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EE Support needs more staff?
Posted: 29 March 2011 05:31 PM
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I know there are probably more threads like this, but I want to start one anyway.

We’ve been using EE for 3 years now professionally.  We’ve launched tons of EE websites on EE1 and a few now on EE2.  I used to love EE for two main reasons; the system was great and the support was top notch.

While I still think the system is great, I feel like the support has gone down hill since EE2 was released.  I’ve been holding off making this thread, hoping that it was temporary but it is really so unreliable and slow with many issues that I don’t know what we are paying for.

We pay for EE (and all the plugins that we have to get to do a standard build) because we expect a solid product that has a team behind it.  While EE support does handle bugs very very efficiently (100 points for this), I feel like general support is lacking compared to the old days.

Now I won’t be a jerk and say EE support is the worst or anything, because you do get help eventually, I will state that it is way too slow for a premium service.  I am comparing this to many other products that we purchase and also to EE’s old track record of excellent and quick help.  Now, you can expect to wait a whole day to even get a reply from admins about your issues.

Working professionally, this wait really is a big problem.  The simple solution is for EL to hire more people to staff their forums.  Every issue should at least get a reply within the hour like in the old days.  Support should work with customers, especially ones that purchase new EE licenses on a regular basis for new clients.

Does EL know this is a problem?  Are there some limitations that are preventing this?

EE used to be A+ with customer support and I’m afraid now I’d rate it in the B range.  Even some obscure EE plugin/extension developers respond faster to requests than EL does at this point.

If cost is an issue, why not charge for a premium support subscription?  Although I think this is ridiculous, if it makes it so our issues are looked into more quickly, it would be worth the investment.  When working professionally with EE, a whole day wait time for even a reply to a question is way too long, because usually this means it might take another day or more to work through it.  And by then it might be too late.

I’ll end here, but I hope EL really takes these types of feedback seriously.  I’ve seen others write about this, and I’ve been patient, but that patience is starting to wain a little.

Still, I like EE, we’ll continue using it but I’d like to once again feel like I can get quick support when I run into a jam like we used to get.

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Posted: 29 March 2011 07:13 PM   [ # 1 ]
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Hi, Phire-SK - and all of those that I know are going to watch this thread.

The short answer is “yes” - we know that support needs some serious help.  That is extremely high priority, in fact, we had an email thread going about that just this afternoon (in the last hour or so, that is.)

Support after EE 2 was released skyrocketed - and even with our various predictions, support did slow down as the amount of incoming support requests skyrocketed.  That is a concern for me and our entire team as well.  We will be looking to hire another support person to help with this, as much of the problem does come down to having more staff in support, helping everyone.

There are some other approaches that we are looking at, and those include enterprise support, and potentially some sub-enterprise tiers for private support, including other potential support features that we are actively discussing.

So in short: I hear you.  I hear you loud and clear, and I agree with many of your points.  It is something that we are working on and hope to have some solutions in place for to help meet the growing demands for support.

-Lisa

Posted: 29 March 2011 09:44 PM   [ # 2 ]
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If I may comment…...from a business perspective, it would seem almost impossible for a product with tens of thousands of users (?) to staff up enough….with the properly educated (and costly) staff as to be an instant help for professionals needing advanced advice…

What seems to happen is that many support requests are the equiv. of “the washing machine is not plugged in”....meaning that many requests are easily solved in a short time by the person themselves.

I admit to being guilty of this myself…probably a lot over the years!

Another overriding question is “what should one expect for a few bucks a month?”....which is really the cost of EE.  The short answer (trying not to sound cynical here) is not much!  Comparing one product to another is not valid in this case, because we don’t know if the other product has a valid business model which they can keep up year after year and maybe decade after decade).

Phire, you suggest charging for enhanced service - then say you think it is ridiculous! But think about the basic economics. Could your firm answer instant technical request from a client who provided you with $10-$20 a month?

Basic economics would say that if a single EE users needs even ONE support ticket per month, EL would lose money on them. Those might not be facts that we like, but they are true. Every time a business has to - and I mean HAS to (the one hour stuff) interact with a client is costly. Others here can probably quote better figures, but the cost can range IMHO from $15 to $50….all told….maybe more. Maybe much more, in some cases where the support request is bumped up to developers and then back again. Of course, we have to keep in mind that many, if not most, support requests are not flaws or bugs in the software, but rather relate to the infinite number of monkeys theory.

It seems to me that the models which work would have to involved excess fees and various levels of support. Ideally, the community itself and smarter knowledge bases can help with the basics.

