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Changes to our support system


Here at Easy Digital Downloads, we have always strived to provide top-notch support for all our users. Over the last three years, our support system has been powered by a public forum that runs on bbPress, an excellent forums plugin for WordPress, and this has worked out very well for us. On June 3rd, 2015, we are making some changes to our system to help us provide you even better support.

On June 3rd, 2015, we will be turning on our new email-based support system and archiving the current forums. This move is for a myriad of reasons but ultimately comes down to one thing: helping us provide you better support and faster resolution times for your issues.

Up until now (and when the new system goes live), opening a support ticket was cumbersome. It required you to first register an account, locate the appropriate forum, find the new topic forum (hidden at the bottom), and then finally enter your ticket details. On the 3rd, this will be much simpler. Just visit the Support page and fill out the form to open a ticket. No more accounts, no more searching for links, no more hassle.

Once submitted, the ticket zooms straight to our help desk powered by Help Scout and then goes through several automated processes to ensure it’s placed in front of the best person to help you resolve the issue.

When a reply is posted to your ticket, you get it right there in your inbox, and you can reply to it right there via email as well. No longer do you have to log into your account on this site just to reply to a ticket. For those of you that are mobile or simply prefer not to keep track of accounts, that should be a huge bonus.

We are really excited for this change and are looking forward to the significant improvements it will make in helping us address support questions more efficiently and make it an easier process for you, our most valuable customers.

There are some questions that need to be addressed, however.

What about priority support?

Priority support is here to stay. Those customers that subscribe to priority support will still have their tickets placed at the top of the queue. The only real difference is that there is no longer going to be a Priority Support forum. You will open your tickets in the same form as everyone else on the Support page.

To sign up for priority support, you will still need to create an account on our site, but you will not be required to log into your account to open a ticket. The only requirement is that you open all tickets from the same email that is used with your user account.

Will the forums be deleted?

No. The forums will never be deleted.

Over the last three years, the forums have accumulated a massive wealth of public knowledge that is invaluable to us, and to our customers. They will always remain publicly accessible and will not be removed at any time.

The forums will, however, be closed to new tickets and replies to resolved tickets. Those tickets that are unresolved in the forums will remain open and customers will be able to continue to post replies to them until the time that they are marked as resolved.

On and after June 3rd, the forums will serve as an archive of information but will no longer be used for new support tickets.

When does this change take effect?

On June 3rd, 2015.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, do not hesitate to let us know below in the comments!

Pippin Williamson

About Pippin Williamson

Pippin Williamson is the founder of Sandhills Development, the parent company for Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP, Restrict Content Pro, Sugar Calendar, and others. When not writing PHP, he can often be found sipping coffee or brewing beer at Sandhills Brewing.

@pippinsplugins

46 comments

  1. Pippin Williamson

    This is great news! An email-centered system should be much more efficient.

    The only thing I will say is that I imagine the old forum archive will become a mass of outdated information over time – especially unhelpful if new users (or existing users doing Google searches) arrive at it without really realizing it’s not the up-to-date support channel any more.

    I imagine you will want to delete it at some point…

    Dan

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        With the support going “dark” so-to-speak, people searching for common issues or approaches after the forums are closed will likely be less and less likely to find other people with the same problems or solutions to what may be related.

        So I was wondering if you have thought about any formal process with your support team that revisits each support ticket after it’s “resolved” as a final step like “reconciled with docs” where you review any potential changes or additions to docs that would have made that ticket unnecessary or can help reduce similar requests in the future (assuming the docs didn’t already cover it and that people read the docs).

        1. Pippin Williamson

          Oh yes, absolutely.

          After this move, it will be critical that we place extra effort into the creation and curation of FAQs and documentation.

          It’s a good thing we recently hired a full time staff member for documentation 🙂

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  3. Pippin Williamson

    I’d love to see a blog post showing your HS setup (tags, saved replies, workflows).

    Also great would be how you use it in combination with Github issue tracking, etc. We’re still refining our flow to improve things like following up with all users affected by an issue.

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      1. Pippin Williamson

        That would be awesome, we are not 100% happy with bbpress either, so I can’t wait to hear more 🙂

    2. Pippin Williamson

      Will second that.

