EP21 – Support Services – WPwatercooler – February 11 2013

On this episode of WPwatercooler, Jason and the panel dive into a comprehensive discussion about customer support systems, specifically focusing on Zendesk. They share their experiences and challenges with implementing such systems, especially when it comes to transitioning clients. The conversation then shifts to the types of support requests they commonly receive, ranging from updates to more complex server-side issues. The episode also explores various tools for creating tutorial videos, like Jing and Screenflow, to help clients become more self-sufficient. The panel wraps up by discussing their strategies for managing WordPress updates, emphasizing the importance of making clients comfortable with the process.

00:00 Introduction
02:12 Discussing Zendesk and Customer Support Systems
15:54 The Challenge of Switching Support Systems
16:24 Real-world Zendesk Experiences
17:26 Types of Support Requests Received
19:04 Managing WordPress Updates
20:27 Offering Advice and Information as a Service
22:33 Billing for Support Services
23:51 Documentation and Training Clients
25:48 Tools for Creating Tutorial Videos
28:39 Conclusion and Future Topics


Episode Transcription

(62) EP21 – WordPress Development Support Services – WPwatercooler – February 11 2013 – YouTube

(00:10) hi this is jason tucker and we are at the wp water cooler today’s topic is support services for wordpress we’re all wordpress developers here or people that use wordpress and we’re going to talk about uh you know the services that we’re providing to our customers and what types of services we’re providing with them let’s go around the room here and get everybody introduced let’s start with you arthur hi arthur klein santa monica california and i work on membership sites mainly now very nice how about you dustin
(00:47) dustin philippini from milwaukee with beautiful wisconsin weather here i’m a developer for the orion group and also do the wordpress meetup here and work at milwaukee coming up in june nice how about you say my name is say reed and i make wordpress stuff my website’s serene media and i am not a you drone not a drone i am not a drone how about you shane i’m shane sanderson i run uh maintain and i’m also a technical project manager at web dev studios nice how about you suzette hi i’m suzette frank i work at media temple as their
(01:30) wordpress evangelist i like building wordpress sites and vlogging about it awesome i’m jason tucker my company is tucker.pro and i also do another website called wpmedia.pro so let’s talk about it um i’ve been i’ve been really interested in this topic for a while now because we’ve had we’ve kind of discussed this a little bit in the past regarding like the types of services that we’re using and doing like maintenance agreements and doing that sort of thing and now i guess we should probably talk about like
(02:05) what we’re using to do that um in a recent posting uh chris was talking about uh about shane’s uh services that he does um chris lemma talking about shane sanderson yes correct and so i wanted to i wanted to kind of you know bring that up and and get an idea of like what’s what’s shane what is shane doing for for that type of uh uh yeah what’s he doing for his customers and are other are other developers using your services as well um how’s that work over there shane yeah um to answer your question yes i do
(02:41) awesome stuff for everyone and developers use my service developers also benefit from my service as well the service is pretty simple it’s basic maintenance and support for wordpress um without getting into too many details there we do automatic backups updates uh support and with that there’s also i’ve got a network of developers mostly freelancers that are on hand for uh larger projects so say you come to me and you need you know a chunk of five hours of development time um i’ve got developers
(03:11) on hand that can take care of that for you so it’s not only the maintenance and support services we also offer custom development that’s needed so we’re helping out developers as well they get some side projects in they’re all hand picked by me so you’re not going to get any uh flaky people working on your site but that’s the long and short of it very nice i was wondering about that like um how do you manage all the sites there do you have like some tool that you’ve built uh um see when these
(03:38) updates and stuff need to be done yeah we’ve got an internal system uh that does that but we do um personally log into each site and do the updates so there’s no like automation where something’s going to get screwed up and we don’t know about it but we actually are hands-on every site updating and when the updates are done we also go through each site and make sure everything’s cool if something’s wrong we’ll roll back um perfect example last week when um excuse me perfect example
(04:05) last week when uh the w3 total cache had their large update uh it broke quite a bit of stuff i love the plugin and it’s not a knock on them but it did cause some issues and so we were on top of that and didn’t push that update for folks um so you have people with you know eyes on things and then keeping track of stuff to keep you in a good spot so your site’s not busted were you saying say oh i was just gonna ask if your internal ticketing system was built on wordpress uh actually the ticketing system is not
(04:34) uh on wordpress so we use uh zendesk for all of our ticketing another another zendesker zendesk is like the be all end all of everybody’s top choice it is for ticketing awesome yeah where else is those then we’re looking for a ticketing system so that’s one thing i was wondering about this too was what people used for ticketing systems if it was zendesk which i’ve heard a lot of good things about or if anybody had any other suggestions because right now we’re uh taking most things in by email or