I see it a bit like triage. There are everything from really basic obvious questions to multiple levels of less obvious ones…...most have been answered before.

A sustainable model is the only one that, in the end, can be good for both the users and EL. I often shudder when my dad tells me he spent 90 minutes on the phone with HP support about his wireless printer….I walk in and get it going in 3 minutes! But HP lost all their profit and much more…....

I keep thinking back to the first days of content management systems. When I show people EE or other CMS’s these days, I tell them that back in 1996 these things sold for 60,000 to 500,000 dollar per copy, and then after that you needed 5 or 6 figure yearly contracts!

Ah, the problems of too much success…....

Well, it is the lounge!

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Posted: 29 March 2011 10:11 PM   [ # 3 ]
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Phire_sk, without getting into a point for point discussion let me just say that for the most part I agree with you. Lisa hints at it, but I’ll say it plainly. We’re basically at the limit of what our current support model enables us to provide. The problem is that the original support model is consumer priced (free, forever, usually within hours, if not same day, with purchase) which is what a lot of teams need but not something our original consumer level “free” let’s us provide any longer. We’re actively working on changing this so that the premium business class level support people need will be available for the clients you need it for and free support gets adjusted so that its still high quality but with adjusted time to resolution expectations for sites that you don’t.

I plan on addressing the current issues on the EE Blog in early April. I’ll be able to share more about what I think the issues are, what we’re doing about them, and most importantly give the Community the opportunity to have their say.

Part of what we’ve already done as a temp. stop gap is switch one of our current part-time support people (Sue Crocker to be specific) to a full time staff (this was just last week). We’re hoping to pick up another part-time support staff shortly as well.

Regardless of the reasons or the explanations and/or excuses, I’m sorry the quality of support has dropped to a “B”. We know it, the community feels it, and we’re working on changing it a model that lets us scale again and move back to an “A”.

Edited for clarity

Posted: 30 March 2011 11:04 AM   [ # 4 ]
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I appreciate the replies and I know EL is a great company that just got overloaded.

One thing I remember before the forums got shuffled was that there was much more user contribution.  I remember the old How-to section and I would personally go on there throughout the work day to see if I could easily find a question to answer.  I know when EE2 was launched, this section was removed.  I’m not sure what it was replaced with, but if there was more of a push for EE user to user support then I think that would help a lot.

Something as simple as having a clear “How-to” section that is at the *top* of the forum really does help. Whenever I had an issue with EE1 I’d think hard as to if my question was a how-to or some potential error I ran into.  I knew that if I posted in how-to I’d get help from users pretty quickly and also an Admin shortly after if it wasn’t answered.

Anyway, my point is that having us more experienced users contributing to helping others more would probably help a lot (I know many are, but maybe less than before?).  It wouldn’t be bad either if we got points towards our own questions, so when we get stuck the admins will see we are helpers and expedite our threads smile. (although not the same as what I’m saying, Tom’s Hardware forum has a nice system)

I’m happy that EL is actively trying to keep their support top notch.  I’m sure what you guys come up with will really help the overall development experience of an EE site.

Thanks for the replies, they really do go a long way smile

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Posted: 30 March 2011 11:18 AM   [ # 5 ]
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Hi, Phire_SK,

The new How To forum is the CodeShare Corner - it’s been in there since we restructured.

I hope you’ll give me a moment to share the mindset behind the reordering of the forums.

The reason CodeShare not at the top is that we had many users, especially new ones, who were (in the old setup) posting in the How to forum for actual technical support and completely getting missed as we only lightly moderated that forum.  Moving our community and technical support options to the top has greatly fixed the need of our community to get official support from our team as posts much more often end up in the correct forum.

In any case, that was the mindset behind restructuring and re-ordering the forums.

I do agree that it would be wonderful to have our community back in the forums helping each other, and we’ve seen a new crop of people doing that lately (with some of the older members returning).  For those people, you can always bookmark the Community forums and go there directly and skip the rest, when you’re in the mood to lend a helping hand.

Thank you again for your feedback, Phire_SK.  We’ll keep working hard to bring back that “A” grade for our support offerings.

Posted: 30 March 2011 11:31 AM   [ # 6 ]
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I wonder if this is all really clear to the occasional user who comes here for help…...

that is, whether the Codeshare is where they would naturally go:
CodeShare Corner
Use this forum to brainstorm projects and customizations for your ExpressionEngine site.

that description does not make me think of it for the first place I would go for support. If I were using EE 1, I’d go to the EE1 forum, which puts more load on EE staff…

I guess what I might be hinting at is that EL may have set themselves up for LESS community involvement by being so gracious as to create a large number of forum rooms where “factory” support is clearly given…

Just thinking out loud here - user interface (in this case, forum order, descriptions, etc.) is more important that we give credit for! What may seem obvious to EL (when setting it up) could be completely counterintuitive to the casual forum user! (that is why we are nerds and geeks…...)

