Over the last 4 years, I’ve utilized bbPress as my primary support system, and it is worked wonderfully for me. As my plugins have expanded and the user base of my plugins has grown significantly over the last 4 years, it has become increasingly more difficult to properly manage all of the support requests. For this reason, I’m working to improve my workflow for support and have chosen to move all plugin support to Help Scout.
Why I have chosen to move?
Forums can be extremely difficult to manage, and my support forums were no exception. It’s easy to lose track of tickets and even easier for tickets to get off track as multiple users jump into threads with their own questions.
By moving all support to Help Scout, I will be able to dramatically improve my support response times and will be far less likely to ever lose track of someone’s ticket. Help Scout is also far better suited for a multi-person team. Since I employee a friend to help go through first-tier support, this is vitally important. The reporting features in Help Scout are also superb. With a few clicks, I can quickly see how many tickets have been opened for any time period, how many tickets have been resolved, and even what the average response time was for each staff member.
What does this mean for customers?
It means great things. Help Scout is a ticketing system that handles all tickets via email, so instead of logging into your account on the forums, you simply submit a form on the new support page and continue all followup conversation via email. This should greatly improve response times and the ease of which to get support.
What about the old forums and the long history of tickets?
The forums will remain public and anyone can access them. All tickets over the last 4 years are there and everyone is welcome (and encouraged) to search them for solutions to any problems. New tickets in the forums have been disabled. You can access the forums archive here.
If there are any questions or concerns, please let me know.
50 thoughts so far
Have your say
Good move. *thumbs up*
I think that will be great for you customers, Pippin. I often go back and forth about choosing to use bbPress for support. Like you mentioned: it’s so awesome. But I have definitely lost track of a ticket or two after forgetting to Favorite or some other user error. One thing I do like about bbPress is that in theory it can help customers help themselves, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to answering many questions many times over. The Help Scout approach feels like an awesome iteration to your support process.
I think it’s impressive what you’ve done for support since you first started using bbPress; the forums will serve a lasting purpose, that’s for sure.
As much as I love forums, and as much as I have supported them in the past for support platforms, I simply cannot deny how magnificent HelpScout is. There are definitely times when forums work exceptionally well (they work really well for EDD), but when you really want to refine the work flow, forums are probably not the way to go. I’ve learned that more and more over the last 4 years.
Looks pretty nifty!
Sounds like a positive move for both your clients and your own sanity. I will be looking forward to your feedback on help scout after your into it though. We used it for Better WP Security for almost a year and I just didn’t care for it. Now that we’ve moved to iThemes who is on Zendesk I’m finding the support tickets much easier to track.
I’ve been using for for AffiliateWP and some internal EDD support for a few months now and love it.
That’s interesting that you found HS difficult and Zendesk great; I have the exact opposite feelings 🙂
Good move Pippin.
Looks like a smart move 🙂
I am very sad, as this will stop development of BBpress from your side and will stop the amazing contributions you did to the bbpress community.
Actually no it won’t. I still use bbPress extensively for the Easy Digital Downloads support forums.
Congrats, the right way!
Forums are probably not the best way to handle support for popular software. But let’s assume if we wanted to improve bbpress as a support platform what features you think it needs to be used more efficiently as a support platform? May be some one can work on these features as plugins?
Ticket assignments, stats, private replies, reply by email are some of the big ones. I’ve built plugins for most of these and we utilize them for easy digital downloads, and they do make it a substantially better platform.
Good move Pippin.
I love HelpScout. We use it for RE. My favorite features are:
– Totally transparent to customers. They don’t need to log in, reset password, etc. every time they have a question.
– Internal notes. My employees and I can comment privately alongside a ticket.
– Saved replies.
– Automation. We have a few tags that are auto-applied with certain criteria. Also auto assign certain tickets to certain people based on criteria.
Auto replies are is the one feature I haven’t got into using yet, but I definitely will.
I used Help Scout for a little while and then have since halted using it until I find another solution (that I’ve yet to find ;).
The primary reason I stopped is because I felt as if the lack of a knowledge base for FAQs was tough because I felt like it was going to be redundant to reply to, ahem, frequently asked questions without having a single place for the customer to check first.
With that said – and for someone who has as many customers as you do with EDD – how are you managing that particular aspect?
I’m curious as this is about enough for me to want to revisit Help Scout as my support solution (as I’ve got several things I’d like to begin or resume selling in the self-hosted marketplace).
Help Scout has a knowledge base app, though it’s an additional $25 per month to enable it.
I don’t really think it matters whether your ticket system has a knowledge base or FAQ system; it only matters that you have one. For EDD, we try to maintain a good list of questions and documentation that we can quickly refer users to. The actual location of those documents don’t matter, just so long as they are visible and easy to link to.
For whatever it’s worth, Help Scout has canned responses so we publish FAQ’s on our site and ask people to check them before submitting a ticket. If they don’t, we fire off a canned response linking to the appropriate answer. A little more on this topic here if I may: http://stevengliebe.com/2014/05/07/becoming-efficient-support-hiring-help/
That’s how I handle them.
Pippin – how does Help Scout handle code samples? Does it support inline code within email, or do you typically rely on pastebin / gist to show code?
Help Scout looks really interesting, but I’m wondering if it would become a burden when providing support mainly to other developers?
I haven’t actually tried that yet, so am not sure 🙂
Yes, it can handle code inline very well as of my experience – great for shorter snippets. Though, for longer stuff, I still prefer Gists 🙂
Thanks for sharing this pippin. I was actually looking for a better way to handle customer service myself as well. Right now I use a message board along site purechat for live chat support which I find to be faster than going back and forth in emails for forum messages. Which also allow more than one operator. Not very practical when you travel. Anyways look forward to seeing how this works for you.