(05:03) sometimes we have people posting to our base camp make to-do’s for us for things and that doesn’t always work out well for all clients i’d highly suggest them desk we love it yeah and wp engine is also using zendesk and i know a lot of other larger kind of dev shops also use zendesk it’s perennial favorite yeah there’s a lot of cool add-ons for zendesk as well uh one in particular it can track your twitter status not your status i guess but it can attract twitter and you can turn a uh tweet into a ticket
(05:35) so somebody told you well i saw that feature that was really interesting sorry no it’s cool it’s it’s in desk is awesome yeah one of them i’ve been playing around with a little bit is uh quality control by app themes that uh it’s that gives you all of pretty much everything that you need other than email so you have to use some type of other third-party you know a plug-in or something like that to pull off the email exchange that happens in there um but uh other than that it seems to work pretty decent for the type of
(06:03) work that i’m doing i was using quality control um when it first came out and i don’t know if it’s been updated since then but i i i liked it and i loved that it was in wordpress i think that’s awesome but um i think that it had a lot of um it was it was kind of internally difficult to manage because of the different user profiles i felt that did you feel that do you feel that way like like the um like you have to log in and then depending on you weren’t getting notifications based on you know what
(06:32) your setting was i don’t know it was kind of it just seemed very clunky but it was the first iteration so it’s probably streamed uh streamlined it a bit now yeah we had to use uh put in a multi-site environment and kind of work it out work off of that multi-site environment and like you said you know being able to do notifications and all that sort of thing makes it a little bit more difficult um you know if you if you’re familiar with c or familiar with rss you know using rss to get those notifications worked
(06:58) out really well but if you’re just getting emails and stuff it makes a little bit more difficult also has an awesome ipad or uh iphone app it does for an ipad as well it’s really nice yeah actually i when i was at wordcamp phoenix i was having an issue with the wp engine client and i went over to their table and was talking to them about it and um uh both of the reps there both busted out their iphones and like looked up the ticket like as we were standing there i thought that was pretty rad i was like okay well i didn’t need maybe
(07:27) i had to look at it right this second but okay if you want you can do it if you want to you can it’s you can be on it so what led to you to um develop your uh develop maintain chain it’s i know it’s a really pretty recent um launch right yeah we launched in october um so just i i saw a need for support that was managed and not you know part of you know a developer’s maybe add-on uh nothing against you guys i mean you’re doing fine and that’s great but there’s a lot of folks out there that don’t have that connection
(08:00) maybe they’ve got their site developed and you know the developer’s gone they don’t want to go look for a new one lots of different scenarios um and so i just found saw a hole that i thought needed filled so that was the long and short of it i mean it’s not it’s a simple idea right um you’ve got managed hosting which does a lot of this stuff for you uh but there’s a lot of people that don’t have managed hosting that still want those benefits and that’s where the idea kind of came from
(08:26) was to uh take all those other people that were maybe happy with their hosting wherever it may be but want the added benefits that some of the managed hosts give you so so are you setting up relationships with um existing uh web hosts and trying to figure out what you can do better with them or like how’s that working for you i am i’ve got a relationship with paige lee i obviously did support for them uh previously so they’re uh my recommended host um that i recommend folks to um but yeah i mean there’s tons of
(08:56) relationships to be made with uh you know hosting even plug-in and team authors developers i mean there’s the tie-in can be from every direction possible if you wanted to go that route because a lot of people can benefit from the service i think um and again giving that someone back to the developers where you know i have those on hand to to do work it’s helping them as well i’ve also got an affiliate program almost ready uh to be launched which can help out a lot of folks that want to you know do referrals
(09:21) and stuff like that can i ask what your services cost is there like a scanner package that you go by because i would love to push off some of my old clients to you and i don’t want the talk to revolve around me but yeah if you go to maintain.com you can look at the packages we’ve got four different packages from from basic to everything and we’ll try to encompass everything somewhere yes uh we can also do custom quotes for packages as well but let’s maintain with two ends at the end of it for people yes
(09:50) two ends because i didn’t have a gazillion dollars to buy the other one well i it and to kind of roll your own type of uh type of thing you know being able to do use something like infinite wp or manage wp to uh you know to to to do that like you’re you know like is anybody here has anybody here used infinite wp i looked into that and um wondered what people’s experience with that is it doesn’t have as many features as manage wp but it does get the job done um and it there’s add-ons that you can
(10:21) add to it to do backups where it will back up i think to different sources so it’s pretty good the interface isn’t as streamlined as manage wp but it’s still a pretty good tool in my opinion right i like it for i i grabbed it when it first came out and used it you install it on your own server so there’s that uh it’s not you don’t go log in somewhere else and use it but yeah it’ll do backups out to s3 and dropbox i believe hookup updates and things like that but i’ve uh i’ve used it and liked it
