I am happy to say that this problem has been resolved to my satisfaction, basically within one day–and on a weekend, too. I am a full-blown, fully licensed user of this service again and glad to still have access to those tools.
Today I am writing as a woman customer of a technical service.
I use an account with Gravity Forms (for a school website) and it comes with a default avatar of this:
It is a picture of a man wearing a tee shirt with the Gravity Forms logo on it, right? So I’m a user, but not a man, and this graphic doesn’t reflect me, so I decide to drop them a note on their customer contact form. My note says this:
I am a member of Gravity Forms for my school organization but I have a personal comment to make, so I am using my regular name. I am disappointed that under my member profile picture space/avatar the default setting is of a man. Men and women are users of this technology, and it’s off-putting to be excluded from the outside by something so easy to change and so visible.
Maybe instead of an icon of a man you could put something a little rocket like the rocket in your logo? Or even just a yellow smiley face? An image along those lines would be much more inclusive, and would send the message that you appreciate the business of the women in the community as much as the business of the men.
Thank you for your consideration.
One day later (today), I get a reply from Kevin at Gravity Forms. He took umbrage with my note. Let’s read his reply together! (Bold and caps text in original.)
Thanks for your feedback. I’ll be very frank, I found it somewhat entertaining and then mildly offensive.
I don’t know why you would ASSUME that we appreciate our male customers more than our female customers. You don’t really know us, our beliefs or how we do business so I’m not sure where you came up with that idea but you couldn’t be more wrong.
I personally feel that THIS kind of thinking is what helps to propogate and sustain the notion that women are somehow unequal to men. I’m certain you would disagree but that’s to be expected.
This is the first time ever in several years of business that anyone has ever expressed anything even remotely related to this. We have literally thousands of customers and I would bet most have never even considered the gender of the default user avatar. Many of our users have very generic usernames/email addresses (very much like your own school organization ) and we have absolutely no way to tell their gender. EVERYONE gets equal treatment regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age, race or nationality. We simply don’t care about those things. If you’ve paid for our product, we will gladly assist you, love and appreciate you as a customer.
Now, The default user avatar you refer to is an intentionally generic, faceless, genderless icon that’s almost globally associated with a “user” or a user profile. Do a quick google search for “user icon” and you’ll see what I mean ( http://bit.ly/XsjwT2 ) Using a rocket or smiley face as you suggest wouldn’t have the same connotation and wouldn’t follow well established user interaction guidelines.
Since you obviously don’t care for the avatar, you’ll be happy to know that’s easy enough to fix. We use the “Gravatar” service to provide custom user avatars in our forums. You can sign up for one for free and then have the new avatar reflected on our site automatically when viewing your profile or posts. Easy peasy.
I’m sure that my reply hasn’t changed your way of thinking, but please be assured that all of our customers are COMPLETELY EQUAL in our eyes and in terms of how we support our products.
So, I just want to make some points.
1. That’s a genderless icon, my ass.
2. A customer service rep told a customer he was offended by her suggestion.
3. I didn’t ASSUME men were more valued than women–I said I felt excluded and that they could send the message better that they valued everyone.
4. Following the link to the icons brings up women icons, too, which they could have picked from but didn’t.
5. A customer asking for visible representation is what makes women seem lesser, but excluding women from images and chastising them does not. No way.
6. They are officially gender blind and so not causing problems.
7. Despite all this, Gravity Forms loves me as a customer.
8. “Easy peasy” is pretty condescending in this context.
9. He’s correct that my reply hasn’t changed my thinking. It has, however, magnified it, and pissed me off. I can think of so many canned customer service responses that would have indicated a lack of interest in changing the icon without blaming me for the disparity of men and women in technology.
So where’s my Likert scale, Gravity Forms? Where’s my Likert scale?
UPDATE: A few hours later, I get an email from Kevin:
We’ve chosen to refund your Gravity Forms purchase of $39 USD and cancel your account/license key.
You’re obviously unhappy and you’ve been encouraging people to spam our customer support email address. This would create slow-downs as we try to actually help our clients who have real problems.
I hope you have better luck with other solutions.
I didn’t ask to cancel my account and didn’t actually want to cancel my account, but canceled it was. I did manage to save my data, which maybe I wouldn’t have lost. So that was fun.
What to look for here: The exclusion of sexism from the realm of “real problems.” This is just one in a long line of examples of this separation of sexism from problems that matter. Also, complaining about me from Twitter accounts that identify you as a representatives of the company still count as bad customer service.