I like this move.
I prefer email support as a customer because its private and easier than anything (forums and even ticket systems can be a hassle for users). I prefer tickets as a support provider though. That’s why Help Scout is genius. Email on the user end, ticket system on the provider end.
People say forums are great because they are searchable but frankly the search results tend to be mucky. Forums aren’t the only thing that can be searched. I’ve experienced massive searchable FAQ’s (or call it a knowledgebase) as a customer and it’s a wonderful thing when the answer is easy to find and clearly written (browsing multiple threads with multiple posts is not concise).
I’ve never used a forum for support as a provider, though. I’d love to hear how your experience with Help Scout compares after using it for a while.
I can see how Help Scout makes it easier to provide support. But as a user of plugins, etc. I have to say that I hate seeing another plugin provider moving to Help Scout. I always try *really* hard to resolve problems on my own or at least try to understand them better before I contact support. Hiding all prior support case data from the public internet makes it impossible to find solutions or information via search, and pretty much guarantees I will have to contact support, take up some human’s time, and wait for a response. All of which likely delays problem resolution. Perhaps I’m unique and in the grand scheme of things it results in greater customer and developer satisfaction, but I wish there was a happy medium somewhere.
I absolutely agree with the benefits of having past support issues made public, which is one of the benefits of the forums. The problem, however, is that you are a very, very rare fish in a very, very large sea. Having run public support forums for more than 4 years, I can tell you that the number of users that actually look for answers before asking for help is very, very few. While I LOVE users like you, unfortunately utilizing a system that helps make support more efficient for us (the people answering the tickets) and the majority of users who don’t actively seek out answers first, outweighs the cost to a few users.
I do believe there is a happy medium, however, and that lies in creating extensive knowledge bases. One of my main projects over the next several months will be to dramatically expand the knowledge bases for my plugins so that users who do wish to seek out their own answers are still able to.
I’m with you, Paul. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found the solution to a problem in an old support forum thread. I understand why businesses move away from forums, but it definitely is unfortunate for those of us who look for our own answers.
That’s why I’m leaving the forums open to view, just closed to new questions.
Thank you, seriously thank you for being one of those that looks for their own answers 🙂
We’re still on Gmail for WP Migrate DB Pro support, but I’ve been considering adopting Help Scout or Snappy. Have any of you tried Snappy?
I have not.
Nice… I really like HelpScout.. used it for some personal projects and thinking about moving one of our lower volume product sites to that.
Interesting! I’m very curious how this works out as my team used your bbPress support forum (and tutorial article) as a reference for our support forum. I would also be curious if, after you’ve had some time using Help Scout, whether you would have used them from the start. I hope it works out well for you guys, and I selfishly hope you post a follow up sometime in the future =D …
That’s a pretty big move Pippin. I really hope it works out well for you, and look forward to a follow up post! I use bbPress for plugin support too – it’s working fine at current volume, but I can imagine it getting more and more of a headache as things grow. It’s true that we’ve needed a huge number of extra plugins to make bbPress work well as a support forum… it seem like a lot to go wrong! :-S I’ve considered HelpScout and plan to give it a try on a different project so that I can compare how it stacks up against the forum support model.
As always, thanks for sharing your experience and insights. 🙂
I also moved to Help Scout (and I pay for the Docs add-on) a month or so ago. Love it.
Good move, Pippin. I switched our business over to Help Scout a while back and it’s been fantastic. I’m using a somewhat complex Gravity Form to make sure we collect the information we need for the situation and then feed that to Help Scout. Our audience is very non-technical so starting with a form on our website, following up by e-mail, and never having the customer see terms like “ticket” is a big win.
Help Scout also has a nice API that I’m using with a custom WordPress plugin to bring customer information into the Help Scout sidebar.
I wonder if you could use the API to grab conversations with a given tag and then automatically build out reference material on your site? That might provide a simple method to gain some of the benefit the public forum offered.
I’m probably going to start playing with their API soon to do exactly that.
Pippin, I’d love to see you sell it to EDD users. I’ve been planning on adapting some code Yoast put up on GitHub a while back but never seem to have time.
We forked the one from Yoast (first forked by Headway Themes). You can see it here: https://github.com/easydigitaldownloads/EDD-Help-Scout
Thanks Pippin. Nothing like a twice-forked repository to get you started.
Nice move Pippin, we use HelpScout at MailPoet and it’s pretty awsome. We have a contact form on our support page that search the user email as soon as he sends the form to check if he’s a premium user or not based on our database of customers. Then we send the email to the appropriate email inbox that HelpScout manages.
Nice. I setup an EDD integration that queries the site and pulls in all purchase records and license keys anytime a ticket is viewed. It’s extremely helpful.
Such a timely post. I’ve been looking at how to best manage support moving forward, and Help Scout seems perfect! Now I just wish there was a way to disable the WordPress.org support forums and direct everyone to email.
I used helps out for quite some time, but I’ve recently made the move to ticksy.
It’s quite similar, but I’m finding it easier to manage. Worth looking at!
I used Ticksy for about a year back when I was selling extensively through Envato. It’s a great system.
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Nice move! We started using HelpScout for our plugin support a little over a month ago. It’s been absolutely fantastic so far. From the customer support management side of things it’s just as good or better than any help desk I’ve used, and on the customer side it feels like a natural email conversation. It’s the first time I’ve actually loved using my help desk software. Have been thinking about building an extension for EDD + Helpjuice at some point but definitely don’t have the time in the foreseeable future.
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