We've just hit an important milestone: Google chrome is
now displaying a Not Secure warning for sites that don't make use of SSL certificates.
If you haven't heard of SSL whatsoever, here's your chance to read about how it
applies to you and your website, WordPress or otherwise.
Introduction to SSL
The basic gist behind your website having an SSL certificate is that it allows
visitors to your site & your website to communicate back & forth securely.
Information sent between a user & your site being encrypted can be a huge advantage.
Using SSL with your WordPress login & administrative panels, and contact forms is an immense
The secure padlock in your browser has become somewhat ubiquitous — you only notice
when it's missing or screams something ugly. With the most recent chrome change, any
site not using SSL is going to output a rather ugly error, which, over time will
get increasingly uglier with Firefox & Chrome.
The good news is we've done all of the difficult work in getting SSL fully operational.
Now's the time to enable it.
Setting up WordPress to use SSL
The change from non-ssl to SSL only takes a few moments, and we've compiled a reasonably
thorough document on the topic over at SSL for WordPress
which you should review & implement.
If you're hosted at Fused, we took the liberty earlier last year to ensure that we had 100% coverage for
Let's Encrypt SSL certificates for all of our web hosting clients, so while the error might appear
scary it takes all but 15 minutes to get your WordPress site loading over SSL.
If you've been around as long as I have, internet-wise, you've wielded meta keywords on all the sites you build. It doesn't appear most search care about them much at all however, here's a good read on the topic: Search Engine Land on meta keywords
Public forums are great for self-service support (users supporting users), but there's some caveats. I'll detail some of those below. It's worth adding that some helpdesks like zendesk (the most recent time we've used it) have public Q&A; sections, which I think are a good middle ground between forums & helpdesks.
Pros & cons for forums
Before becoming useful, forums need to reach a certain level of momentum. Getting that momentum is often the biggest problem forums face. Posting lots of content won't necessarily build momentum quickly enough to attract users. Forums are very much like a vegetable garden, in that months of effort can bear fruit, but not without lots of time spent beating away pests & pruning forums constantly. As a small team, finding out what works best for your company is going to pay dividends. Forums, like anything, can prove to be a distraction from your core product. For a tech-centric product like say web hosting, wordpress theme developers, or some software product, forums can prove great & beneficial. For other types of industries, your mileage may vary. Tread wisely.
The Benefits of a Forum
Great way to build a community.
Often inexpensive to manage from a software standpoint.
It's wonderful to have self-supporting users, potentially freeing up your time to work on your product & business
The Negatives of a Forum
Building momentum is hard, & can be very tedious & expensive from a manpower (or womanpower, woo!) standpoint, especially upfront.
Forums require lots of pruning, updating & user management. When dealing with social interactions, suddenly having to remove the wrong person from a forum might damage your reputation or momentum.
You'll need to prune quickly to prevent spam, people posting affiliate links & trying to steal your clientbase almost constantly
Like anything, they can be a distraction from your product
There's many forums out there, and we haven't had time to audit them all in the recent years. Punbb, phpbb, vbulletin, vanilla, discourse & some others are the newer ones.
If you answer any more than a few emails a week, & do so in capacity that requires accountability & reasonable response times, it's likely time you started using a helpdesk. A helpdesk often is a centralized piece of software where folks can get support. Many feature frequently asked questions, knowledgebase articles & the ability to submit tickets and inquiries. There are many, many available versions with varied features. I'd highly recommend tinkering with each and finding one that fits your needs.
We've done a good bit of testing with each, and I'll list the pros & cons of each below.
The bulk of the software below have the following:
Allow people to email you, and, for you to respond back via email. It'll convert those emails into tickets.
The ability for multiple team members to login & manage said tickets. This makes for good accountability, and, allows everyone (whom might need to) to review said tickets.
Allows tickets to be converted into tasks, knowledgebase articles & FAQ pages to make it easier for other users to look up answers for their own questions.
Self-hosted means that you'd be responsible to host the software yourself, either on a web hosting account at a company like Fused or elsewhere. Some have non-self-hosted versions available where the vendor hosts it for you. There's some advantages and disadvantages to self-hosted software.
Often open source to some degree, meaning you can tinker with the code & make changes as needed
You can move from host to host based on uptime & performance needs
There's very little vendor lock-in. You can export your data to another helpdesk as needed
You get to upgrade the software yourself! Yay .
You (or your host) get to manage the security of said product. This can be both a plus or minus, but for most folks would be a minus.
