I’ve been calling myself “Head of Support” for over a year now. I’m proud to announce that that title is now technically true. Let me explain.
Don’t Let Your Support Be a Bumper Sticker
You’ve heard these inspirational sayings about becoming your own dream, right?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”
In WordPress Business parlance these translate as:
“Be the million dollar business you wish to see in the world!”
“Run the wildly successful business you’ve always imagined.”
These sentiments are great until you realize they come from a place of wishful positivism instead of actual experience. It’s great to imagine yourself in that dream job, with that dream income. It’s even better to work hard to get there and do it.
When it comes to our products and business, the temptation to “be the business you’ve imagined” is all too real. You might be the only person doing support for your products, but it’s tempting to act bigger. You might want to tell your customers you’ll forward them to the “billing department” when it’s really just another email address you have forwarded to your Gmail.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this except the fact that it’s a reflection of how stretched you — as the beginning and end of all your support — actually are. If you want to become that robust support engine it’s better to own who you actually are now and work hard to grow and get there.
With that in mind, here’s a few insights on how we’re growing and expanding our Support for all our products.
What Does Being a Robust Support Engine Look Like?
In order to grow into that robust support engine you need to have a vision for what it looks like. Support is not singular; it’s multi-faceted. It involves at minimum all of the following:
Answering Customer Inquiries:
This is what most people think of when they think of “Support:” answering tickets. It’s true though, the largest portion of my time is spent in this area. But “answering tickets” shouldn’t be seen as menial or mundane. Every ticket is an interaction with users who want to love your product. They want to be ecstatic about it. Your support of your product with them heavily influences their perception of the product itself.
Writing and Enhancing Documentation:
The second largest part of my time is spent working on our documentation. Besides the WP Dashboard itself, this is where our customers go to the most for more in-depth information about our products. This is another great opportunity to help showcase your product and encourage customer loyalty. Support workers are best positioned to write and enhance this content. They understand the pain-points that users have with the settings or configuration and know if it’s addressed clearly and succinctly in docs — that it can save everyone a lot of headache.
Providing Product Insight:
Occasionally, I get a little bummed at how little I code in my role as Head of Support. But while my actual code contributions to our products are minor, my feature ideas and UI/UX suggestions are instrumental in the direction our products go. The reason that matters is because those ideas and suggestions come directly from my communication with our users. Support is vitally instrumental in the product development feedback loop.
Answering Pre-Sales Inquiries:
Despite the demos, videos, and documentation throughout our site, sometimes people really just need to ask some clarifying questions to know for sure if our products will suit their needs. Support workers are uniquely positioned to answer these queries because they interface with users all the time who are implementing the product in new and unique ways.
If you are a solopreneur right now seeking to grow into a larger team, a large part of your vision for your products should be focused on what happens outside of the product. Developers who only work on the code and not the community around the product can very easily be deaf to what their customers really want, or how to communicate in language they understand. No matter how many features you have or how gorgeous your sales pages are, without quality support, your product sales can easily become lackluster.
How to Get from Solopreneur to Robust Support Engine
All of that begs the question: How exactly can I grow into a robust support engine? Until recently, I — as “Head of Support” — managed and executed all of the support aspects. Naturally, Devin — our Lead Developer — stepped in often, but every time he did meant time away from product development.
For me, doing all those things meant that when one aspect was in high-need all other aspects had to suffer for a while. For example, when we’re about to launch a new product we suddenly have a high-need for documentation. While I spent that time writing, our support tickets grew and my response times became very long.
The need for more hands-on support was obvious, but how would we get there? The funny thing is, I’ve already answered that. We here at WordImpress have been seeing steady and consistent growth with all our products.
Generally we can attribute that to three main things:
- The products themselves answer a real need in the WordPress space;
- The products are adequately priced;
- The users of our free products learn to trust us because of our Robust Support.
So simply by doing Support the way it should be done, and continuing to produce quality and useful products, we are seeing a natural and consistent growth.
Coming full circle, this is exactly how you can live into those cheesy sayings: “Be the Support You Want to Receive in the World.” Every product developer I speak with echoes this sentiment. No matter the size of your team, if you support your product well you’ll see growth.
Growth is great and necessary because at some point the solopreneur “Head of Everything and Support” has to expand the team.
Introducing Michele and Steve
I’m very excited to announce that we have recently taken on two new part-time support workers. They are helping in all the areas I mentioned above: Customer tickets, documentation, influencing product development, and answering pre-sales questions. When I looked for people to support me, I knew I needed capable and responsible professionals who can be self-motivated and hold themselves to high standards.
With that in mind, I was thrilled to find that both Michele Butcher and Steve Streumph were eager and available to the task. Here’s a bit about each of them.
Michele’s support of the WordPress community at large is one of the biggest reasons I was thrilled to bring her on the team. She leads the Southern Illinois WordPress Meetup, is a regular speaker at WordCamps, and teaches beginning and intermediate WordPress at John A Logan College.
Michele also has a great sense of humor and is so easy to chat with and get along with — a major plus when working in support. When I asked her how to describe her relationship with WordPress she said:
“WordPress is like pizza. You can put anything you want on it and not everyone has to like it.”
In addition to our Robust Support (tickets, docs, product insight) she’s also helping staff our live chat on GiveWP.com If you’re on the site between 11am and 1pm PST say hi to Michele!
If I could choose one thing about Steve that I felt was his biggest strength in this role, it would be his empathy and ability to understand people. When I asked Steve what his take is on excellent support his answer was all about the human experience, not just whether you “turned it off and turned it back on again.”
“Sometimes a project or a bug can become very frustrating after a long day of hours and hours of trying to figure it out. It’s nice to know you are talking to a patient support person who understands and has totally been there.”
Steve told me that he hasn’t yet contributed directly to WordPress all that much, but he wants to soon. You get a feeling for people based on which part of the WordPress project they want to contribute to. When Steve said he wants to help with the “WordPress Meta Team” I might have jumped just a little. It takes a special person to be excited about “Meta” — it’s something he and I share.
Steve is helping us with all our WordImpress products, customer inquiries, documentation, and product insights.
Supporting Confidently in the Direction of our Dreams
Speaking on behalf of our leadership at WordImpress — Devin, Jason Knill, and myself — we’re very excited to bring these two on board. They are both great contributors to WordPress as a whole and adding depth to our roster is just further confirmation of the vision we all have for this company.
For you, our users and customers, this should mean a deeper and continued commitment to high-quality support. This is a reflection of how important you are to us.
It’s my goal to see Steve and Michele grow and develop in their positions and to see even more depth added to our roster throughout this year. With folks like this, it’s easy to feel like we’ve already arrived. But trust me, we work to Impress.
So next time you submit a support request, say congrats to Michele and Steve, and
Here’s to Building the Web!