      Been heavily considering this same move for Popup Maker support. I strive to provide fast reliable support, but often find that some topics slip by without a timely response. Would love to see some info on how you have set up your ques for priority support and also how you are assigning tickets to the proper channel for things like 3rd party developed extensions such as EDD Donations.

      That said I am torn as I see both SEO and support reduction from the forums. I may leave them open for communtiy based support and create a full time support channel via HS along side, or even just provide priority support via the HS tickets.

      Seems like once you shut down the forums you lose a substantial amount of SEO gain over time as well as the increase in users who simply don’t care to read docs and submit ticket after ticket which I have found to be the case in the past.

      This of course assumes your forum new thread form does some type of auto search/suggest for existing topics before allowing users to post a new one. Though it may be a good idea to build this into your HS support ticket form and link them off to the related FAQ/Doc.

      Look forward to hearing how this change works out for you in both the short and long term.

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  4. Pippin Williamson

    Just when I was starting to really admire your forum based support you’re killing it? Can you help me understand a bit more what it is you or your users don’t like about the forum based support?

    We have been using email based support for years and what I haven’t liked about it is that the knowledge produced isn’t easily sharable – you have to extract what you told the user and put it into a specific FAQ entry (which we offer) but it’s extra work. Your forums are searchable and if I don’t find what I need it’s easy to ask new questions.

    So – am I crazy to emulate your forum system right as your going away from it?

    1. Pippin Williamson

      Hey Ken!

      First, let me reassure you: I love forums for support. I love almost everything about them, especially the accumulation of public knowledge.

      Second, no, I would not discourage you from emulating the forums here. They have worked exceptionally well for us. I would even argue that they were partially responsible for some of the growth we have seen over the last three years, especially early on.

      Public forums do naturally act as a public knowledge base as more and more information is accumulated, but we have found a problem with that as well. When you have forums, you tend to rely on them. It’s suddenly very easy to use a forum thread as documentation instead of actually having documentation written.

      Jonathan Christopher put it very well when he moved his SearchWP plugin away from public forums, and I couldn’t agree with him more: https://searchwp.com/releases/updates-searchwp-support/

      In my opinion one of the best byproducts of using a forum for support is that it creates a living documentation system. As I’ve found over the past year this is also for my laziness; it gave me an excuse to neglect updating my documentation. Documentation is supremely important to me and while forum posts can be helpful they will never beat purpose-written documentation.

      The other main issue I took with using a forum to power support also correlates to it being public: information rot. SearchWP is over a year old now and the bulk of the forum threads revolve around issues that have long since been closed and/or improved upon. Knowing customers had to sift through this old data was a problem, and I don’t have the bandwidth to curate thousands of posts in perpetuity.

      If you have any other questions or concerns, I’ll be more than happy to address them.

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  5. Pippin Williamson

    Great move. 🙂

    I am also planning to switch to helpdesk-based support, away from forum support.

    May I know if you plan to provide helpdesk support to everyone or only premium users (user who has valid license for an addon)?

      1. Pippin Williamson

        Won’t that be too much work?

        Just out of curiosity – will there be any difference? As in faster with respect to time, or level/scope of support.

        IMHO key reason people buy GPL license software is support. If one-on-one support is available free, it might kill incentive to buy.

        Of course, your experience and opinion can vary. I am surprised because EDD has much bigger community so this is a really big move! Hats off to you! 🙂

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  6. Pippin Williamson

    This is a good idea but I do see a down side, quite often when I have an issue quite often you find the problem and answer in another persons forum support thread, with this new plan the faster response times will mean its much harder for users to find similar topics which may result in you guys getting more emails in.

    I see that you responded to another comment saying you will be adding info to public FAQs but surely not everything? How will you know what to add and what not to?

    Perhaps allow public / private email tickets and post your email thread into the forum archives for others to follow? if possible?

    1. Pippin Williamson

      We have an internal policy here about documentation and FAQs. If we ever get the same question twice, we need to answer that question in the documentation or the FAQs.

      Hiring a full time person to write documentation is really going to help us with this.

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  7. Pippin Williamson

    As a customer support manager for a popular WordPress theme provider, I suggest you tread carefully when no longer providing forum support.

    Support forums are very underrated and although I do understand why you have made this decision. I do believe you will likely return or open the forum back up. The problem with support forums is that 99.9% of users do not follow your support policies such as one question per topic and they do not search the forums before posting. Which will cause your support team to most likely reply to questions they have answered numerous times.

