Follow Up From CaryJay, IMVU’s CEO

Hi again! For those of you who didn’t see my message from Oct. 5, I’m Cary (“CaryJay”), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IMVU. I recently shared news of some major milestones IMVU has achieved, and I invited you to share your feedback on this news – and many of you did.  Thank you!  For anyone who missed it, you can find my message with more details about these milestones here

Thank You!
First, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to write to me personally to share your kudos, suggestions, and concerns. It’s always a humbling experience to hear directly from our passionate community of users who make IMVU such a special and unique site. I read every single email, and I also shared many with members of my team.

Several distinct themes emerged amongst the several hundred emails sent in, and my intent is to summarize those themes and add some commentary on each area.  Overall, I’d bucket the emails into: 1) kudos and support for IMVU; 2) suggestions and concerns; and 3) complaints. Because I want to offer transparency into the emails I received, I have included quotes from some of them. Please bear with me as you read through this long message.

Bucket #1 – Kudos and Support for IMVU
By far the vast majority of emails I received were filled with kudos and support for IMVU, which I find very inspiring. Below are a few examples of the kudos:

“Congratulations to you, the staff @ IMVU, and special congrats to your investment supporters! IMVU is a unique experience and I’m so happy that you have finally made it into the ranks of profitable businesses! I hope that you can generate even greater returns for your investors in the future! I thank them from the bottom of my heart that they have stayed with you for this journey. As a member of the general IT community, I know how hard it is to take a vision, mold it to reality, and have it succeed and make money.  Many a great vision has not been able to do this.  An example is Wikipedia.  A great idea that has changed the world, but it can’t make any money. If it didn’t have a billionaire backer, it would now be in the dustbin of history. As a creator I will continue to do my best to support IMVU.  The novelty of allowing ordinary people to create content for this extraordinary gaming site has enriched my life tremendously. God bless you and IMVU group.”

“Congratulations! Great Success! High Five! 😉 Keep up the good work and I as a creator will definitely keep doing the same! I’m glad IMVU found me. One of the best things that could happen to me when I least expected it! I’ve kept believing in it from day one and will do so ever after. I could write whole essays about this wonderful experience / opportunity … but I’d like to put my time and efforts in creating original/cool/fun/etc. content for IMVU 😉 … so my message will stay as brief as it is” 😉

“It’s my honor to be one of IMVU members, it’s the best 3D chatting I used in my life,  thank you for such effort, hope u all success” ^__^

“Hi thank you for including us in the loop, I have to say I really like IMVU a lot and you guys have made it very nice. I love the changes and the entire chat experience is very great thank you for that.”

“First of all I would like to say congratulation for the 5 years work. You deserve to be the most successful person on earth. By creating IMVU you and the team deserve to get a big Cheers bottoms up. Great job.”

“I have been an imvu user for almost a year. I love the 3D world where you can live and image from the life that you want to live. From owning your own business to just living carefree life without the stress of the real world. I am glad that as a user that the company is keeping us updated on the latest investments and profits that the social network has made…Keep up with good work and LOVE IMVU!”

Bucket #2 – Concern and Complaints
The second most common theme among the feedback was concerns and complaints. While the staff at IMVU works hard to offer the best possible experience we can, I will be the first to agree that there is always room for improvement. One of the biggest challenges we face is keeping up with all of the increasingly diverse needs of our community. We must work to improve the experience for the majority of our users and creators, while also attempting to address as many other needs and desires as possible (knowing that we can’t possibly make everyone happy).  That said, many of the concerns raised are related to issues that we are actively working to address.

We received the most concern about the following areas: 1) long customer support response times; 2) account disablement without notification; and 3) refunds for re-rated products. Below are specific examples of the feedback we received on these topics:

Long Customer Support Response Times

”While profitability is good financially for a company, what will change for imvu’s users?  I know many customers are unhappy with a tragically short-handed customer service department.  It can take months for even a simple problem to be resolved.  Not many users actually get that far, rebuffed, ignored, and outright insulted by a system put into place to help them.”

“I notice a lot of people complaining about how slow the ticket system is, how some users won’t hear from someone until 2-3 weeks after posting, and a few say they haven’t heard from anyone in well over a month, like me, I had to reopen my ticket for the offers program 2-3 times and STILL waiting for a response. My suggestion is, you hire more people for customer service, since you mentioned in your blog post you guys might take up more staff members.”

“My concern now is that IMVU’s lack of concern, or at least lack of demonstrating it, is hurting your business as well as ours.  The fact that help tickets remain unanswered for such long durations is unacceptable in standard business practices.  Many tickets that do garner responses are only getting copied and pasted messages that only half answer the original question at best.  The ones that do get a real answer are often times answered in a way that implies that the user base is more knowledgeable of your site and your chat client and creation tools than the person who answered the help ticket. This is a grave concern of mine.  A company that lacks customer service will soon also lack customers.  I do realize that with such a large customer base, the number of help tickets must be overwhelming, and that is a challenge.  Training the representatives that are answering the help tickets on a more efficient way to answer them would significantly reduce the amount of repeat issues from the same person.  If the question is answered well the first time, it may take a bit longer to answer, but will be less likely to need a follow up response.”

