but also exceed the typical expectations. Great effort is invested by committed and polite people in this project, which should be recognized.

gskyknight and WordPress.org

Overall, most of the comments and reviews we get on our products are very positive. But let’s face it, not everyone thinks we’re the best and that our service is excellent. There are some users who end up really frustrated and angry with us… and today we’re talk about them because, you know, they might be right.

Let’s meet an angry user, shall we?

A couple of weeks after releasing the new version of Nelio Content, this message popped up in WordPress.org support threads :

All translations stoped working after the last update! After 1 year (there was no any problem). We may move files to any folder – always the same. Only EN!

Angry user

The message isn’t really that helpful at identifying what went wrong… but I think we’d all agree with the following:

  • The user is clearly annoyed with the latest update, as evidenced by the multiple exclamation points.
  • The user has problems with translations.

So, as soon as we know we have an angry user with a problem, the most important thing is to stay calm and do our best to help them. In this specific case, the first thing I did was think about what could have gone wrong with our plugin’s translations.

First of all, I thought about the obvious: being Nelio Content 2.0 such a big update, many strings of the previous version were out of date, which means there were a lot of string to translate. That might explain why everything they see is in “only EN!”

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that a couple of days before receiving this message I found a couple of bugs (# 223 and # 225) in the tool that WordPress.org uses to extract translatable strings from a plugin. That might or might not have anything to do with it, but I thought maybe it did…

So here’s what I replied:

Hi! What language are you using? The new version we released is a complete redesign of the plugin, and there are several strings that may not have been translated yet. Right now, they’re only available in Spanish and Catalan, as you can see here.

Also, we identified a couple of issues (#223 and #225) in the tool used by WordPress to extract the strings that can be translated, which means that, until it’s fixed and addressed, some strings will remain in English.

David

Unfortunately, it looks like what I said wasn’t as helpful as I’d expected:

100% is in English! Nothing works! Everything stoped – it is not an update but a BUG! Maybe you also changed the name of the default PO file? There isn’t any POT incuded (with the plugin), as well!

Angrier user

Tricks to (try to) please a user who is upset and angry

Let’s take a look at the 4 steps I take to help users who are in a bad mood and might not be willing to have a friendly conversation.

1 Take a deep breath and put on their shoes

When I first read their answer, I have to admit, it pissed me off a little bit. I mean, really? “Nothing works”? “It is not an update but a BUG”? That sounded quite rude! But it is at this moment when you have to take a deep breath, take advantage of the fact that the user is not in front of you, and take your time to respond in a calm and understanding way.

Since the user also contacted us via email, I was able to gather some more information about the issue at hand. Apparently, they translated the plugin on their own (they didn’t do so on WordPress.org), which explains the latest message where they complained about not being “any POT included with the plugin.”

Anyway, here’s how the conversation went (you’ll have to take my word for it, as it was private):

So you had your own translations… now I get it! You can generate the .pot file you need from WordPress.org. Or you could translate the plugin directly on WordPress.org so that any other Polish user can benefit from your translation.

David (privately)

The user was still angry, so they basically ignored my answer and repeated their complaints:

100% is in English! Nothing works! Everything stoped – it is not an update but a BUG! Maybe you also changed the name of the default PO file? There isn’t any POT incuded (with the plugin), as well!

Angry User (privately)

2 Be honest and explain in detail what is happening

I don’t know about you, but I think this user is being rude and extremely unfriendly. Moreover, it doesn’t look like they want our help… but it’s our job, as professionals, to offer the best service we can no matter what.

In this case, this means that we must keep in mind that our users may not fully understand how WordPress and its i18n system works, so explaining it clearly is on us. That’s why my next response was more detailed and had plenty of links and screenshots to guide them.

