Flippa And Sitepoint

So far, the move of Sitepoint’s Website Selling Marketplace to Flippa has been met with widespread criticism by Sitepoint members. I’m not surprised. There are several causes for this unrest:

  • the changes in functionality introduced
  • how those changes were introduced
  • response to feedback from users

The Flippa project could be called a Study In How Not To Manage A Development Project.

The Changes In Functionality

The first problem that is immediately apparent is that Sitepoint didn’t gather user requirements from the community that actually uses their website selling marketplace. How can you give your users what they want if you don’t ask them what they want? Unless you get users involved and collect a list of requirements, there is a good chance that they will be unhappy when they find that new functionality does not meet their needs.

The biggest changes brought in were the move to an entirely different site (Flippa.com) and the introduction of a success fee of up to $500 on completion of a sale. Current users were not asked for their thoughts regarding either of those changes before they were implemented.  It’s not surprising then that the community feels devalued by being left out of the decision making process. Of course, public opinion on those changes would be redundant if Sitepoint were determined to press ahead with them anyway.

I know that 37signals and others have been big advocates of getting software out there quickly and then running with it. This is a good approach if the software is new, as inertia and over analysis can sometimes kill progress. On the other hand, this is a dodgy strategy if you are replacing a longstanding service used by an established community. Like the famous Sitepoint Marketplace.

How Those Changes Were Implemented

There was no warning given of when the go-live date for Flippa would be. Holders of auctions that were still running in the Sitepoint Marketplace found their auctions relocated to Flippa without any notice, but more importantly, without their consent. The auctions were closed on Sitepoint and then reopened on Flippa.

I’m not sure about the legal implications of such a manoeuvre, but if I pay for the service of displaying my auction on a well known and respected website like Sitepoint (with all its prestige, trust and established traffic) for a particular amount of time, I would expect my contract to be honoured. I certainly wouldn’t be happy about it being transferred to a lesser “startup” site, which is what Flippa is.

No consideration has been given to the effect the move to Flippa has on a current auction’s potential bidders, either. Some bidders may be put off by the new unknown site. If that’s the case then in moving those auctions to a different site – without the holders’ permission – Sitepoint have reduced the chances of a sale taking place.

Response To User Feedback

Customer service is what can make or break a company. Since Flippa was introduced, community feedback has been very critical. Sitepoint staff, however, have been less than receptive to those criticisms. At points, Sitepoint staff have acted unprofessionally and have been downright insulting when addressing members’ concerns.

Customers can put up with a poor level of service if the provider of that service shows that they understand the problem, appreciates the customers’ dissatisfaction and endeavours to make the situation better. In stark contrast, when confronted with valid concerns Sitepoint have simply challanged them. If a customer is expressing their dissatisfaction with a product or service, the last thing they want to hear is “no you are wrong, because…”, or “if you don’t like it you can go elsewhere”. I’ve selected some choice titbits below, for your horror. All those who work in customer relations turn away now!

Purpose Of User Feedback

Maybe I’m being over cynical here, but although Sitepoint claims to welcome “feedback” about Flippa, I suspect that what they really want is the community to perform their user testing for them. In my opinion, paying for user testing should come out of Sitepoint’s budget, not out of yours or mine. Ironically, in being over zealous in their pursuit of bugs, disgruntled Sitepoint members are actually giving Flippa a very thorough testing indeed. It’s cheaper than employing your own staff to do the job, that’s for sure.

How Not To Talk To Your Customers

In this matter, Sitepoint have given the impression that they are either not listening to their customers or that they don’t care about their concerns. Here are the top picks from the Sitepoint Hall Of Customer Service Fame:

Dave Slutzkin

On an off-topic note, in Australia we have a saying:

“Opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one.”

Shocking, I know. Regardless of how frustrated you become when talking to customers, insulting them is not usually a good strategy in problem resolution. But maybe I read the wrong books.

Mark Harbottle

Thanks for all your positive feedback guys.

That this should be said after countless complaints could only have infuriated the complainants even more! You pour more petrol on that fire and I’ll fetch the dynamite. From the same post:

Meanwhile while you all whine and complain about the fees

Whine? More insults.

And another beauty:

So, it’s totally up to you! If you want to come across to flippa and sell your site in the professional marketplace we’re creating for serious buyers, we welcome you with open arms. If not, please do go to digitalpoint.

In other words, Sitepoint will not change anything, regardless of positive feedback user dissatisfaction, and they urge those unhappy customers to go elsewhere. How can Sitepoint members not feel valued after reading that?