Respect is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot without people actually slowing down and meaning it.
Respect in the context of the freemium model to me means that it can only work if there is respect all around, from users to the people that run the company, between users and from the people that run to the company to the users.
If any of those is not present you are in for a very rough time.
Let’s analyze these in turn.
Respect from the users to the people that run the company is important because those that provide the service spend a disproportionate amount of time being computer screens in tiny rooms trying to please the people on the other side of the internet connection. If the users do not respect those that provide them with the service without a very good reason to do so, then my advice on how to deal with this is simple: boot them. Don’t bother going in to endless discussions, life’s too short and that bucket is already underway with potentially a hundred or more replacements. Some users can really test your patience and it’s a fine line between a support call and abuse. Simply kick them off the system until they’ve learned to moderate their tone. This is important because if they’re not able to communicate in a normal way with you and your employees they will likely do the same when communicating with other users.
Between users, the exact same thing holds. If you have 500 users and 10 of them are in it for the ‘grief’, the ‘lulz’ or the trolling (not to mention the spam) then within no time your real users will disappear. 100 committed trolls can destroy the atmosphere of a site with 100K visitors with ease (see ‘slashdot’). If you come upon users that are disrespectful to other users shoot them, and do it in such a way that you won’t be seeing them again for a while.
Pre-emptive banning of access through networks such as ‘tor’ and other proxies and anonymizers can help a lot when dealing with offensive users.
Finally, respect from you and your colleagues towards your users will go a long way in having an actual future, disgruntled users is one thing, disgruntled users that start posting emails with rants or that are being told off is quite another. Respect for your end-users is also reflected in the kind of course changes and the speed with which you implement them, keep in mind that there exists an unspoken agreement between you, the site operators and the users which assumes you have their interest at heart. For users to find out that this is not the case is usually not a good thing, it is to be avoided if this is at all possible.