This is a common story for WordPress users: you install a plugin and it doesn’t work as expected. Or maybe it works perfectly for a while, and then… it doesn’t. What happened?
WordPress has a huge plugin ecosystem and almost limitless potential to customize a website. And generally things run smoothly. However, he should not be surprised when a problem arises from time to time.
When issues arise, that usually means contacting tech support. This can be a hit or miss process, as each plugin author handles support differently. It depends on factors such as staffing, add-on cost (free or commercial), and current workload. And there are no guarantees that your problem will be solved.
But there is a secret weapon when it comes to getting great WordPress plugin support: you. How you communicate and what information you share is critical. That will provide your support reps with the tips they need to help get your website back on track.
And who better to share tips than those who work in tech support? I sent out call on Twitter for advice and there were some great responses. Here are some things you can do to speed up the support process and increase the chances of a positive outcome.
Get to know the Developer Support Policies
It is the best time to know about plugin support policy before you need it. That’s why support should be part of your criteria for choosing which plugins to install.
If it’s hosted by the official WordPress Plugins repository, it’s worth checking out the respective plugin’s support forum. This will give you an idea of the types of issues that are occurring and how quickly the developer responds to new posts.
WordPress plugin developer C. Michael Nelson he also recommends contacting support before using a plugin, adding “That will show you how helpful they will be later, when you’re really invested in it. Avoid using plugins with bad tech support from the start.”
Aside from timeliness, it’s great to know what is and isn’t covered by tech support. For example, some developers offer limited help with questions related to writing custom code. And if a plugin has both free and commercial versions – the paying customers usually get priority service.
The more you know ahead of time, the better off you will be if something goes wrong.
Be Detailed in Your Support Request
Perhaps the most common piece of advice I’ve received is to provide a detailed description of the issue you’re experiencing. This makes so much sense (or anecdotally) that troubleshooting a website is best when you have as much information as possible.
It is an important piece of the puzzle. So much so that GiveWP’s Director of Customer Service and Support Ben Meredith even made a WordCamp presentation on the subject.
A description of the issue begins with several important items, according to the developer Kerch McConlogue:
- What did you do?
- What did you expect to happen?
- What really happened?
- Can you do it again?
Beyond those basics, there’s plenty of other helpful information to send, including:
- Copies of any error messages you encountered;
- Screen captures or videos illustrating the issue;
- The web browser and version you are using;
- WordPress and PHP version numbers;
- The theme and plugins you are using;
Rick Alday, which provides support for GiveWP, also recommends doing some basic troubleshooting before contacting support. This may allow you to find the cause of the issue, if not solve it completely.
Some plugins provide troubleshooting steps in their documentation. For example, Alan Fuller Fullworks shared an outline of steps that can be useful for debugging almost any plugin. The results can then be shared with support.
Speaking of documentation, a WordPress contributor Courtney Robertson they advised users to search within the plugin’s support area or use Google. “Add some keywords and surf for the issue BEFORE you succeed. Then mention that you have searched for these things in the application.”, she noted.
The goal is to be as clear, detailed, and concise as possible. And don’t worry if you don’t have deep technical knowledge. Just give it your best effort. As Puneet Sabherwal opined, “An audio support system does not expect a user to be knowledgeable. That is the quality of a support provider.”
Showing Compassion and Patience
None of us enjoy dealing with website issues. At least it can be frustrating. The worse the problem, the easier it is to become impatient.
But it’s also worth remembering that technical support is being provided by people. They have feelings, strengths and weaknesses – just like everyone else. Several support experts have highlighted the importance of the human element.
And the process takes time. Product founder and podcast host Dave Rodenbaugh says that those seeking support should, “Be patient! Support teams will respond within a day if they are on the ball.”
Ian Misner suggests a quick response, as “You’ll definitely get faster answers… The context stays fresh, which makes it easier to help you.”
Tom September is Chief Customer Officer at Kinsta web hosting. He says “One of the things I emphasize to my teams is to show empathy for customers – other people – and their specific situations. And that works both ways.
“As a user, empathize with the person on the other end of the conversation. Support teams are not always able to solve all problems, and not all problems are caused by teams. These people do what they do because they find great satisfaction in helping others succeed … showing genuine empathy in the way you interact with support teams goes a long way.”
You get what you give
A lot of effort goes into building and supporting WordPress plugins. It is a big responsibility. And so much depends on starting the process on the right foot.
That’s why the first contact you make with technical support staff is important. As users, our job is to paint a picture of what is happening. From there, it’s all about accurate and effective communication between the two parties.
And while the outcome won’t always be perfect, following the above advice should increase your chances of a resolution.
Finally, a big thank you to the experts who participated in this guide! By sharing their knowledge and experience, they benefited the entire WordPress community.