Give Your Customers Top-Notch Service with Support System
If you run a blog, site or network of sites with multiple users, particularly if you have multiple authors or contributors, you’ll find that those users will usually have questions.
Even if you provide training and/or documentation about how to interact with your site, they’ll inevitably come up against issues they’re not sure about and don’t understand, and they’ll need your help.
You could simply ask them to email you with questions, or you could use a support system tool outside your website to manage requests for help. But if your users are going to be on your site when they have questions, it makes much more sense to provide somewhere they can ask them right from your site.
Our recently updated Support System plugin gives you an interface your users can access from the front-end and/or admin screens and use to raise questions and see the answers to frequently asked questions. It notifies you of tickets your users raise and lets you assign different ticket categories to different members of your team, as well as letting you create FAQs which answer questions users might want to know the answer to.
In this article I’ll show you how to install and set up the plugin, but I’ll also show you how to get the most from its more advanced capabilities around ticket administration and management as well as giving you some tips for getting more from it in the long run.
This is a huge post, so to break it down here’s what we’ll be looking at:
- Installing and configuring Support System
- Submitting tickets
- Managing tickets
- Adding and viewing FAQs
- Tips for managing your support system.
New Features in Support System 2.1
Before we get started, I should let you know about some fantastic new features included in the latest release of Support System:
It’s now easier to display FAQs where you need them in the backend and front-end of your site with shortcodes.
Tickets can also be displayed on the front-end using shortcodes: one for the tickets list and another for ticket submission.
Improved Ticket Styling
Backend styling for ticket details and history has been given a fresh, new look. Now it’s easier to view ticket details, reply to tickets, assign staff and create FAQ items all from the same page.
Front-end styling has all been improved, allowing you to set the category and priority of tickets, assign staff to a ticket and close tickets.
Queries have been completely rewritten from scratch for faster and smoother performance.
Improvements for Developers
For developers, you can now add your own settings via hooks, among many other things
Installing and Configuring Support System
The first step is to install the plugin. If you’re a WPMU DEV member, you can do this from the WPMU DEV screen in your dashboard, or alternatively you can purchase the plugin on its own and install it in the normal way.
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, you’ll see a new admin menu section with a main page for all of your support tickets:
Before you can get started you’ll need to adjust the settings to meet your needs. Go to Support >Settings and edit the options according to the requirements of your site:
The settings are:
- Support menu name – change this if you want a custom name for your support screens.
- Support from name – change this to the name of your site.
- Support from email – the email address notifications will come from. I like to create a [email protected] email address for support tickets and have it redirect to my main email account.
- Main administrator – choose an administrator who will be the default recipient of ticket notifications
- Permissions setting – you can specify the user roles that will be able to raise tickets and view FAQs
- Privacy – specify whether all users can see all tickets or they can only see their own. If you’re installing the plugin on a Multisite network, users will only be able to see tickets on their own site.
Save your settings and your support system is ready to go. You could operate this as it is now but you’ll get much more from it if you add some extra configuration.
A new feature of the plugin is that users can submit tickets via the front end of your site if you enable it. To do this, click the Front End tab and tick the “Activate Front End” checkbox. This will then display options for your front-end:
If you’ve created empty pages for your support system, select those form the dropdown list. If you haven’t, clicking the Create new page button will take you to the page editing screen in a new window. Simply give your page a name, publish it and return to this settings page. You’ll need to refresh the screen to be able to select your new pages.
Note: If you’re working on a Multisite installation, there will be an extra dropdown list which you use to select the site whose front end will be used to display support tickets. Normally you’d choose number 1, which is the main site, but if you have a specific site for supporting your users choose this one.
Your front-end pages won’t display any support tickets yet though: to activate that you’ll need to add a shortcode to each page.
Open the editing screen for your main support tickets page, and add the following shortcode:
Click Update to save your changes and view the page:
So far there aren’t any support tickets on display as none have been added yet, but you can see the category selection box and the search field.
Now repeat this for the page you’re using for submitting tickets, using the
[support-system-submit-ticket-form] shortcode. This is how the page will look:
So your users now have somewhere to submit support tickets without having to access your site’s backend – they will have to be logged in though.