I have not thought it through, but something as simple as EE1 and EE2 “user to user” help forums in the Community section might help…...this makes it clear as opposed to “brainstorm and customizing”.

I’ll send the bill after this takes a 20% load off your support team!

wink

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Posted: 30 March 2011 11:36 AM   [ # 7 ]
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Hi, Craig,

Can you explain a bit more what your recommendation is?  Right now we have 2 official support forums: EE 1 and EE 2.

We only have 2 Community Support forums, really.  CodeShare Corner (the new How to) and Development and Programming.  These aren’t split into EE 1 / EE 2 forums, they’re all together.  We wanted to minimize the number of forums to reduce the confusion as much as possible about “where to post”, and to gear the mistakes towards the fully moderated/answered forums.  It’s much better for us to have to move a few posts out of the technical support forums; than to miss many posts because they went into How to and weren’t seen by staff.

I’m open to suggestions on how we can improve the forums, if you can clarify how you would set it up, it’s certainly something that we can take under consideration as we review our overall support setup.

Thank you!

Posted: 30 March 2011 11:46 AM   [ # 8 ]
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Ah, I did not know that CodeSharing was the replacement for How-to.  I think what Craig might be saying is to rename a forum to something that is clearly a place to go to get “how-to” advice.  I know codesharing is that place, but I did not realize that myself from the description (as Craig mentioned).  I always thought it was for “brainstorm[ing] projects” and not for help with an issue I’m stuck on that might not be a tech support issue.  For example, I only used that section when I figured out how to do something and wanted to share my code.

It would be interesting to see the number of un-replied to (un-resolved) posts since this change was made.  Maybe it is better but for veterans we are not privy to changes and didn’t adapt properly it seems.

I see now why Tech Support was promoted, that makes sense.

Anyway, I don’t mean to take your time away from the support area smile

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Posted: 30 March 2011 11:49 AM   [ # 9 ]
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I don’t do support while eating breakfast (these two things do not mesh, trust me on this.) so you’re not taking away my time from the support area. =)  In any case, my team handles support, I back them up but am rarely in there as a primary support person these days.  And my team is in there right now helping people out.

Posted: 30 March 2011 12:03 PM   [ # 10 ]
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As you can see with Phires comment, you have to test the names and setups with “civilians” like him and I…....if even we are somewhat confused about the placement of various posts, then the one time user probably is….

Again, have not thought it through - but having the community part at the bottom is one problem (in terms of use). Forums which are way off the screen are likely to get less use IF the web surfer sees something higher up that might meet the needs.

Secondly, the replacement of codeshare with - as mentioned above - EE1 and EE2 user to user help forums, might be one improvement. This would give those who want to help a place to hang out in…..

I understand about missing some posts…..but if the Community Support says user to user and that you do not moderate those forums…both at the section head (as now) and insider the forums (announcement or sticky)...that is one level…and if users start helping other users there, then those users can suggest the person post in a monitored tech support forum if folks feel that the issue is something only EL can answer.

No one can say for sure if “the community” will take hold again to the proper level,  but it certainly is a possibility!

Looking again quickly, I think even the sections are confusing! The first one is named “Community gathering”, and yet contains forums as different as pre-sales (which I think EL wants to answer 90% themselves) and The Lounge, which is a hangout!

Obviously this needs more study for really proper advice….any usability experts in the EE community or EL crew?

One lesson I keep learning is there is no description too simple or too obvious…...what insiders understand and what casual web users or others understand are two different things! As an example, I have 15 years experience making ad banners - and every time, the simplest banners pull the best! Any time the concept is muddied or the vendor tried to be cute, the click through rates go down…..example:

Banner 1 - Picture of stove - text: Woodstoves, Fireplace Inserts by Craig - Get REAL advice from a REAL person.
(pulls greate)
Banner 2 - Picture of couple with kids in front of stove - entire room shot - them watching the fire burn ” Text “watch something better than TV”
(pulls badly)

and so on…...

Short takeaway…there is no such thing as making navigation TOO SIMPLE….not to say people are stupid, but there is a reason Apple only wanted one button on the front of the iphone!