(10:48) but manage wp is great as well so it’s just and they have an awesome uh app so it’s just a matter of preference i think yeah i use manage wp and i love it just we put all our clients in there and checking on that on a regular basis to manage their updates uh get the backups we back up to s3 and they have a nice they redid their uh control panel too so it’s even nicer than it used to be sorry i was i had to mute myself there um what do you what do you see what do you guys do you all do um i don’t know a
(11:22) lot about you dustin or arthur um i know plenty probably too much about jason and suzette what kind of services do you guys provide do you do support or what do you what do you do for your clients yeah we uh we provide support at an hourly rate usually and we also have our own hosting on a vps that we provide to people as part of that we’ll put them into our manage wp account and at least check monthly to make sure there’s updates in there for them and also do the regular backups through managed wp any other support past that is uh just
(12:04) build an hourly basis what about you either uh i made a film about yoga and meditation and it became something where one of the teachers in the film who has a great many uh followers we’ve partnered on a member website for five dollars a month or fifty dollars a year and it’s been up for seven eight months we’re about turning our 100th thousandth page view and we’ve got a lot of members at this point so i’ve been learning the development and the design side of it because i’ve done everything on it so far and uh
(12:54) at this point um dude i’m on a develop a few other development teams but the major plug-in we use is s2 member and edd for easy digital download that’s done by pippin who’s like awesome and has his own development team that i’m starting to learn more and more by participating with uh but the site’s doing so well at this point that what i want to do is i also have a url called wp me wii and it’s a longer story why it’s called that but um i believe what i want to do is start a membership i’m not sure whether it’s a
(13:34) site based on it being a private site or an organizational site but to help people develop an idea for member sites and then tutorial them through the process of creating their own member sites and maybe this is also a hub of member sites um that could be an organization to where we can all crowdsource our our resources of which i’d like to hang off of it like a farmer’s market where it’s like a a facebook wait let me interrupt you real quick is that that’s you’re talking about just like a a site that you’re developing not
(14:13) necessarily support services for clients do you offer no no no but uh the point is is now i’m getting to the stage where i’m supporting a membership of about a thousand people doing all the tickets myself and just using emails so right i think it’s a bigger issue of how do you handle it because it’s one of those things that’s a total oversight when you get into this is that you you know if something breaks you know so lately what i’ve done is i’ve created a status page which is a first line of defense of people are
(14:48) starting to get used to going there and i i don’t know i’m here to really ask questions about why is everyone uses zendesk we’re hosted on wp engine so i’m familiar with the zendesk experience right and also i was very curious i went to visit the zendesk site when i knew that you were doing the show today and on the zendesk site um they have a free version and i was wondering if it’s a sole individual supporting all tickets is that what they’re talking about or is their most basic offering
(15:26) something different right yeah i think they’re they charge like per agent and that sort of thing which you know that being able to use their uh you know the user software or rather their services um for for free is one thing but i guess you know once you start getting a little bit further into it you’re gonna have to start paying for it so oh of course the per the per agent thing i mean just getting in there and trying it the hard part about trying something like this is you know however many customers that you have for it is
(15:54) you know if you don’t like it you’re going to have to switch all your customers over to the next thing so you almost have to come up with some type of test scenario or something like that or or get a couple friends involved to kind of submit tickets to it and and run some tests and see if it’s going to work out for you but to answer your question i haven’t used it i haven’t used it in the in a smaller capacity just as just as a customer to wp engine has anybody else used it what zendesk yeah as as an administrator
(16:24) or as the we were at my last job i was using it we started using it probably for about six months so we would have we would just um usually a lot of our support requests would come in through email we would just forward those emails to zendesk and it would create a ticket for us but um some of the the clients found a little bit hard because it would auto respond with something or you would make an update to the ticket and they didn’t recognize the template and would think it was spam so that’s that’s the only
(16:52) problems we ran into it with it yeah having their ticket be spam that would be bad yeah i signed up but i never used it i um it just seemed a little um elaborate for what i was trying to do i’m i’m more i’m curious as to you know not to change the topic off of zendesk but to talk about kind of what are the most standard kind of support requests that you all get and i know uh suzette you’re not even doing you’re not doing so much support anymore but you are doing some support at media temple
