Advertisement:

Poll

Why are there so many duplicate support posts? (Top 3 reasons)

The simplemachines.org website is too hard to navigate.
Search fails to return accurate results.
Not enough documentation in the manual.
Support staff is faster than searching.
Human laziness.
Don't know what to search for.
Other (please post below)

Author Topic: How can we improve the support process?  (Read 127458 times)

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
How can we improve the support process?
« on: April 08, 2007, 08:04:02 PM »
The Simple Machines team has noticed that there is over 1,000,000 posts and most of them are requests for support. Out of those requests for support, most of them have already been answered. Although we enjoy helping users, nobody likes to be redundant. So, we have come up with a couple of questions for you to help us improve this process.

Please select one to three options above. Once you have done that, please answer a couple of questions about each option. (please don't comment on the new theme here. There are other topics for that)

  • The simplemachines.org website is too hard to navigate.
    • Do we need to add more advertising for the doc site?
    • Do we need to change the layout?
    • Do we need to add better descriptions to the boards?
    • Do we need to add/remove boards?
    • Is there anything else we can do?
  • Search fails to return accurate results.
    • Are the results wrong?
    • Are the results missing?
  • Not enough documentation in the manual.
    • Have you searched the manual? ;)
    • The doc team takes requests and user submitted documentation.
    • Any suggestions on how to speed up the documentation process?
  • Support staff is faster than searching.
    • What makes searching so slow?
    • How can we flip that?
  • Human laziness.
    • How can we make it easier?
  • Don't know what to search for.
    • Do you need help creating search strings?
    • Without requesting support here, can you give a couple of examples as to the question that you have asked and didn't know what to search for?
  • Other (please post below)
Please translate this for your language. If you do, make sure you link back to this post. Also, please translate replies or tell them to post here (in English). Thank You.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 04:21:10 AM by groundup »
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2007, 08:29:00 PM »
During a brainstorm the team had, we came up with a bunch of ideas. Some may be done, some not. What do you think about them?

  • Reorganize the structure of boards.
  • Add more advertising for the doc site.
  • Allow you to see the search terms in the url: www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?search=foo,bar,bla
  • Change the 404 to work as a search like www.php.net/array or www.mysql.com/select
  • Support staff waits to answer duplicate support requests.
  • Get users to create docs.
  • Teach people to mark their topic as solved/unsolved
  • Show "similar posts" on certain boards. When posting and/or when viewing a topic
  • An automatic poster that does what the previous bullet does, but makes a reply post about it.
  • Show a popup asking if you have searched the OM.

To summarize suggestions from members in this topic:
  • A guided support process that asks you a series of questions along a series of steps.
  • Remove posts that don't answer the question. Remove topics that have already been asked
  • Search the doc site at the same time as the community. Add up to 10 results before displaying the community hits. Make sure the user knows that it is from the doc site.
  • Allow a user to ask a full question like "I deleted myself from my forum. HELP!"
  • Add a little blurb on the search page that says "For best results use ~3 words. Try these 3..."
  • Have something at the top of support pages or when posting on a support board that says to not give away your information to just anyone.
  • Enable the karma system so that posts from better support people are looked at first (not sure how this is helping the support process)
  • Use common search features such as +
  • The search box should show where it is searching at all times.
  • The search box should always be shown.
  • Create a volunteer membergroup for support.
  • Create a FAQ board where the support team can move solved topics to.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2007, 05:44:12 AM by groundup »
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline KGIII

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 6,293
  • Gender: Male
  • If you can build it, I can wreck it.
    • Web Hosting
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2007, 06:10:54 PM »
I think that is "not enough documentation" and "don't know what to search for" or the likes. :D

I say we implement ALL of the above (or as much as we can) into the system.
My PC Support Forum
Please ask in-thread before PMing
                   SMF Help
                   Visit My Blog

How can we improve the support process?:
http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=163533.0

SMF vs. Godzilla? Who do you think will win?

Offline metallica48423

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 19,842
  • Gender: Male
  • Professional Multislacker!
    • Zentendo
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2007, 06:38:37 PM »
Hm... theres a few things i'm noticing.

Some issues seem to be beyond the skillset of the various people who help in the support boards (not just support specialists but members such as myself as well).   I am noticing a lot of times that support isn't being rendered in cases of things involving SQL or general PHP configuration errors.   The former subject is a very touchy one to mess with as a whole due to the possibilities of damage that could be done.  I personally operate under the assumption that someone will not do a backup.

Possibly put more simply, I, for example, am not familiar with SMF's database layout.  As such, I am unable with my current skillset to assist those members both due to not knowing an answer, but also because I would be afraid of giving a SQL query and wiping out the database by accident :P.

This isn't the fault of anyone in particular... that i've seen, i've not seen any major documentation about the database, i think such documents could be rendered useful to those who care to look. 

