How to get help with your WordPress site

in WordPress

Working in support can be fun. And sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating. Story time!

Last night around 10PM, as I was laying down next to my daughter’s bed and waiting for her to fall asleep (bad cold, she can’t breathe properly), my phone buzzed. I chose to ignore it. A phone screen in the dark isn’t exactly an invitation to sleep. ☺ 

A few minutes later, another buzz. And then another. hm. It could be something important. Let’s see if I can discreetly take my phone out, her eyes are closed…

It turned out the 3 notifications were for 3 different apps: email, Slack, and LinkedIn.

I first opened LinkedIn; I hardly ever use the app, so I was wondering what that notification was. It was a message from someone who wasn’t one of my LinkedIn connections. That person had issues with the Jetpack plugin on their site. That’s a first. I’ve never had anyone contacting me privately on LinkedIn with questions about a plugin. That was an urgent question, though: their site was down because of a failure during WordPress’ plugin update process. I gave them some pointers, and then recommended that they post in the support forums or contact support if they still had questions. They replied a few minutes later: my recommendation to delete the plugin and reinstall from scratch wasn’t helpful since their site was down and they were consequently locked out of their dashboard. “Thanks for nothing!”, as they nicely put it.

They were right of course: since I was on my phone and busy with other things, I had failed to include detailed instructions on how to delete a plugin when you don’t have access to your dashboard. I googled and sent them a link on how to do that. Didn’t hear anything back. I guess it helped? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The whole thing left me thinking I’d need to deactivate that LinkedIn messaging feature, because I really would not expect someone to contact me there for help. I couldn’t find that option.

I then moved on to Slack: someone had a general WordPress question that wasn’t related to my work. They had chosen to contact me privately on Slack to get a quick reply. I gave them some pointers as to what could help them figure this out on their own, and let them know the general WordPress.org support forums were probably a better avenue for general WordPress questions.

I then checked my emails. That same person had copied their Slack message and pasted that same request in the contact form on my site. I told them via Slack that spamming multiple communication channels probably wasn’t the best way to get help, and then finally put my phone down.

And then I thought it’d make a good blog post. ?

That’s not the first time this happens. In fact, more than 90% of the messages I’ve received through my blog’s contact form this year were Jetpack questions. I receive my fair share of messages on Facebook as well, and there is obviously Twitter.

What could I do to change that? These 2 people most likely googled or searched the WordPress.org support forums, and found threads where I had helped people. Instead of creating their own thread, they clicked on my name and landed on my profile page. From there, they clicked on my site URL, followed the link to my LinkedIn profile, or copied my Slack username and looked for me on Slack.

Why did they choose to do that? Is there something we could improve in the WordPress.org support forums experience, to make it more obvious that one can create their own thread?

On my end, should I remove all information from that profile page to avoid such confusion? Should I add a little sentence to my bio, with a link to the support forums if they have questions?

I don’t have an answer to those questions. I’ll probably do some edits to my profile in the next couple of days, but I’m not too hopeful.

I do, however, have a few ideas I’d like to share. If you ever find yourself in the position of asking for help online, it could help!

  1. Do not “spam” people. Asking for help once should be enough if you use the right channel. You should not have to also send that same message via personal email, Twitter, and Facebook (yes, it does happen.)
  2. Use the right support channel. It most likely is not someone’s personal LinkedIn profile or blog. It’s probably not Facebook or Twitter either. If you have a question about a service, go to their website and look for a “Help”, “Support”, or “Contact” button. If they do not have a website, go to the place where you downloaded the product.
  3. Be polite. You may be frustrated, angry, desperate. You’re still talking to human beings just like you. These human beings are here to help you. As Mika nicely puts it, check yourself, treat people how you want to be treated, and when you read what they say, assume the best intentions.
  4. Add as many details as possible about your problem. If someone has to ask you questions to find out more about your problem, the whole process will take longer.

It’s a short list, I could probably add a lot more bullet points. But really, I think I’m just going to recommend that you watch the 2 videos below from 2 of my colleagues. ?

Help Me Help You: The Art And Science Of Getting Good WordPress Support, by Kathryn Presner

We Can’t Read Your Mind: How To Find Help For Your WordPress Problems, by Carolyn Sonnek

If you made it this far, thank you. You’re a good listener. You should make that your job and start working in support. ? Also, share your ideas below and I’ll edit my post. ?

  1. I give you credit to post this story. Family should be first. Yes, two people needed advice but could get results without contacting you or spam-ing You on social networks. Thanks for sharing this. Good to know.

  2. People who are rude enough to spam multiple channels aren’t going to respond to subtlety. Maybe just put notes on profiles that you will not respond via certain channels and then don’t respond. I can’t even remember exactly how I found your profile and blog. Just poking from one link to another but can’t remember where I started.

    I’ve seen some rudeness on support forums, mostly from impatient questioners but ocassionally from someone who was supposed to be helping.

    I’ve been using WordPress for a long time now but even when I first started, I can’t recall asking a single question on a forum for one reason: Every problem I ever encountered had already been encountered by someone else and answered on a forum. I didn’t even look on support forums I just searched the question on a search engine and almost always ended up on a WordPress support forum where the question had already been asked and answered.

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