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Posted: 30 March 2011 12:47 PM   [ # 11 ]
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If I can pop in on this one too then I do agree in one sense that the forums have definitely had a quite large drop off in the ‘original’ members that are being referred to here.

This was definitely due to the plugins, extensions and modules forums being merged into one. I can’t for the life of me say why this affected us all so much but it did.

I think the other thing which had a major impact is not being allowed to upload files for add-ons to the forums any more. For a lot of users this was a great way for them to get their ideas out there and also get easy support from other members with their add-ons as there is not really that much support from the moderators here for development work which I can understand to one degree but also really really wish there was more help in that area.

These were never usually in the main support forums so I personally never saw that there was too much of a problem with people doing this.

I don’t own these forums though so that’s not my decision to make but it did feel like something that had been given (very kindly given) had been quickly taken away.

Again that’s not our decision to make but I know that it did make a lot of the more well known developers and users sway away from using the forums as much (as can be found on a lot of Twitter posts) which is, I think, a real shame.

The forums here used to be a kind of meet and greet hang-out for a lot of people and whilst I can understand that Ellislab probably don’t want us all hanging around on their doorstep as it were there was an awfully large amount of information that could be gleaned from the forums back then.

I see that it’s okay to post code in the Codeshare Corner for say a plugin or whatever but not upload an attachment which seems a little bit weird to me but again it’s not my decision to make.

Does seem however that as Leslie put in his recent video that he is there to listen to anything we have to say (or was that only directed to the people at the speech wink ) and this is definitely something which hit a sore note with a lot of people. Whilst to a few people it might seem like we’re spitting the dummy as this isn’t our playground on the other hand a lot of exceptionally talented developers have now all but disappeared due to this and it’s a real shame.

I know there are now places such as devot-ee.com to place add-ons but this really doesn’t help with getting people to look at an add-on first hand before it is ready to actually go completely live. If you do that then you’ll most definitely get quite a few bad hashtags on Twitter and things said about you which has already happened to a couple of well known developers.

The forums there are really only meant for support of add-ons that are production ready so it felt to a lot of people like there’s not anywhere for them to go now. That’s just an observation though.

Myself I’ll try and help out wherever and whenever I can. I try to be omnipresent as much as I can as I love helping others out but it would be great to get back that community spirit again that seems to have been lost a little in the forums transition.

That might be quite easily fixed as mentioned above with perhaps some very simple forum heading wording changes and perhaps a blog post or two and some Tweets every now and then to let new users know about all of this. Perhaps even when a new user registers on the site they could be taken to a very quick forum post which outlines the forums and the best places to get help for various items and so on and so forth?

Anyway just my two penneths worth if anyone’s interested? wink

Keep up the great work Ellislab and all the moderators here as you are doing a splendid job.

Best wishes,

Mark

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Posted: 30 March 2011 01:05 PM   [ # 12 ]
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Hey Mark,

We do still allow people to post here to get community support for implementing add-ons; but we strongly encourage them to go via the publisher’s chosen support route.  If that developer is involved in the support, then the thread does need to go to their chosen support method outside of the forums.

As for getting help with creating your add-ons, you can certainly do that in the Development and Programming forum.  Attachments still are allowed for troubleshooting, just not for distribution.  Or you can supply the download link from your own site so that it’s more stable and permanent.  We never disallowed developers getting assistance on these forums for creating their add-ons; I’m sorry that you were under that impression.

The restriction is on providing support for third-party add-ons on these forums, and for distributing those add-ons as attachments on our forums.  Those are the two things that we decided were not appropriate on these forums.

As for navigation, Craig - simplicity was the driving factor behind reducing the overall number of forums.  Perhaps some re-wording of the descriptions for those forums would be a good first step to helping both veterans and newcomers understand the right place to post.  I’ll make sure to review that.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing feedback.  Keep it coming!

Posted: 30 March 2011 01:23 PM   [ # 13 ]
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Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing feedback.  Keep it coming!

You’re going to wish you’d never said that wink

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

Hey Mark,

We do still allow people to post here to get community support for implementing add-ons; but we strongly encourage them to go via the publisher’s chosen support route.If that developer is involved in the support, then the thread does need to go to their chosen support method outside of the forums.

Ah yes I understand that but what I was more referring to was not allowing users to upload add-ons here for them to get help and support with creating the add-on in the first place.

I totally agree that once an add-on is production ready or whatever then yes it should be taken care of elsewhere and perhaps at that point any add-ons already uploaded to the forum post should then be taken down by the developer and a note placed on the first post in the thread to tell everyone where they can now get help etc…

It just seems a shame that we used to be able to get a lot of development support from the community with creating add-ons but not so much from yourselves (admitted there was some every now and again) but obviously you can’t be doing that all the while as support needs to take a main seat which I totally understand as it should do but now it feels like if we upload anything to the forums it will immediately be taken down even if we’re just asking for help with working out how to do something.

