It starts so simply:
@BFF says: I <3 your WordPress product so much! It’s saved my career and brought meaning to my life. But I wish the text in this widget was red – not black. Help!
“Oh, I’m happy to help”, you think. Providing prompt, effective support is a big deal and here’s the perfect opportunity to make someone happy. They seem like a great customer already and happy customer are great for business.
It’s only 3 lines of code anyway, so what’s the harm?
@iHazNeeds says: Your product is pretty good, but I really need the sidebar to be on the right-hand side not the left. I’m also looking to display the 5 most recent posts from Category Z. How do I do that?
Ok. Not too challenging. There’s nothing technically wrong with my product, but still, this only takes me a few minutes to do and it really makes for a great showing of the care and attention I provide.
@OMGWTF says: Seriously!? I have been working on this for over 2 hours with no luck. Your “EZ downloads” plugin does’t seem to provide a unique customer portal for my clients!? I’ve already spent too much time on this thing. Please provide me with the exact code to get this working.
You’re kidding, right?
If you provide a WordPress product or service (free or paid) you know that you’re going to have user requests. Some of them are going to be minor changes. Some will be feature requests. Some of them will be incompatibilities with a specific server or other product and, yes, some will even be bugs.
It can be tricky to draw the line between what falls under support and what is a feature request. Drawing that line means you’ll find customers with expectations your policy doesn’t meet. Unmet expectations means disappointment and very often an unhappy customer or no customer at all.
Obviously this all varies depending on what service you offer and what level of support (and topics) you claim to provide.
You could easily claim that none of the three questions above are support requests. They’re all “custom development” and the customer needs to find someone to take care of that for them if they can’t do it themselves. You might not even be wrong in claiming that. But you also might get known around the interwebs for “lousy support” if you don’t assist every now and again.
Then there’s the human element to the whole thing. Maybe their tone is off. Maybe they’re super nice and you like helping them. Maybe this is the 4th question in a row and it’s just gone too far. With each question, you have to decide if the “issue” is for you to support or if it’s something they need to get from somewhere else.
Over at WPMU DEV we support general WordPress/BuddyPress questions alongside support topics based around our products. However, we monitor and track the resolutions for support tickets. They get a higher priority from staff than the general WordPress questions. Additionally, we have a soft guideline of 15 minutes for any sort of custom work or request. It’s not mandatory, of course, but if one of our team is able to mash out a bit of CSS or a quick function that gets a member closer to what they are looking for, we try to assist.
What do you think? Are there times where “support requests” are clearly outside the boundaries of what you can do? By providing a little custom development do you set members up for disappointment down the road when the requests get more involved? How do you handle unreasonable expectations?