Build A Support Desk
Recently, I’ve been on a journey to get my help desk back onto WordPress… and oh what a journey this has been!
It’s been really hard to make the migration after discovering the joy that is Zendesk, complete with their robust mobile apps and push notifications, and a starter pack that’s only $20/year for a light version with 3 agents.
I’m going to include both support desk plugins and support desk themes since they are simply different approaches to the same goal.
Here are 8 candidates and how they stack up!
Though I’ve used other things before, this time around I started here… and almost as quickly abandoned this theme.
It was “okay”. The layout work it offered wasn’t bad and it was stable and responsive. But it was neither easy on the eyes or easy to skin. The deal breaker though was that it didn’t offer email piping.
Email piping is when someone can send an email to your support email address and it becomes a ticket… and the ticket gets sent to them by email and if they reply to that ticket email it appends the ticket rather than opening a new ticket. Email piping is a must for me in today’s mobile world.
$99 gets you the GPL licensed theme and a year of included premium support and updates. (Had no hassle getting a refund.)
It’s worth noting that WooThemes doesn’t “eat their own dogfood” and is using Zendesk for their help desk solution.
This theme was much easier on the eyes while providing a more complete site experience than the WooThemes theme. The site felt richer and there was little trouble overriding the CSS to re-style it manually if you needed to do so. There was a lot to like about this theme…. except…
It was buggy. (And it lacked email piping but that’s a different issue.)
The support document, in the download, directed me to a support page for the theme that was 404! So I used the email from the root of the site to email the creator. Four days later and I haven’t heard back.
There’s dozens of little weird bugs – mostly not too bad by themselves but too much to be acceptable without high quality support. It’s responsive but quirky there too.
$52 gets you a single site license (non-GPL). Update API in place but theme has not been updated since it was launched in May so that may not mean anything. (Envato who owns Themeforest is a pain to get a refund from.)
Interested in doing your support through a community forum rather than via tickets? This might be the (responsive) theme for you.
Support Desk theme sits on top of BuddyPress and allows you to have a rich interactive environment. There are no ticketing features as far as I can tell. (That would mean, of course, no email piping, which makes since as you have no tickets, LOL!)
$55 gets you a single site license (non-GPL). Update API in place and theme was recently updated. I did not purchase this but seeing it was updated is a good sign. (Envato who owns Themeforest is a pain to get a refund from.)
I came across TicketRama late in my search and did not take this one for a test drive. There’s 2 reasons I’ve included this responsive theme though.
First, it has a unique style to it. Sometimes that’s really important for a company to not look like every other company. Second, it has Twitter and Facebook connect logins available if someone does not want to sign in with their email address the ordinary way. Social sign in rocks, so it’s definitely worth a mention.
$55 gets you a single site license (non-GPL). These theme is only a few days old and so it’s history isn’t known. (Envato who owns Themeforest is a pain to get a refund from.)
Not only is Support Ticket Theme stylish – but there are multiple nice looking child themes available for purchase.
I like the main login form in some of the child themes but others use the native WP registration form which I think is off-putting. However, pricing makes up for that.
Mobile responsive AND has email piping… now we’re talking!
I don’t know what the current status of this theme is but I did have the pleasure of a behind the scenes tour of it not too long ago and I thought it looked pretty easy to use compared to some of these others. Right out of the box this is one of the best looking themes of the bunch due to the time put into child themes.
$27 for a single site license for the BASE theme and $47 if you want pretty child themes on top of that package. Non-GPL.
WPSC Support Tickets is a PLUGIN! Oh yeah, and it’s free! and it’s GPL!
Combine it with a nice looking responsive theme and you can be in business for a minimal investment.
There’s no email piping though, lots of prompts to upgrade to their Pro, and their support never bothered to answer my purchasing inquiry. (So I didn’t buy it.)
If you have a WordPress MultiSite Network (WPMS/WPMU), and want to provide unified support to blog admins in the network, then this is definitely a support ticketing/FAQ plugin that you’ll want to investigate. It even has the ability to connect with the Pro Sites plugin to make support a premium feature in your network.
Plus, it’s a plugin so it will seamlessly blend into your existing theme without requiring it’s own site.
However, unless you are providing support inside an existing blog network, this plugin really is not the tool you want for individual free-standing sites. It’s simply built with one particular goal in mind. It does it well, but it does not work as well for a free-standing support site or a single support tool built into a single site.
$19 for a copy of the plugin but you’ll need an ongoing WPMU membership if you want ongoing support.
Support Dynamo is a high quality support desk plugin that brings an impressive feature list to any theme you want to use it on. Plus it integrates with many membership site plugins.
I’ve used Support Dynamo in the past and was always fine with it. I didn’t start there because I thought by now the market would have expanded… but Support Dynamo has continued to improve and remains the right pick for my business.
Way too many features to list here including email piping, analytics, knowledgebase, membership integration, canned replies, user ticket notes, and much more.
The user notes feature instantly solves my question of how to layer an agent-accessible CMS on top of a support desk to enable keeping extended notes on clients. This makes note keeping it easy!
Find a nice responsive theme to put this on… or put it inside your existing membership… and you’re all set.
I’m using it for my support desk with a standalone site/theme and a few additional plugins here.
Unlike most of the offers above that only have a 30 day guarantee, PluginDynamo offers a full 60 day guarantee.
Single site license: $10/month (lite), $20/month Pro (non-GPL)
Unlimited site license: $15/month (lite), $25/month Pro or $200 lifetime Pro (non-GPL)
PS: The one thing that none of these provide is a mobile app with PUSH notifications. That simply isn’t available. However, you can route the email notifications to a unique email inbox, and set your phone to sync and enable notifications on new email and get notifications that way as a work around. Or use IFTTT to send you a text each time there is an email update.