How I handle customer support

As my products gained more and more popularity, I spent a lot of time thinking about how support should work. I worked for a WordPress product company for a few years and have seen how much time and money is required to offer good support.

As a solopreneur, it’s even harder as you don’t have a team behind you that can handle that (more on that later). Here are my lessons learned doing customer support, building systems around support, and how I try to stay sane while doing it.

The impact of updates in customer support

Each update you release can break things. It’s just natural given the effect that each WordPress website is totally different from another these days. Different themes, different plugins, different page builders – you can’t test all of them (I know this as I tried quite hard to make that happen).

There are countless examples of big brands having the same problem, but their impacts are way higher than on other products due to their popularity.

The most recent examples seem to be from Yoast SEO:

No matter how hard you try, more often than not, each update you publish will temporarily increase the number of support tickets you will get. That’s why I always try to avoid pushing any non-critical updates before the weekend or before going on vacation.

Communication is key

The most important aspect of customer support is communication. You need to set clear expectations for your users and customers on support. Otherwise, they will judge you quite hard by leaving bad reviews, getting jealous, or leaving your product at all.

I set clear boundaries for my support. No support on weekends, period. Fixed availability times that fit my schedule and timezone. No guaranteed support for free versions hosted on wordpress.org.

This may not be the best approach for teams or larger companies, but I set these rules to stay healthy and sane. You may underestimate how easily you can burn out by letting customers take over your entire day and night.

Documentation, Documentation, Documentation

People are more than willing to help themselves, but they need good documentation to do that. Don’t hide your documentation and make it easily accessible to everyone interested. It reduces the amount of support and is also key to generating new sales. Good documentation drastically increases the overall quality of your product.

I learned that too late, but now that I invested a huge amount of time into my documentation, I can see the benefits, and I keep updating them weekly.

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The documentation for Simply Static

I would also recommend getting a good copywriter to review your documentation. I tended to speak way too technically and was quite wrong about what my customers were actually looking for in the documentation to fix their problems.

I rewrote the entire documentation based on the suggestions of my copywriter, and now they match the search intent of my customers. Instead of “Deployment Settings” now I have “Setting up the GitHub integration” – just to give you an example.

Write your documentation more like shorter tutorials than a brief explanation of the settings you offer. Each customer has a use-case in mind they want to achieve with your product – make it easy for them!

FAQs are a life-saver

  • Do you offer trials?
  • Do you offer refunds?
  • Where can I download the plugin?

I spent countless hours answering the same questions over and over again. Now I have FAQs within each product documentation and within the support form. It saves so much time for you and your customer.

Tutorials

The tutorials are the heart of my website. This was the one thing I did right at the beginning. You will find more than 75 tutorials for my products. It was the best decision I ever made for my business.

They are more in-depth compared to my documentation and use-case oriented. Want to add age verification to your wine shop? Here I show you how it’s done.

I also onboarded two copywriters over the years, and while it’s easily the greatest expense of my business, it’s worth it, trust me.

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All tutorial pages come with a powerful search solution

My support form

I have used form plugins for over ten years, and I have always been a fan of Gravity Forms. However, my support form wasn’t a good fit for that, so I built my own little solution to handle that. Without going into the technical details, I want to show you how I use it to decrease support.

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My key takeaways for a good support form:

  • use a step-by-step form and only show one section at once
  • Ask for the product, topic, and if there is a license
  • implement a search solution to search docs and tutorials
  • Ask for confirmation that the user has used the search and did not get an answer before showing the rest of the form

Things I wish I had implemented already but haven’t:

  • live validation of the license key
  • Showing FAQs related to the plugin and topic

The better you use existing information within your form, the better it is.

Helpscout

I always used Helpscout. Sure, other tools are available that may be more powerful and flexible, but Helpscout is somehow the industry standard for WordPress product business. While it isn’t cheap anymore, and its user-based pricing can be a problem for smaller teams, it’s still worth it.

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Tagging / Workflows

I automatically tag conversations by topic and product. It’s done with a little Zapier task, and I match the selections from my form with defined tags in Helpscout. You can do that kind of automation with “Workflows” in Helpscout.

Here is the Zapier automation I use: https://zapier.com/apps/help-scout/integrations/webhook

Here is what a Workflow in Helpscout may look like:

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Saved Replies

Saved Replies in Helpscout are a good way to create automatic replies for common questions. You can use dynamic parameters like Name or E-Mail to automate things further.

I have a huge list of saved replies in my Helpscout account for all kinds of different product/setup combinations. While I will not share that here, as it’s way too specific for my products and the way I work, I highly recommend grabbing the “WordPress Support Predefs” from here: https://qualityinsupport.com/product/wordpress-support-predefined-replies/

I purchased it and modified all those replies to match my tone and products, and I use them daily.

Outsourcing support

Right now, I’m doing all of the support by myself. I never outsourced support (or development) for my business, so there is no real advice here that I can give you, but I heard some good things about other companies doing that successfully.

One provider that keeps popping up (and getting quite good reviews) is LevelUP.

Creating Videos

We’ve done that at my old company, and it worked quite well. I would love to find the time and energy to create videos regularly, but it’s almost impossible to get into that right now.

Also, as a non-native English speaker, there is always some hesitation in doing those videos as you may spend countless hours re-recording everything.

One day, I will start, I promise! 🙂

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