“I think IMVU has the worst customer service and treats the community like crap. All the smoke and mirrors will not change the fact that money is more important that to you than members and developers.”

We understand that customer support is an area where IMVU needs to make significant improvements, and we have been working hard on a solution. While we have recently increased our customer service staff to reduce the wait time for customer service responses, we’ve found that improving our customer support is not as simple as hiring more employees.  We are exploring different support options that will allow us to reduce the response time to customer service inquiries, while also improving the quality of those responses. We take your feedback on our customer service very seriously, so please look for more information in the coming months.

Account Disablement

“People are being shut down left and right for “violating” the TOS; however, when you read the TOS what these accounts are being shut down for does not apply to the specific policy being spouted back at them.”

“My situation is not unique and in fact I have several friends and know of many others through friends that have had their accounts disabled without proper dialogue.  I had my [account] disabled, and then through the ticket routine (which is haphazard at best) had it enabled again, only to have it disabled again in a couple weeks for the same problem, which is unfixable from my end.  It has to be addressed by IMVU.  I have been…or I guess had been a member/avi for almost 4 years, and a developer who had done well with my products. I have spent at least 5 grand there in the last 4 years, and had an entire life on this program, which was deleted the second time, with absolutely no communication from IMVU.  There has been a ticket open for weeks and I have tried several times to contact them, but when phoning it is all recorded messages.”

We have been working on improvements to our disablement process as well as working on ways to better educate people about why their accounts have been disabled for violating our Terms of Service or Virtual Goods Policy. These improvements should be complete very soon. With this project, we will also introduce a new concept of temporary bans versus permanent disablement to offer users who have committed certain violations a second chance. We plan to share much more detail on this new process soon.  Update – 11-2-09: The details mention above have been announced, you can find them here.

Product Re-Rating and Refunds

“i think what u all are doing is great, the only thing that bugs me it when i had to do a ticket. I bought 2 couches on here from the inventory, next day was gone and i didn’t get refunded. They say because it was unfit or something, and so i don’t get credited back. It isn’t fair or right as i have put in way over $500. I am on disability so when i get credits it’s like real money to me to spend on here as my way of getting away from the day. And losing over 20,000 credits is a lot to me.. I have all the emails i have received from whoever does the tickets. It’s just sad as i didn’t know till after they were unfit couches, as i got them from the catalogue, and i should be refunded this all has been going on since april 2009.”

“I wish to inform you that the reason you are probably making a profit is that users are being ripped off by having items disabled and removed from inventory without being reimbursed per IMVU refund policy.”

“You guys took it out of my inventory list. I was told later it may have been illegal, but how could it of been sold from your store if it was illegal, Now this concerns me is this how you are profiting by stealing peoples money, buy putting items in the store with the hopes that people will buy them and then take it back and keep their money, this is not right, among other things as well, All I’m asking is either return the item or return my credits that IMVU kept after taking back that item.”

We have begun scoping out a project to address the product re-rating and refund process to ensure it is fair and consistent. This won’t be something we can fix overnight, but we are committed to making improvements.  In the meantime, I can confirm the following:

  • In all cases, when a product is re-rated, the buyer should be refunded for the amount of their purchase.
  • Refunds for items that are gifted and re-rated will go to the gift sender rather than the gift recipient.
  • We’ll work to educate buyers who purchase UFI items so that they understand that it violates the ToS.
  • We’ll establish penalties for Creators whose products are routinely flagged and re-rated.

Unfit for IMVU (UFI) Items
For those of you who wrote to me with concerns/requests for a change to our Virtual Goods Policy, specifically around out product rating system and Unfit for IMVU (UFI) items, I want to confirm that we will not be making any changes to what is deemed UFI on the site. IMVU is a large and diverse global community made up of users age 13 and up. Because of the diversity of our community, IMVU needs a comprehensive policy to satisfy the needs of all of our users and provide the best possible experience.  And also, to be clear, those who want UFI items allowed on IMVU represent the minority.

Bucket #3 – Suggestions
I also received many suggestions about ways make IMVU even better – and we love to hear your suggestions! While I cannot promise that we will address all of the suggestions we received, I can promise that I have read every one, and I will consider each as we look at which products and features to prioritize in the coming year.  Below is a sample of some of the suggestions sent in:  

  • Increase the number of people allowed in a room
  • Allow appointment of moderators in Public Rooms when the owner is away
  • Improve the Creator Program and tools, including Previewer, Peer Review, Tier system
  • Bring back the Friends Window
  • Add more ways to pay internationally
  • Develop IMVU for the Mac
  • Make it possible to organize product inventory and delete or hide items
  • Upgrade the forums
  • Improve performance

Related to performance, I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity to test the new “turbo product loading” improvements we released last week, but I encourage you to check it out.  You can find the full details on these enhancements here.

Summary
I want to thank you all once again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing and passionate community! Your feedback helps us to stay on top of the issues and topics that are most important to you. As I am sure you can see from the quotes I’ve included above, the community has many different ideas about what IMVU needs to address.  However, we hope to do as much as we can to offer the best possible experience we can to please the largest number of users.

Now is the time to tell the world about the great community at IMVU and what it means to you. Spread the good word!

Sincerely,

Cary Rosenzweig (“CaryJay”)
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
IMVU

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