Updates About All of the Things!

11 min read

Today we’re going to be talking about three main things…

1.) Updates themselves – When/why/how/where the… heck… you can find them.

2.) Changes to Support – This one is pretty big.

3.) Updates about the platform – The future is NOW! Well, maybe a couple days from now.

I think it’s important to start by addressing a pretty significant elephant in the room: Why haven’t we posted more regular updates?

In short, we show up to do the job… we don’t talk about it.

But the reality is that if you’re not tooting your own horn, all kinds of people will miss what you’ve been doing. It’s clear to some what we’ve been working on, it’s far less clear to others.

The brass tacks is that we are going to do better. Starting with this update.

Don’t worry: we will continue to show up at all of the other stuff as well.

1.) Updates themselves – When/why/how/where the… heck… you can find them.

This one is pretty simple: we’re going to start showing up everywhere. Rather than focusing on one central hub or access point for updates, regardless of their nature, we’re going to hit all of our online properties.

And we’re going to do so pretty much simultaneously.

There will be slight lags here and there just based upon balancing various other more pressing priorities. But you can realistically expect new updates to hit all of the channels below, all within roughly the same business day.

This first update is going out somewhat late relative to east coast USA, so the email notifications may lag until tomorrow morning.

Any and all Business and Platform updates (this particular post is a Business update) will land on at least six, and sometimes all, of the following seven channels:

1.) The blog.

2.) Our Youtube Channel

3.) The GridPane Facebook Page (fb.com/gridpane)

4.) The Self Managed WordPress Facebook Group (fb.com/groups/selfmanagedwordpress)

5.) In-app notifications within the GridPane dashboard.

6.) Email blasts.

*ALL* of the above, always, with the following sometimes…

7.) The Roadmap/Changelog (in the event of Platform changes).

If there are other places we should be knocking on your door please let us know. I think this is a solid start.

Especially when compared to… nothing.

2.) Changes to Support

Any success that GridPane enjoys right now can be directly attributable to the quality of our customer support. This goes back to the very beginning when Jeff and I were grinding out “24/7” support in the early days… all we had to do was work 84 hours each week per person, and do almost nothing else, and we had perfect coverage.

Almost every last one of you that is reading this right now is only here because of a direct referral, most likely via social media, based on the quality of support that someone else received from us.

We’ve invested more heavily in this aspect of our business than anything else other than the Platform itself, and even compared to that it’s a very close race.

Recently we’ve decided to make some significant changes to our support posture and procedures. Some worked better than others.  But, as we always do, we’ve learned from our mistakes and we’ve made improvements.

By next week, our overall support coverage and response times will be better than they have ever been. By next month, we’ll be able to say that yet again.

And all the while we will be improving support QUALITY and SATISFACTION.

But, and it’s a big ole’ BUUUUUTT… not everyone will experience this in the same way.

The reality is that we’ve experienced growing pains recently that have very little to do with our customer growth, and even less to do with the size of our team… and a whole lot to do with impacts from COVID-19.

But not in the way you might suspect.

Below is an excerpt from a lengthy email that I wrote to a Developer LTD customer earlier today which fairly well wraps up the situation:

“… we’re not doing away with chats, we never did. And we never switched chats to only cover site outages. We got incredibly busy and we needed to prioritize chats for CRITICAL issues. It’s up to our users to determine what that means for them. And we got pushback in our various social channels
and we’re retooling all of these systems and approaches aggressively right now. 

We have been impacted by COVID, but not how many people would think. We’ve all been forced to work harder, under more stressful conditions. This is due to a couple big factors: 1.) we’re all working from home now, some of us with children underfoot at the least opportune times. And 2.) Our number of tickets has surged far beyond our growth.

I can only attribute this to our thousands of users all ALSO being stuck sheltering in place, with more time on their hands, and with all kinds of time and energy devoted to online projects they’ve put off for too many years. 

Everyone is paying the same, but their demand for support is up over 25%. 

And at LEAST 50% (usually 75%+)  of our tickets at any one time are already covered by extensive documentation. 

And yet we get people in our FB group every single day steadfastly asserting that they read the documentation and that things are still broken on our end… when we can definitively prove that they haven’t read the docs or done any of the steps described. 

Everyone, everywhere, all around the globe is stressed. They wanna do what they wanna do and they want to do it RIGHT NOW. And in some cases they don’t really care about the cost to anyone else around them or those in their same cohort. 

We have people who create live chats to ask us if we received their tickets from five minutes ago. We have people who start chats, then create tickets, then start additional chats, then post to Facebook that they can’t get anyone on chat. All within the span of minutes. 

All of this is incredibly stressful for our support team. It is unfair to them, it is unfair to other customers who have actual outages and sites down for one reason or another.

It bears repeating: We have users who take advantage of support. We have users who don’t care what their place in the queue is. We have users who are effectively stealing from users and abusing our support team.

And in many cases it’s happening out of pure laziness, apathy, and selfishness. 

All of which is simply not sustainable under our current model. 