My email was quite long, but it essentially covered the following points:

  1. First of all, I explained that WordPress.org includes a section to translate plugins and themes. I shared the exact link with the Nelio Content translations section along with a screenshot of the user interface.
  2. Then I explained what had happened to the POT file. In the previous versions of Nelio Content, the plugin you downloaded from WordPress.org as a zip file included a POT with all translatable strings. This is a file we generated before releasing a new version. But we decided that was unnecessary, because WordPress.org was already doing it for us. I explained them this and I also described how they could still get the POT file from WordPress.org (again, with several screenshots).
  3. Finally, I also told them that translations in this new version work differently. Specifically, I explained the plugin was using new WordPress technologies (React, Redux, etc) and, therefore, a PO/MO file wasn’t enough to translate the plugin. I shared a link to the Make WordPress blog where it explains how the internationalization of text strings generated directly in JavaScript works, which we can summarize as: you need JSON files with the translations used in JS.

This went back and forth for a little longer and, after suggesting that “the easiest path to get a working translations was to translate the plugin directly on WordPress.org,” here’s what they told me:

This is wrong! You do not understand how the translation system works – we spent about 12 hours on it and we are not going to share our work with others. This is what 99% of users do.

(…) Most DEVs enclose the POT file in the installation file – and Loco creates the PO from there. Nothing is known here. There is no POT in the installation, the PO files do not work in any location.

I understand that some strings may have changed but nothing works and everything is 100% in English.

Less? angry user (privately)

At least we now have some more information: it seems they used the Loco Translate plugin to translate Nelio Content…

3 You can’t make everyone happy, so give them a way out

Loco Translate is a plugin that simplifies the process of translating plugins and themes through a very friendly user interface. But it has a big limitation: currently, it’s only capable of translate a plugin via PO/MO files. Remember those JSON files our plugin needs? Well, Loco Translate can’t generate them.

Issues of Loco Translate
Known issues in Loco Translate.

Luckily, this information is clearly detailed on the plugin’s web page, so I thought that might help them understand what was amiss:

There is currently no support for JSON language packs used with wp_set_script_translations.

Loco Translate website

Unfortunately, they didn’t – they kept complaining about the update. So all I could do at this point was to let them know there wasn’t anything I could do for them:

I’m sorry this was such an inconvenience. Honestly, it never occurred to me that users would be translating the plugin using third-party tools instead of contributing to WordPress.org itself.

As I said, contributing translations to WordPress.org does not only benefit you, but also any other users who also speak your language and would like to use the tool in Polish. But, if you feel like using another plugin is best, I completely understand.

David (privately)

4 Is the user rude? Just ignore them

But sometimes they won’t let it go. You might have told them there’s nothing you can do to help and you might have suggested it’d be better if they looked for an alternative… but some users will keep bullying you. If that’s the case: ignore them. That’s it. Mark their emails as spam and move on.

Luckily for me, I can easily show you that, indeed, this user was a bully. If we now go back to WordPress.org public support thread, you’ll be able to see it by yourself. For example, when I shared “the user contacted us via email” and told us “they had translated Nelio Content using Loco Translate, which relies on a pot file being included in the plugin,” their answer was they “DO NOT use Loco ,” thus implying I was lying (even though, a couple of messages later, they said “we use Loco, but when necessary.”

They also complained about it being the only time they “spend 2 days discussing problems that shouldn’t be there,” but that’s simply because they didn’t want to understand what was amiss:

You and I wasted 2 days discussing this issue because you’re not reading what I’m telling you: Nelio Content 2.x does not only need a PO/MO file – it also needs several JSON files that should contain all the translations required by each of its JavaScript files. If you want to translate the plugin by yourself but then fail to generate these assets, it’s no wonder things aren’t working as expected.

David, who at this point is quite tired of life

The Outcome…

In the end, all I did was send one last message:

Our plugin doesn’t do anything fancy with translations: it uses standard WordPress tools to internationalize both PHP code and JavaScript code.

I understand you have some specific needs – you need to craft your own translations and joining a Polyglots team and translating the plugin on WordPress.org is not an option for you. That’s totally fine – you simply need to manually generate the required JSON assets. Please read the documentation on how to do it manually or wait until Loco Translate releases an update that’s compatible with it and simplifies the overall process.

Now, if you don’t want to do any of that because you don’t need to with other plugins… well, I can definitely understand. But please stop complaining over and over again about the same issue when I’ve already told you what you need to do to get things up and running.

David the punisher

and ignore them from that moment on.

What do you do with users like this one? Share your experience with us!

Featured image from Icons8 Team on Unsplash.

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