I have a big soft spot for support requests. I find it very fulfilling to help people use the products I create. Ask anyone using my products: I respond quickly, clearly, and helpfully. That’s not bragging, humbly or not, it’s something I focus on and I think it’s a key reason that people are happy using what I create.
But I’ll admit, I still haven’t found the right way to provide support in a way that works well for everyone. Here are the two things that make this part of my business difficult:
- Direct email support seems to be the most fulfilling for customers and the easiest for me to manage. Get an email, answer the question, get kind feedback on the process, life is good. But …
- A support forum lets people find answers to their questions on their own and could be saving me many emails per month. Self-service is not the most fulfilling for customers unless they find an answer quickly, which means you’ve added the step of searching forums first before they contact. Also, is search working?
I’ve considered many times moving to direct email support for everything but I really don’t want to lose the ability for people to answer their own questions. What’s a dev to do?
What’s good about this process is that I’ve sent hundreds of support requests over the years and I know what I like and what I don’t like. This isn’t some esoteric concept that I don’t understand. I’m also on the other side of the table having provided tech support for people for over 15 years in various roles.
What I Want
Here’s what I need:
- A way to directly answer customer questions, complaints, and documentation clarifications
- A way to aggregate these answers in a public place
- The ability to answer/ask private questions that might include sensitive information like logins or non-public URLs
- Canned responses to common questions
What I Don’t Want
Here’s what I’m sick of doing:
- Logging into a site to answer requests
- Confusing customers with multiple support channels
- Trying to find old support requests in my email for the same question
- Using bbPress
Other Things to Consider
A few other things I’m thinking about:
- I currently have almost 300 forum topics for support created over the last 2 years or so. These account for over 400 pageviews per month so they’re not completely worthless. Are people coming to get their questions answered? Are they just ranking in Google for unhelpful terms? It looks like the bulk of the traffic comes from referrals from the sales sites themselves, which would go away if I pointed people somewhere else. Part of me just wants to parse these all out into FAQs for the various sites, then redirect but that’s a huge job.
- There are so many support systems out there and I’ve only used a few. It seems like the best way to manage incoming email support and the cost is certainly worth the time savings. But which one to go with? I’ve had good luck with HelpScout in the past so that’s probably the direction I would go.
- I just restyled the forums …
What To Do?
I’d love your feedback here. Whether you’re a product-maker that found the perfect combination or one of my customers with an opinion, a comment below or an email would be very helpful.