When asked if product support is done in-house by the company who built the product, the easy answer appears to be yes, doesn’t it? I mean, why would you have it any other way?
More specifically, why would you have someone who doesn’t work for your company handle support for something you (or you and your team) built?
Sure, there are loopholes – a phrase I use loosely in this post – for this like hiring someone to work for your company who can be a dedicated resource to handling support of the product when they aren’t as familiar with the product.
But when that happens, I think the lack of experience shows when you start to get into slightly more complicated issues.
On WordPress Product Support
First, for all intents and purposes, I’m talking about software or something tangentially related to it in our space. That is, it could be something like a WordPress plugin or it could be something related like web hosting.
Anyway, it’s likely that we’ve all had an experience similar to this…
- We contact customer support for an issue that we’re having with a product.
- We’re usually sent through to the first level of support who are familiar with common issues. For many people, this will often help them. But if you have a more complicated issue, you get escalated to “Tier 2” or “Level 2” or whatever language they use.
- Once there, you’re able to speak to someone who’s more familiar with the technical aspects of what’s happening and able to help diagnose the problem and to help find a solution.
Sometimes you end up discovering a real bug; other times, there’s a configuration issue, environmental variable, or something that has to be addressed on your end.
No big deal. It’s fixed, you move on, and they move on to the next ticket.
And in WordPress?
For many companies in our segment of the economy, this is often how it plays out. People who are responsible for taking tickets – either via phone or email – have a process by which they go for triaging issues.
That’s great. I think it’s smart. It wouldn’t be in place if it didn’t work.
Ultimately, it allows people with minor issues (though it may not feel minor to them) to have their issues solved more quickly and allows those with more expertise and time to handle more complicated issues.
Whenever someone is brought on to a new company and will work in customer support, they will likely be expected to have some familiarity with the given product or service, but they’ll also be trained on the product or service they will be supporting.
This means that even if the new hire has never actually used what they are going to support, they will be taught the product and then given the set of cases they can expect to support.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all. It gives people jobs, there are certainly people who are better at customer support than others (it’s a personality thing, isn’t it?), and it helps a company continue to grow its business.
But I don’t think it means a company shouldn’t use its own work. Personally, I think those often make for the best products. If you’re relying on the very thing you’re building, then you’re going to want it to be great.
Why would you want to use something that’s half-baked or that doesn’t fully provide a solution to a felt need?
Further, say you’re in the business of building WordPress themes. It can be lucrative, sure, but the thing about your company is that no one on your team uses the theme you’re building. Or maybe they aren’t even familiar with the various use cases for a given theme.
How can you honestly expect to support the customer, meet their expectations, and even provide a solid product?
Just Answer The Question
In short, I think that WordPress product support should be in-house.
But there’s a caveat to this. Building software for WordPress is similar to building software for any other type of platform:
You have the platform that could have a problem and you have your software that could have a problem.
To the customer and the user, they are often one in the same. If your product is broken, then WordPress is broken. If WordPress has a bug and your product was the last thing they installed, you’re going to be called first.
Most likely, at least.
And that’s the nature of the business. So are there ways we can handle this? Sure. But this post has already grown longer than I wanted it to be.
I’m Not Done
Honestly, you may think the post reads kind of weak because I spent the majority of the post talking in more generic terms.
I do have a follow-up post to this, though. I wanted to start wide before narrowly focusing in on exactly one way I think WordPress-based companies can handle support.
I’ll get to that soon, but I wanted to capture the general idea of product support, how it might work, and some considerations worth making when it comes to our own product.