The past couple of weeks, I’ve been discussing the challenge of supporting free WordPress plugins. Though I’ve done this in the past, I’ve retired those projects, but am looking to get back into doing so all the while documenting the process here.
But first, for those who haven’t been reading the articles up to this point, I wanted to reference the previous posts just to let you know where I stand with regard to all of this:
The point is that I’m slowly working my way back into building a small business around building WordPress plugins, supporting them, offering documentation, manuals, and so on, but I want to make sure that I’m doing it right.
To that end, I’m enjoying the discussion with you guys via the comments as well as the challenge of finding the best tools possible not only for me but for potential customers, as well and this is what raises my next issue: Finding the right WordPress support system.
On The Usability of Support
One of the challenges of implementing a support system is that I we – or company’s – tend to lean in one direction. I could be completely off base, but I think that we start first start with idea of a better way to manage support for ourselves.
Next, we seem to approach this by asking “what would be a better or easier way to manage our support requests?“ Although customers are often the lifeblood of any company, I think that we may not do them justice when it comes to selecting our support system.
Instead, we pick what works best for us, and then aim to educate our users to how to use the system. But we’ve all been on the receiving end of this – think about any given company that you’ve had to email, call, or generally interact with and then think of the amount of frustration you’ve felt.
Why can’t we aim to find a system that’s improves not only our experience, but our users’, as well? Their experience shouldn’t be second-rate.
Why Don’t We Do This?
I could be off base with this. Maybe company’s do seek to find systems that compliment their users just as much as their internal teams, but from what I can tell, they often start by looking to what would streamline the process of managing their incoming requests.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. I mean, if you truly do care about your customers, you want them to be able to reach out to you and to easily have their issue resolved.
The challenge is making sure that gap is as narrow as possible, right?
An End-To-End Solution
I don’t think customers care much about creating yet-another-login or keeping yet-another-bookmark. They want to send an email, get an answer, and then get back to work.
Sure, this is somewhat of an over-simplification. Some users may want to search previous issues, some users may want to submit feature requests, and some may want to submit a bug report.
But the point still remains: Users should have to experience as little friction as possible.
And if we, as developers, care about building products with true craftsmanship, then that shouldn’t stop at the code level or at the user experience level – it should be pulled through from end-to-end.
Support is just as much as part of the product as is the landing page and the core product itself.
A WordPress Support System: The Available Options
The two main issues that I see with introducing support are this:
- Users need to have the most frictionless experience possible. Their main goal is to submit their request, issue, or question, and receive an answer as fast as possible.
- Companies – or those offering support – need a way to organize, sort, and filter incoming requests as possible.
Ideally, I’d love to use a system that prevents users from having to create yet-another-login. Currently, I’ve found the following systems some of which I’ve used as a customer, but not as a support provider.
But as I continue to look for systems that provide the best customer support system possible not only for me, but for those who will actually be using it to file issues, requests, and so on, I’m curious to hear what have you guys enjoyed the most.
Or, rather, what other applications are worth checking out that aren’t listed above?