User:Peteforsyth/Customer service

The following text is part of a brainstorming exercise about how Wikimedia handles customer service. It is NOT a formal proposal. -Pete F 00:30, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

[Wikipedia] is a project founded on principles of broad collaboration. Its articles are written by volunteers, and nearly all processes—including response to complaints and other problems—are handled by volunteers as well. There is no editorial board; problems are addressed case-by-case by individuals like yourself.

If you have a concern about Wikipedia content, your best option is almost always to fix it yourself, or to open a discussion with the people who have worked on that article. [Click here] for some tips to get you started. However, sometimes a situation needs immediate response, or publicly posting a request is not a reasonable option. Examples might include defamatory information posted on Wikipedia, a photo or text uploaded without the owner's permission, or a photo of someone who objects to its publication. In such a case, where you want immediate assistance, you may send a private email directly to Wikipedia's volunteer customer service team.

The customer service team is a small group of volunteers who have demonstrated the ability to work on difficult and sensitive issues, and to act with appropriate discretion. This team respects requests for privacy, and as a matter of regular practice does not share personal information disclosed in email communications.

The customer service team takes great care to treat inquiries with appropriate respect as a matter of course. In the event that an especially sensitive matter requires special treatment—for instance, if someone has posted personal photos of you, and you prefer your request be handled by someone over 18, or by a person of the same gender—please note that in your request. All such requests will be met to the best of our ability. Please consider that special requests may delay the resolution of your problem, as our volunteer pool is limited.

Specific comments


(see page history for two comments from Fluffernutter, now addressed, I believe -Pete F)

General comments


For context -- the general idea is that the text above be used as a model to improve pages like the ones linked below. These pages could use some improvement; it will take careful work to work this text in, I'm not proposing a straight copy-and-paste. But I do think we need a clear idea of our overall message. -Pete F 18:14, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

On English Wikipedia:

On Commons:

On Meta (and in general, how we express our role to other Wikimedians):

We still need a way for special-request tickets to be identified so that the applicable agents know to address them - a queue is the easiest way to do this that I can think of because agents could then subscribe to it. Are there other possibilities for notification? Fluffernutter 18:17, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes, that may be necessary -- but my hope is that it's not necessary to resolve that before moving forward. If lots of requests start to pour in, we can discuss how to best meet those needs -- but the decision could then be informed by actual requests, instead of theoretical ones. So I think it would become an easier decision at that point. -Pete F 18:40, 18 September 2011 (UTC)
What about an internal-only "special requests" queue, the way we have the "strange stuff" queue? If someone comes across a ticket making a special request, they could shuffle it into that queue, and people who are able to handle various types of special request tickets could subscribe to that and be alerted to check whether any newly-added ticket there can be handled by them. That would avoid the "men can't see this" issue, and the "we can't guarantee customers who will see their ticket, only who will respond to it" issue. Yes, I'm sort of stuck on the queue idea, because right now a woman could submit a ticket requesting a woman handler, and the odds of me seeing it in the regular queues (with the limited time I've had for OTRS lately) are small, whereas if i could get a notification of such a thing, I'd run off and handle it as quickly as I could! Fluffernutter 15:30, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Pete, if I'm reading you right, you've put the cart before the horse. We cannot expect that women reporting sexual exploitation on Commons will send in their requests before we are equipped to handle them. Causa sui 21:52, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Causa, we currently invite people to contact us -- we just don't give a whole lot of guidance about how to go about doing it. I don't think this is backward at all -- if we express a desire to know about requests for customized treatment of sensitive treatment, that is not a promise to meet every request. I believe we will find that requests can be met. If it turns out we have to upgrade internal OTRS processes to do so, fine -- but it'll be an easier "redesign" than one based on speculation. -Pete F 23:42, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

I've been browsing the "Contact Us" pages on and they are CONFUSING to say the least - definitely worth some work. --ErrantX 18:26, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

I think in the past we've used the term "email response" team... I rather like that better than a defined "customer service" team, because that could imply that they are the only ones doing customer service, when in reality many others own that title too. Philippe (WMF) 14:10, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Wouldn't a "customer service" team imply some sort of internal department within WMF? I think there should be demarcation when volunteers handle certain things and forward to relevant staff members, no? Theo10011 14:27, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

I hope it wouldn't imply that, because i firmly believe our customer service is done on the projects and OTRS - not at the WMF. We have no one tasked to doing that specific task, on staff... I'm probably the closest thing to it, and I would say that direct "customer support" occupies a very small percentage of my time. I do think there are times when the staff can support customer service or has different tools at our disposal, but our constant challenge is to be sure that the volunteers on the projects are supported enough to take the lions share of the tickets without our involvement. I can't think of many types that require staff support, frankly. Philippe (WMF) 14:37, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Exactly, that's what I meant Pb :) I was asking for another opinion if Customer Service team implies any ownership or internalization at WMF. I was wondering if we can demarcate this difference better - Volunteer response team or email response team, still don't seem to convey internalization of that function. Maybe I'm just being too sensitive here? please correct me if I am wrong. Theo10011 14:47, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Philippe and Theo, thanks for raising and resolving this issue! It seems it can be easily addressed by replacing the term "customer service team" with "email response team" in all relevant text. Feel free to do that above if you like; I think of the text above as really just a "thought experiment" so I'm not going to bother. But I will be sure to use the preferred phrase in any formal proposals that grow out of this. -Pete F 03:42, 20 September 2011 (UTC)