We've used Kayako what seems to be over a decade. It serves our purpose well, but, given its age it's beginning to show some wear & tear. Kayako offers both a self-hosted (i.e., one you host on a web hosting account at a company like Fused) & hosted version (one kayako hosts). The software features live chat, a helpdesk that allows emails to convert to tickets and a decent knowledgebase system.
It's got a slightly antiquated interface, but nonetheless allows us to respond to inquiries promptly. It's a great system to consider, but lacks some social features like converting facebook posts/twitter responses into tickets. Nonetheless, it's got fairly open code, so if you're technical enough you can add your own modules.
Link to Kayako: Kayako
Cerberus is great. No complaints, slightly antiquated interface, but it "gets the job done".
Link to Cerberus: Cerberus
Desk is a great product from salesforce. It has a decent interface, lots of applications available for mobile, ipad & desktop. It features a long list of social media integration (for twitter responses & such) and overall has a decent pricing scheme. It's SaaS only, which means salesforce hosts it for you. There's some limitations with that, mostly that you're locked into using their software. If you come across something you don't like, migration would prove tedious.
Link to desk.com: Desk.com
Zendesk is the product of a public company. It has a great interface, and supports lots of nifty features & includes many mobile device apps. & such. The one limitation is it's self-hosted only, we've heavily considered & wielded their software -- it's good stuff.
Link to Zendesk: Zendesk
Support is 24/7, 365 days a year, whether you're selling flower bouquets, or running a web design firm, it's the one thing we all have in common. Inundated in requests? Welcome! We feel your pain. One of our long-term web hosting clients Josh who runs a web development firm offering wordpress plugins & design, recently posted a blog post on this very topic. Support is hard, but not impossible.
Here's a few key things to keep in mind when offering support digitally, or alternatively through tangible methods like telephone & in-person.
I'm going to detail a few basic points on what good support is, and, then below offer ideas for helpdesks, forums & everything in between.
Be clear on when support is available
Avoid confusion. Be upfront about your support hours & support limitations. Much like your open & close times (if you have them), avoid frustrating people trying to reach support & not knowing whether you're going to be there. Having clearly defined terms of when support is available is key. If you're going to be away on holiday, make note of it well in advance (and publicly).
This might sound tedious, but, if you've ever interacted with companies you know precisely how frustrating it is sitting in a phone queue, or waiting for an email from someone.
Boundaries & support limitations
Going above & beyond for clients can feel wonderful, but if there's a particular boundary you're not willing to go beyond consistently, define it well in advance. For us, fixing SMTP settings on someone's remote printer is that boundary. We do it, and it feels great, but we have no doubt it'd prove better for both us & our clients alike if we didn't involve ourselves in the process. Another example being, if you're a designer & don't necessarily want to get your hands dirty doing web hosting related stuff, or, a developer whom avoids logo design, make those points clear upfront. There's nothing wrong with saying that you're not the greatest at something, as long as everyone knows those limitations upfront.
You can always make exceptions, or refer people in the right direction, but try not to waste people's time with subpar work or support.
Limit support mediums. Less is more.
In the decade that I've been doing web hosting, the biggest key in providing great consistent support I've found, is limiting support mediums. If you've got twitter, facebook, instagram & $insert-new-social-medium here accounts -- people are going to reach out to you on them for support and they're likely going to be disappointed if you don't respond quickly & thoroughly. Make it clear where the best support can be had for your service. Limit the number of places that people can get support, but provide the best possible support through those avenues, which in turn, prevents people from seeking you out on those mediums.
You might find yourself tweeting to a company one day (I tweet to Bank of America more often than I call my mom), but it's not because twitter is the best avenue for support -- it's just the easiest route to get in touch with an entity vs. email, or digging around on their convoluted site. Find yourself doing that frequently, or, find your users doing it? It might be time to clean up your 'contact us' page, or, start offering support over twitter :)
The goal is to provide great support, so, try not to spread yourself thin by trying to do it in 300 different places, as it could prove difficult to be consistent. Consistency is key. As always, go where your users are.
Live support & telephones
Understanding when live support is advantageous to you & the customer both is extremely important. Live support (telephone or livechat) is great, but nothing's more frustrating than seeing "Livechat is offline" or waiting in a phone queue. Define availability clearly, otherwise, it can be a frustrating experience for both customers & support representatives alike. Fused has never had livechat available, and we've
all but killed converted our phone system over to a click to call system because phone queues are awful. Yet, no medium can be greater to resolving issues quickly & promptly than a quick thirty second phone call. Find out what fits your organization.
Email is equally as painful, but it doesn't have to be. Helpdesks offer a good middleground, & perhaps you might consider offering support through forums?
Your mileage may vary. Now, onto our next post...