By adding ticket categories you can assign certain ticket types to different administrators, meaning they can be dealt with more efficiently.
To do this, go to Support > Tickets Categories:
This screen will look very familiar to you if you’ve ever added a category in WordPress, and offers a clue as to how the Support System plugin works – essentially it’s based on a custom post types with their own taxonomies.
Decide on the categories of ticket your users are likely to need and add these. Alternatively you can just define your categories according to the individual or department they should go to:
Here I’ve added two new administrators, one for sales and one for support, and added two corresponding ticket categories. This means that if users select one of these categories, a notification will automatically be sent to the relevant department.
You can take this further – maybe by adding extra categories to help you identify more quickly what the problem might be, or by adding an administrator account with an email address you have constant access to for urgent tickets. Be warned though – if you add an ‘Urgent’ category there’s a risk that all of your users will select it, regardless of whether their ticket is urgent or not!
As well as support tickets, the plugin lets you create FAQs that all of your users will be able to see in their dashboard. You can use these to post the answers to questions that get asked a lot, either by creating a new FAQ or converting an existing ticket to an FAQ.
Creating FAQ categories works in a similar way to ticket categories, although you don’t assign administrators to each category. Go to Support > FAQ Categories and add your categories:
Now you can add FAQs using the FAQ Manager screen, which I’ll show you shortly.
Now that your support system is set up, your users can start submitting tickets.
Users submit tickets in one of two ways:
- By going to the main Support screen in the WordPress admin
- Via the page you’ve created for submitting tickets in the front end.
Let’s look at the admin screen first, which your users might prefer if they’re likely to be administering their site when they want to raise tickets.
Submitting Tickets via the Admin Screens
This looks different for users than it does for administrators – it will just list the tickets they have access to and includes a ‘Add New Ticket’ button which they use to raise a ticket:
They then add content to their ticket in much the same way as you would to a standard post, with a few differences:
- Category – Here they select a category from the ones you defined earlier.
- Priority – They can select a priority level from Low, Normal, High, Elevated and Critical.
- Adding media – Users can either add media in the body of the ticket, in the same way as they would for a post, or they can use the ‘Upload a new file’ button below the editing pane. The button is easier for users who aren’t accustomed to uploading media to WordPress, but they can only upload one image at a time this way. If they add media in the post, they can upload multiple images at once.
After adding the details, the user clicks ‘Submit new ticket’ at which point the ticket will be added to the system.
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Users will then see their tickets listed in the main Support screen:
You and your fellow admins will also be able to see the new ticket, and the relevant administrator will receive an email notifying them that the ticket has been raised.
Submitting Tickets via the Front End
Submitting a ticket via the front end is very similar but might be less daunting for users, especially if they never (or rarely) have to access the WordPress admin.
As in the admin screen, they type in a subject, select a priority and category, type in the details of their request and click the ‘Submit ticket’ button.
They’ll then see the details of their ticket and have the option to submit a reply if they want to add more to it:
Managing Support Tickets
Once a ticket has been raised, you will need to manage it. As with creating tickets, you can do this from the admin screens or the front-end.
Managing Tickets from the Administration Screens
When you access the Support screen, you’ll see all of the tickets which have been raised:
All tickets which haven’t yet been viewed by an administrator will be highlighted in green, and they will all have a status assigned. All of the tickets in the screenshot above have a status of “New” because no-one has responded to them or closed them yet, even though I have looked at some of them so they’re not all highlighted in green.
Responding to a Ticket
To manage a ticket you click on it to open the Ticket Details screen:
From here you can:
- View the current status of the ticket, when it was created, which staff members have attended to the ticket, and when it was last updated.
- View the full ticket history, including replies to and from the user.
- Assign a staff members to handle the ticket.
- Respond to the ticket by adding a new reply.
- Close the ticket by checking the “Ticket closed” box.
Click Save changes and the ticket status will change, as shown on the main Support screen:
The ticket is still in the list of opened tickets, but it’s no longer highlighted in green because you’ve viewed it, and its status has changed. If you want to close it form here, just hover over its title with your mouse to reveal a ‘Close ticket’ link, and click that.
Managing Tickets From the Front-end
Managing support tickets from the front-end of your site is a similar process, but with a different interface.