(17:26) right for like more difficult questions so i was just kind of wondering what kind of um what kind of support questions you guys get or what you um kind of would lump into what’s more general support and then more you know specific support like which you know updating the site or changes design as opposed to just more like updates and upgrades and that sort of thing do you see a different like what’s the difference what types of things do you see in there it’s a lot of questions no it’s it’s
(17:54) it’s saying that mostly it’s a big mix yeah i’ll see a lot of uh requests for updates or um that’s mostly what i see it’s just updating um i’ve i a lot of people i’ve trained them how to do their own updates but they still feel comfortable having somebody else doing that um especially when it comes to upgrading any of the plug-ins or the software because you want to make sure that you have a good backup before you proceed with any of that and it just takes like a lot of time um just to make sure everything’s up to
(18:26) date every day and then um at media temple as far as the requests that i get from that are more of a server side kind of deal so it’s kind of like since 3.5 my gp’s which is what we met used to measure the processing units of the server those are like spinning out of control or we might see some more server-side issues i think at media temple yeah what about the rest of you what kind of what are your more standard support requests that you get it’s mainly updates you know dealing with dealing with updates and and trying to
(19:04) find a good solution to to be able to manage all those i myself i’m i’m my biggest customer i have so many sites that i have to manage and make sure that they’re working that uh yeah just trying to come up with like for instance like infinite wp it’s like wow you know that that thing was working really good and now it’s not working for me now what am i going to do let’s go take a look at manage wp and you know kind of working through those so it’s good because i’m using myself as
(19:31) my test bed and i’m not using my customers as my test but once i find something that works and my wife doesn’t my wife’s not complaining about her site being down or whatever and and things are working great then manage wp might be the way for me to go or maybe i’ll switch back to infinite wp or heck i may even have her go to shane and be like hey you know what you’re gonna you’re gonna manage the whole solution for me so you know it just it just depends on how that’s gonna work out
(19:56) right we get uh i get zero requests for updates by the way um because that’s taken care of um no that’s what you’re offering as your service right so if you weren’t if you were getting requests for updates that might mean that you weren’t doing your job so i’m glad that you’re not so far so good um but a lot of what we get is just uh more informational type stuff like what does this plugin do and is there a better version i could be using what do you recommend uh how would i accomplish x
(20:27) and how do i get there and that’s a lot of the support we provide not necessarily directly related with a plugin or a theme but more uh just information uh having you know people that have used wordpress a lot and know it really well to offer advice and then if a plugin does bust or break or themes messed up you know that’s a lot of the support we get is you know around a particular plugin or theme or how do i do this better or uh why does my server suck and can i get moved somewhere else or things like that so
(20:59) if someone does if someone does contact you and ask you um you know say this this plug-in is better than that plug-in how do you charge for that support is it just build hourly as part of their package that’s included in the package how like what answering questions or what’s uh advice and information and doing things like that so every every package has unlimited advice no every package has every package has access to our support desk but based on the package you have a limited number of tickets you can submit
(21:32) per month right so that’s how that’s handled but in those tickets any kind of question you have or any kind of device you want or any kind of small type you know installing a plugin things like that that’s all included so it’s only larger projects that involve development time but based on the number of tickets you have if you can stay in that amount you can get all the advice you want so what if you ask like three questions per ticket that’s a that’s a that’s a tough one uh because technically it is one ticket um
(22:04) i don’t mind it so much if it gets out of hand then you know we take that and uh make three tickets out of it but at first i don’t mind but you know there’s going to be problem cases all the time so if it becomes an issue then we’ll handle it that way but i haven’t had too many problems with that yet so well that’s good what about really good that you’re not a customer right what me cause trouble never that doesn’t happen um what about you dustin what do you guys offer as far as like do you bill
(22:33) for answering questions or is it just if you’re actually getting into the code and doing something oh you’re muted dustin oopsie it depends um if it’s a small question and we can just shoot out an email really quick it takes 30 seconds my time we’ll let that go by if it’s something that takes a longer amount of research uh then we tend to bill for it if we have to touch the code we tend to bill for it usually we usually get a lot of update requests um or questions about updates because we try
(23:11) to train people on it but um inevitably they’ll forget um after not updating their site for a while how to do things or just aren’t sure about how to do things and speaking on that anybody else do any type of documentation to kind of alleviate future requests like that for support documentation or the plug-in i think mark jacobs made it the wp health plan yeah i’m like help you guys use anything like that to kind of alleviate um future support requests that maybe would take up your time that could be better used for development