If we wanted to hire a bunch of low cost people to simply “be there” to provide lackluster support, we could go that route.

But that’s simply not the kind of company that I want to build. We will not be going that route, ever. 

Since COVID broke out we haven’t let a single person in our organization go. In fact we’ve just hired two more extremely skilled people, one in the United States and one in Germany.

Both VERY skilled and both very well paid.

I would bet that our average support engineers makes multiple times the average income of a large scale host’s technicians. Possibly an order of magnitude more. 

And those members of our team will always be available 100% of the time, 24/7, via live chat. 

But here’s the catch: it is NOT possible for GridPane to stay viable if those very expensive people are being tasked with handling knowledge-base level requests.

We’ve literally had people come into live chat, making a CRITICAL support request, who then asked us to… Search the KB for them.

They weren’t willing to even look for the documentation, let alone read it. Documentation which, mind you, we pay other team members (very good wages) to create. 

And we have still more users who expect us to simply run commands and push buttons for them inside of the GridPane dashboard.

Part of this problem is that we’re always trying to go above and beyond. We’re always trying to create the best damn support interaction possible, in that moment. 

But you can’t give 110% on ANY single ticket, if 80% of your day is spent being a really slow search engine. 

The brass tacks is that we can’t hold all of the hands, all of the time.

We have to greatly decrease the amount of noise so that we CAN give 110% when people need it. 

All of these conversations and stumbling blocks in support over the last couple weeks have forced us to get really clear on exactly how we want to operate going forwards. 

Here’s what we think it will look like…

1.) For every single ticket or chat that comes in, if we already have extensive documentation which covers the specific use case that the support requestor, we will hand off that documentation and consider that ticket resolved. If for any reason the documentation is inaccurate or incomplete, we will aggressively pursue a direct resolution for the user and we will immediately update/amend that documentation

2.) For all novel tickets, urgent tickets, site outages etc, including issues we’ve never seen before, we will aggressively shift to immediate chat support and when applicable we will create new documentation in one business day or less.

3.) For all tickets where the user either is unable or unwilling to implement steps recommended in documentation we will allow that user to purchase devops incident support to have us customize their site or server to their desired use case. And we will make plans of this devops support, for multiple incidents per month, available at discounted rates. 

4.) All paid users at all times can submit a chat, and get live chat support in minutes, if they deem the issue to be urgent. We will reserve the right to shift those chats to tickets based on the severity of their issue AND based on the current queue of all chats and tickets. We will constantly triage our support desk and make the appropriate determination as to which issues should be processed next. 

5.) All users of all paid plans will be allocated a set number of escalation tickets which they will be able to use at any time. These allocations will be determined within the coming weeks as we gather more data around inbound chats and tickets and proper budgeting of time and resources. Additional escalation/devops tickets will be available for purchase a la carte and as part of ongoing plans. 

Some of these changes will be going into effect immediately. Some of them, particularly #3, 4, and 5, will take longer to roll out. But we will do so on an aggressive timeline. 

The last few weeks have seen our support numbers drift all over the map. And the way that we’ve rolled out support changes, particularly with chat, have not been particularly graceful.

These recent speed bumps in Support will NOT become our new normal…

They will be the catalyst that drives us to build an even better support team, empowered by better tools and better processes. 

3.) Updates about the platform – The future is NOW! Well, maybe a couple days from now.

So this one will be short: we’re going to be finishing onboarding all of the current Dev account holders who are on the short list for the new remote backups beta.

The biggest delays currently are largely around datacenter GDPR compliance. Which has turned out to be a bit of a challenge. But we’re working through that. This is precisely why this is still a beta.

In the end this new backups system will be – no bullshit – the most flexible, cost effective, and efficient backup system in the entire WordPress ecosystem.

If you’re on the short list already, and you want to speed up your deployment, I would recommend using Wasabi if you need GDPR coverage (as opposed to S3 or B2). And with either of the other providers, assuming NON-GDPR, I would steer towards the default datacenter for smoothest compatibility.

Additional updates about this will roll out this week during the Platform specific update. You now know where to find these things.

UpdateSafely… is also all kinds of new and awesome. Big thanks to the newest member of our engineering team, Leo, for all of his work on this TOTAL gut/rehab. This will be dropping in beta to Developer users this week.

It’s not gonna look anything like what we had before. Because what we had before was a fraction of this new build.

There’s going to be a lot more to come in the weeks and months ahead.

New plans, new pricing, new features, new team member announcements, new partnerships across all kinds of interesting sectors of the larger WP ecosystem.

DAMN! I haven’t even touched on the fact that we’re starting our online training courses in June… that’ll have to come with the next update. Much later than we wanted, no doubt. But much MUCH better than we ever conceived.

That material is gonna melt some faces.

Just one more bridge that we’ll cross. Together.

Our goal, as always, is to build THE definitive arsenal of hosting tools for Serious WordPress Professionals.

You know who you are, if that’s who you are.

And hopefully… we’re building the right tools and the right place for YOU.

Until next time, WordPress Warriors.


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