Here’s the main Support page with submitted support tickets visible:
To respond to a ticket, click on its title to see its page and reply to it:
Note that you can reply to it from the front-end but you can’t change the priority or category or assign it to another administrator, so if you’re likely to be doing those things you’ll have to use the admin screens.
Working With FAQs
FAQs work in a similar way, but they’re visible to all users and are designed to answer questions which a lot of users have been asking or which you anticipate lots of users will want the answers to. You can either create FAQs from scratch or convert support tickets to FAQs.
Adding New FAQs
To add a new FAQ, select Support > FAQ Manager, then click on Add New FAQ button. You can select a category for your FAQ and embed images and video to it to make it even more helpful:
Once you’ve added some FAQs, you’ll be able to see them all in your FAQ Manager screen:
As you can see, the category for each FAQ is shown as well as the results of voting on the FAQ. I’ll come to voting shortly.
A new feature in Support System 2.1 is the ability to automatically create a new FAQ page for the front-end of your site, similar to how we created a Support page earlier in this tutorial. You can do this in Support > Settings, and then select the “Front-End” tab.
Converting Support Tickets to FAQs
A useful feature of the plugin is the ability to convert support tickets to FAQs. So if you respond to a ticket asking a question that you think other users might want to know the answer to, you can convert it in a few clicks so everyone can see the answer.
To do this, open the ticket in the admin screens and click on the “Create a FAQ” link to the right of the response that you want to use as the answer to your FAQ:
You’ll then be taken to a screen for creating the new FAQ:
Here you can edit the response, adding video and images if you want to, and assign it to a FAQ category. Then just click the ‘Submit new FAQ’ button and it will appear amongst your site’s FAQs.
Your users will also be able to see the FAQs, via their FAQs screen in the admin, which lists each FAQ category in a list at the top right of the screen:
They can click on a category, then click on one of the FAQs listed to see its contents:
As you can see from the screenshot, any images that you’ve added to the FAQ will be visible here as well as any embedded video.
Voting on FAQs
Users can vote on FAQs, indicating if they found them helpful or not. This will help you to improve your FAQs and edit or replace the ones which aren’t helpful for users. To vote on the FAQ, they simply click on the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ button next to the ‘Was this solution helpful?’ question.
Once your users have voted, you’ll be able to see the results in your FAQ Manager screen, as you saw in the example above. You can then use this information to make improvements.
Tips For Managing Your Support System
The way in which you manage your support tickets will depend extent on the way you’re running your site and the expectations your users have, but here are some tips to help you get the most from the plugin:
- Take time to identify the categories for your tickets and assign them to administrators. Getting this right early on will make the whole process much smoother.
- Regularly review the way in which tickets are being diverted to administrators, and check that the categories are working and the right people are receiving the right notifications. You might need to label your categories more clearly for users if this isn’t working.
- If you’re the main administrator, all tickets will go to you if they haven’t been assigned to someone else. When you’re away from the office, you can assign another administrator to the main administrator role, by selecting them in the ‘Main administrator’ drop down list on the Settings screen.
- Identify how long a ticket should remain dormant before you close it. If a user hasn’t replied after a certain amount of time, you can close the ticket – but make sure your users know to expect this. Maybe you could add it as an FAQ.
- When a question is raised a lot via support tickets, consider creating a FAQ based on your responses. You can then refer people to this FAQ in your response to future tickets.
- You can add links when replying to tickets in just the same way as you would in any WordPress post – so include links to pages on your site or elsewhere when answering questions.
- If you’re running a multi-author blog, you can use the support system for communications other than support requests – maybe your authors could use it to pitch ideas for posts?
- The main administrator will be able to see everyone’s tickets and track progress – it pays to keep on top of this.
The Support System plugin is a powerful plugin that’s very useful to anyone with a large number of users on their site. It will be especially useful to you if you run a Multisite network (which is where I use it) or if you have a multi-author blog.
In this article I’ve shown you how the plugin works and how to configure and work with it, as well as providing some tips for getting the most from it. Hopefully these will help you to manage a smooth support system which keeps your users happy.
Do you offer support to your customers? How do you manage your support? Let us know in the comments below.