(23:51) when i do custom features for uh sites that i build um i do jing videos of just a walk through i don’t keep that in wp help i just haven’t i might implement that at some point in the future but um basically i’ve just been keeping them you know on my server and they have a little folder that they can go to for tutorials specific to their site um and you know i literally just do a walkthrough on screen of their site and show them what to click etc etc but that’s usually only for custom features
(24:22) um i try to train my clients on how to do their own updates and um i set up backups you know auto backups um for the site no matter what um so that it’s always backing up because i don’t trust anyone to do manual backups even me so i think i think once you have things backed up then it doesn’t really matter if you have dogs no um once you have things backed up you know if you mess up an update it’s okay because you know you’ve got um your backup so you can always restore it if necessary so i i try to i try to
(24:55) de-frighten get you know take the fear out of the updating process because i think that’s the whole point of wordpress is that it’s so easy to do you can do it yourself you don’t have to pay somebody else to do it whether that’s developer or support service and of course there’s you know there’s going to be people who aren’t going to want to do that um so you know it’s there’s always room for people to pay for it but i for my clients i like to have them be as completely self-sufficient as possible
(25:20) on their own program now the more they know they’re better i mean and you know any requests we get we provide screenshots videos things like that to train the person on what it is that we did so hopefully that particular issue won’t come back again where do you guys do you use wp help or do you have it like in their account or where do you store that stuff uh well i mean depending on what it is um just through the ticket system you know if it’s if it’s a particular how do i do this you know i’ll throw a video up
(25:48) on our server with the link and provide some screenshots i’m working on our knowledge base now through zendesk which is also another really good feature when you go into zendesk you have a knowledge base that you can load up with tons of stuff right how to do this how to do that and i haven’t been very good at that yet so i need to be working on that but that’s another great resource to house all that stuff is your knowledge desk only open to clients obviously right yes wild garden no peeking i was like can i
(26:15) can i see you just real quick just a little look what are you screen shots what do you what do you guys use to do your tutorial screen videos is there a standard for if you’re in the windows world changing is awesome it’s cross-platform and uh it’s just super easy to use um and you can do up to five minutes of video and it just captures either a section that you um highlight on your screen or a window and it uploads it it can upload it to its own thing or you can save it to your hard drive it’s it’s super uh easy to
(26:48) use it’s i think jing is one of the easiest you to use programs i’ve ever used why the why the five minute limit that’s for the free version because it’s free you can pay for a longer version j yeah camtasia as well the one i use on the mac’s called screenflow and it’s a hundred bucks but it’s it’s like jing on steroids i i’ve used jing for a while but man screenflow i can i can make magic happen with that thing so if you’re looking for something into the group yeah yeah i’m actually gonna be i’m
(27:33) working on a blog post for it to kind of explain how it works and it’s it’s absolutely amazing can you definitely wp media guy dot pro can you do a jig of jing maybe changing double drop yeah it’s like one button record get the whole screen do your thing right what’s it done yeah is it is this one of those that’ll like when you do a mouse click it’ll like it make it bloom or blossom and things like that i don’t know if it has a radar anything but i know that camtasia has that um in screenflow you
(28:07) can do that and you can also kind of highlight that that cursor when you’re moving around and stuff the paid version of jing may do that but the free one doesn’t yeah and camtasia what is that it’s like they’re it’s like the the older brother client cop software for uh for for doing any type of screencasts and stuff like that is it is it by the jing people yeah it’s made by techsmith oh okay okay thanks no problem uh i think this is it for today i want to say thank you very much for all of you for participating i
(28:39) really appreciate it um i’m glad that we were able to get some folks in here and talking about this type of thing um we’ll probably end up doing a little bit more about this as the the months go on and kind of go through hello dog or cat or i can’t tell hello fuzzy creature um go over to uh go over to our youtube channel and take a look at it hit the subscribe button leave us some comments we would love to hear from you so suggest topics suggest topics yeah exactly if you go over to wpwatercooler.com and go up to the top
(29:10) there’s a there’s there’s a menu item there for suggesting topics as well so if you want to post those in there we’d love to hear those topics all right y’all see you later bye

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One response to “EP21 – Support Services – WPwatercooler – February 11 2013”

  1. rezzz Avatar

    Great talk today everyone! 
    As a WordPress developer and partner in a managed hosting company, I’m always wondering about providing the best support I can for my clients.  There are many aspects and sometimes it’s tough to wrap business around it.  I’m basically referring to how Shayne handles the “3 questions in one ticket” scenario.  We have a similar view, as long as it doesn’t get too crazy, then that’s ok.


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