While the WordPress core team have been working hard on WordPress 3.7, I have been working equally as hard on WPB2D 1.7! This rerelease has numerous bug fixes, increased performance and a few UI tweaks.
Database dumps are now tracked so they can be resumed
I have implemented the same resume functionality that is used for the file upload to the database dump. This will make the plugin more robust and capable of resuming the database dump if it times out at this point.
Improved error handling around extension installs
This will help users self diagnose issues related to installing premium extensions.
Updated tests for better code coverage
I have a test suite for the plugin that I had neglected for a while. I have finally had the time to update it and get all the tests passing!
Implemented a factory for better dependency injection
This is more for the nerds out there! WPB2D now has a factory class that allows for dependency injection that leads to better tests.
Updated the Email Extension to use wp_mail
This is the recommended function to use when sending email and it means that other plugins like WP SMTP can override the settings if need be.
Added a time stamp to Zips generated with the Zip Extension
This will allow for multiple zips to be created on the same day.
Improved logging and estimation of percent complete
In order to help me diagnose problems I have introduced better logging and a better attempt at guessing the percent complete.
Add ‘Settings saved’ message and use default WP errors
I have implemented the WordPress standard notifications for errors and success messages.
Fix invalid UTF-8 sequence in argument error
This error relates to json_encode attempting to encode a UTF-8 character and failing. I have implemented a known work around to ensure that the error does not show in the error logs.
For quite some time I’ve had a hunch that using a forum for customer support is a very bad idea.
Two years of customer support has yielded the following forum statistics:
- 543 threads in total
- 2417 replies in total, thats 3.3 a day
- 827 times I have replied to users, thats 1.1 a day.
That’s a fair bit of work for one person! Interestingly, once you drill down into these numbers you soon realise that using a forum for support is an inefficient waste of time.
- 8% of the threads I neglected to answer. Sorry guys!
- A whopping 71% were answered by me only. This coupled with the fact that there were so many repeated cases leads me to believe the user would have been better off sending me a direct email
- That leaves only 29% that might be useful content for a forum.
So, if 71% should have been handled by email and has no place in a forum, what about the remaining 29% of queries?
To dig a little deeper, I manually went through the 159 threads with more than one response and categorised them like so:
- 2% of this subset were specific feature requests
- 4% were other weird stuff of no use to anyone
- 5% included a post from a freelancer I employed for a month that didn’t work out
- 8% contained posts from community members attempting to help which I am super grateful for. Unfortunately, sometimes the help wasn’t quite right
- 8% contained information that was useful to other users. Hurray! Finally content worthy of a forum
- 18% were users adding a new post onto the end of an old one
- 20% where users who had similar issues
- 35% contained a little bit of the last two.
The last three points are interesting because they are where things started to get messy. The fact that 18% of people did not know how to use a forum and just added their issue to an active thread was a pain in the arse. Not only are you trying to help the first person, the next one is confused by your answers that has nothing to do with their questions.
Things got worse with 35% of the threads that just turned into a hodge podge of somewhat related issues with different outcomes that required different answers. Not to mention other users confusing the shit out of each other with half baked attempts to help each other out.
You could argue that the 20% of people that had similar problems gained value from my response, thus being a worthy use of a forum. Even so, I would have still preferred that they created a separate thread so I could have addressed their problems individually.
Or, even better, sent me an email because a lot of issues are user-specific and can’t be answered in a public forum, thus just adding another level of complexity to the transaction.
Conclusion… Forums suck for customer support!
Yep, it’s true, based on this analysis I have concluded that only around 5% of all the support threads created over two years were useful to other users, and therefore worthy of a spot in a forum.
Sadly, the fact that users only helped other users in 2% of threads over two years debunks the premise that your users will bend over backwards to help each other out so you don’t have to.
So, what is the best solution?
I reckon a combination of super friendly, direct email support and a well curated FAQ or knowledge base is the most efficient way to keep your customers happy and keep your workload in check.
The answer is: Neither!
Woah! I know that is a pretty outrageous statement, but in my opinion, it’s true. I have tried them both. I started with Desk.com, went to ZenDesk and now I am back on Desk.com and, well, it is overkill for what I need to help me support the users of WordPress Backup to Dropbox.
Wait what? They are the best in the business!
Yes, they are, for medium to large teams. Companies that have an in house support team that can work together and get around the inefficiencies of the, very similar, interfaces. However, for one or two person teams, who find email a little too much to handle, the step to one of these platforms is a big undertaking that just isn’t worth it.
Both platforms and very opinionated in the way you should handle your support, and, I reckon, these opinions have been shaped by the larger companies that have used their products for many years. So, in order to cut down on all the bells and whistles that are included by default you need a PhD in help desk software!
In my experience, users do not want to sign up to a software platform to get an answer to their question when a simple email will suffice. If this is the case, why is it so hard to strip down each of these systems to an email only based interface for the user? And, I am taking good ‘ol fashioned, plain text emails!
Instead you get an auto response to say: ”Hey mate, thanks for your email! Sorry, but we can’t help you out until you jump through a few hoops and sign up! ”. After a fair bit of fiddling, with Desk.com I managed to turn this feature off.
This is the reason I left ZenDesk and went back to Desk.com, I could not for the life of me find out how to strip it down to just email support.
What about open source?
There has not been a modern open source ticket project in recent years. The best I can find is Apache Bloodhound (that is a fork of Trac) or BugZilla. Both of these are full blown project management suites that is really for bugs and super large teams, rather than just managing email and forum support of a plugin with a very small team.
Like ZenDesk and Desk.com they are very opinionated and way too complicated, not to mention you have to set them up and maintain them youself. For a plugin or theme that is a side project yielding little revenue, it’s not even worth the bother!
So, what do plugin and theme developers do?
Firstly, if you looking for help with your support, get in contact with me and I can help you out.
If you’re not quite at the stage of outsourcing so you can focus on product development there is always a combination of Email and a tool like Text Expander that can create an awesome, very cheap, support workflow for one person.
If you really need to go for a support tool I would try and find something simpler. Failing that, go for either of the two, they are pretty much the same.
I hope toe trial a couple more support tools soon to see if Desk.com can be replaced. So watch this space for updates or rants on what I find.