Hopefully I’m therefore incorrect in that assumption?

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

As for getting help with creating your add-ons, you can certainly do that in the Development and Programming forum.  Attachments still are allowed for troubleshooting, just not for distribution.

Are you saying that we are welcome to upload add-ons which are not production ready then? I think in that case perhaps a blog post should go out to that effect as I know that a lot of people are possibly quite confused in this respect. I know I am wink

If we are indeed allowed to post add-ons as attachments to get help with development but people were made aware that they must take them down from the forums and host them themselves somewhere once the add-on is production ready then I know that this would hopefully help in bringing a lot of developers back to the forums again.

Devot-ee.com is obviously one really good place for people to then host their add-ons and link to in the forums once it is indeed production ready.

If this isn’t what you’re saying then I apologise for misunderstanding. Either way it would be nice to get good clarification on this point.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

Or you can supply the download link from your own site so that it’s more stable and permanent.  We never disallowed developers getting assistance on these forums for creating their add-ons; I’m sorry that you were under that impression.

Not quite that impression as mentioned above but it was more that it felt like anything people upload nowadays is just straight deleted from the forums as opposed to them only being deleted if they are being supplied as production ready. Again apologies if this isn’t what is happening on the forums but I do believe that this is what a lot of people have felt is happening.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

The restriction is on providing support for third-party add-ons on these forums, and for distributing those add-ons as attachments on our forums.  Those are the two things that we decided were not appropriate on these forums.

Totally understood and perhaps this needs to be made clear somewhere? Perhaps in the main sticky forum post in the Codeshare Corner forum and maybe also a blog post and a quick Tweet wink

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

As for navigation, Craig - simplicity was the driving factor behind reducing the overall number of forums.  Perhaps some re-wording of the descriptions for those forums would be a good first step to helping both veterans and newcomers understand the right place to post.  I’ll make sure to review that.

Yep I think that a reword might well help here too.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:05 PM

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing feedback.  Keep it coming!

And thank you for listening. I have to say that Ellislab have to be the best company I’ve ever come across that actually listens to its customers. Admitted not everything gets added in all the time but that could never happen and I totally respect your decisions that you make. They are after all yours to make but it’s really nice to actually have someone that listens.

Keep up all the great work everyone.

Best wishes,

Mark

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Posted: 30 March 2011 01:34 PM   [ # 14 ]
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Are you saying that we are welcome to upload add-ons which are not production ready then? I think in that case perhaps a blog post should go out to that effect as I know that a lot of people are possibly quite confused in this respect. I know I am

If they’re for review/to get help, yes.  It would be much better to post them to GitHub or your own site.  And they’re not to be posted here for distribution - but if you need help, people need to see the add-on to give you that help, then yes of course you can post it, just as people post templates to get assistance.

If the thread goes from “getting help” to “distributing” then the attachments may get removed, so please do not consider those permanent.

I’ll review the stickies as well and see if we can clarify some of that. 

None of this is going to happen in the next 2 hours by the way, so please be patient and give me some time to make use of the feedback. =)

Thanks guys!

Posted: 30 March 2011 02:04 PM   [ # 15 ]
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Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:34 PM

If they’re for review/to get help, yes.  It would be much better to post them to GitHub or your own site.  And they’re not to be posted here for distribution - but if you need help, people need to see the add-on to give you that help, then yes of course you can post it, just as people post templates to get assistance.

That’s great. Thank you for the clarification Lisa.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:34 PM

If the thread goes from “getting help” to “distributing” then the attachments may get removed, so please do not consider those permanent.

Absolutely agreed. All makes sense here.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:34 PM

I’ll review the stickies as well and see if we can clarify some of that.

Thanks again.

Lisa Wess - 30 March 2011 05:34 PM

None of this is going to happen in the next 2 hours by the way, so please be patient and give me some time to make use of the feedback. =)

Thanks guys!

2 hours!! 2 hours!! I was expecting this to be done in less than 2 minutes. You’re slipping with your reaction times lately grin

All joking aside, thank you very very much for the clarification and no problem on the timescale at all. It’s really nice to have been listened to and to know what we can and can’t do. Hopefully this will help a lot of developers and hopefully bring them back to the forums some more.

Only time will tell I guess.

Thanks Lisa.

Best wishes,

Mark

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