    However, going to email/ticket support only in my experience will not work or you will require extensive documentation for it to work. In my honest opinion, you may find that although it sounds more efficient on paper to only provide support via tickets, in the end it will most likely be the complete opposite.

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  8. Pippin Williamson

    Great move and +1 for Help Scout. I love it.

    From your end, how are you prioritizing / identifying priority customers in Help Scout? I’ve been thinking of offering priority support for my customers and have been trying to decide how to manage that in Help Scout.

    1. Pippin Williamson

      Priority customers register an account on this site (just as they did before). When a ticket is opened by a customer that has priority support, their account is looked up and their ticket is then automatically tagged with “priority”. This all happens automatically.

      1. Pippin Williamson

        Great workflow. Is that a custom Help Scout app you’ve built to check for the purchase in your Restrict Content Pro or EDD? I’d love to have a look at how that works.

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        Thanks Pippin.

        I find that a lot of users will open a new ticket by sending a message to the support email versus using the form again. I’ve been pondering how to get those tagged as priority too.

        I suppose just telling people to use the form for new requests to get their priority support is reasonable.

        1. Pippin Williamson

          Our priority support system is powered by Restrict Content Pro. I’ve built a custom plugin / app for Help Scout that looks up user accounts from tickets so we can verify them.

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            Did you end up making this public? I’m looking into a priority support system for my theme and would like to use RCP and Help Scout 🙂

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  10. Pippin Williamson

    Great move Pippin! One less password to remember as a user makes everything that much easier. It’s also much easier to check email than to remember the URL of a forum post – for following up purposes.

    I’ve been using Help Scout for support exclusively (alongside documentation) for about a year now and the user response has been a lot more positive!

  11. Pippin Williamson

    This is awesome news for all and quite a smart move. I’ve personally found that support tickets handled through email/ticketing system go over a lot smoother and get answered/resolved a lot quicker.

    Another issue I’ve come across with forum support is that some tickets go unanswered or get buried in the of other questions.

    The one benefit to a forum support system is that it allows the community you’ve built to help one another and provide tips when you’re not around/open for support.

    TLDR; A great move and just another step towards a better overall EDD experience. Best of luck!

    Evan

  12. Pippin Williamson

    Thanks for sharing Pippin, I always enjoy seeing what the EDD team is up to.

    I’ve been using HS for about a year now and I love it. Building documentation off of requests works quite well, it’s just hard to follow through sometimes. Sounds like you’re ready for that since you’ve got someone full-time on the job.

  13. Pippin Williamson

    The forum rocks. Hopefully you guys can decide to do both somehow. More than 80% of all my questions were answered because of the forums. It seems this could eventually make you guys busier and make it less friendly to find helpful information. Documentation is great but will not always cover the experiences people using the plugin are having. Another helpful thing about forums is seeing if an update etc went wrong. Because you can see other people talking about it but now we will all be in the dark.

    One concern I want to mention is I have seen a few authors ditch forums and then support went very down hill because there is not much transparency anymore. It becomes much easier to brush tickets to the side etc when no one can see. I don’t see this happening in EDD due to the high quality support I have received before but only time can tell.

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  14. Pippin Williamson

    Fantastic move Pippin, I have used a support ticket system as it was one of the first products I created for WordPress as my support ticket theme and have been updating everything and that was to create a better knowledge base.

    You really have that information in the shapes of the forums to add now and you guys can work out what is old info or bugs that where stamped on and take the good stuff and run with it to build a fantastic knowledge base, So the forums have helped make the transition really.

    I think you should have maybe a generic forum still open as many users could find it very helpful if a bug did come to the surface and save tickets being submitted if you get me.

    Lastly do not forget that posting to the forums gets good engagement and repeat visitors on a thread like this 🙂

    But good luck with the whole transition across to it as it will be hard work at first but worth it long run wise depending on the layout and you guys do a fantastic job already.

  15. Pippin Williamson

    Hi – I’m a priority customer and had open tickets. I just logged into the new system and don’t see them. How do I follow-up on the issues you were working on for me?

    Thanks

    1. Pippin Williamson

      Hi J,

      If the ticket is not resolved yet, you can still reply to them in the forums. Simply log into your account and then you can post your replies to the forum thread just as before.

      If the ticket is resolved, please open a new or followup ticket from the /support page.

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