Id be glad to get my hands in it if theres any decent documentation of the database structure and what each column signifies and how it correlates to the others.

This isn't to say that nobody who does support knows this, i'm sure the knowledge is out there, just that i'm noticing that such questions are going unanswered.  Personally i read all new posts every day to check up on resolutions -- i've learned quite a lot that way and it improves my skillset.

As far as what the topic is about goes... i'd have to say:

-- Human Laziness -- post on the board, and forget about it, let support deal with it.  'nuff said, i think this is what people are thinking, or just doing subconsciously
-- (in)visibility of Online Manual -- This actually has a tab on the new theme :), but i dont think awareness of the manual is quite widespread enough.  Many questions are answered in the manual, and many are answered WITH the manual :P
« Last Edit: April 09, 2007, 06:45:07 PM by metallica48423 »
Justin O'Leary
Ex-Project Manager
Ex-Lead Support Specialist

Quote
Microsoft wants us to "Imagine life without walls"...
I say, "If there are no walls, who needs Windows?"

Useful Links:
Online Manual!
How to Help us Help you   
Search
Settings Repair Tool
     

Offline Harro

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 3,122
  • Gender: Male
  • I'm watching you
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2007, 07:14:45 AM »
I voted for "Search fails to return accurate results" and "human laziness".
The search function needs a lot of improvement.
It hardly ever returns the things I expect when I search for something.
And if the search function doesn't work  properly, the online manual looses also some of it's value because it's hard to find things in it.
For example: many people need help to install mods manually on their themes.
But if you search the documention about eg "manual installation", it doesn't return anything useful.

But the manual is of good quality though!

And groundup posted some really good idea's!
The last one would be great!
Or before a user can post a new support request he must confirm that he has searched the manual and searched the forum for similar problems.
So user want to create new topic -> a page shows with "Have you searched...?" And a "Yes" and "No" button.
If he clicks no he is directed to the online manual or the search form, if he clicks yes he can create a new post.

Offline Sirius

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 126
  • Gender: Male

Offline nokonium

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 680
  • Gender: Male
  • TinyPortal Support Team
    • Our-Local
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2007, 09:46:34 AM »
    Having support experience I have to say that a lot of it is down to human laziness. But going back to when I needed support, circa SMF 1.0 RC1, I remember there being is large element of not knowing what to put in the search box. This is probably a significant problem for members who's first language isn't english (or american  ;) ).

    Would it be possible to have a 'guided' search function? What I mean is dropdown boxes that will not only reduce the amount of data to search but also introduce into the search specific terminologies to search on.

    This sort of thing:

    What type of problem do you have?
    • Error message -
      • Fatal error
      • Cannot redeclare
    • Display problem -
      • Default, Classic or Babylon Theme
      • Other Theme
    • Installing problem
      • Installing SMF
      • Installing Mod
« Last Edit: April 10, 2007, 09:52:20 AM by nokonium »



Offline Dragooon

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 6,738
  • Gender: Male
  • I'm bIn
    • ShitizGarg on Facebook
    • Dragooon on GitHub
    • dragooon on LinkedIn
    • SMF-Media
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2007, 09:54:35 AM »
Okay now here is my opinion.
First of all I have seen That there are moderators which are on partially of a day.So I suggest is to have more moderators which will be available round the clock.
   Second I have seen Many probs which are extremely common but NOT listed in docs so If you guys found any common issue it is good t include it in docs.
(I may come up with more Ideas)

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2007, 10:07:24 AM »
Keep the responses coming. So far I am learning a LOT about the user experience.

Harro: Thanks, but I can't take all of the credit. We brainstormed about this on the team boards first.

nokoium: I like that idea. I think the support page should be organized a little better.

First of all I have seen That there are moderators which are on partially of a day.So I suggest is to have more moderators which will be available round the clock.
The point is that we don't want to keep repeating ourselves. I am trying to get ideas to reduce the human involvement, not increase it.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2007, 11:18:10 AM »
Not sure why you didn't post this here, but oh well. I can't split/merge on that board so I will just quote it:

about some rules for the moderators as well ?  like deleting the wrong answers and useless posts,

I own a support forum and I always delete the wrong answers to a problem . If you don't do it, when we do a search, we end up with 5 pages of useless stuff and if we post again to ask for the answer we are told to do a search...   more it goes  and more your forum will become useless , full of answers like : clear your browser's cache and cookies..  answers given by peoples who don't have a clue about what they are talking about.

My moderators are there to delete the useless stuff so that when we do a search on my forum , we get an answer, not 5 pages of useless stuff.   I've been using SMF for ages now, been a paying member at one time but got frustrated with the amount of useless threads on this support forum..

don't get mad, there are no other ways to say this.

another thing that I find quite strange, when a newbie ask for an answer to a problem and someone tell him to do some PHP editing  and the newbie can barely install SMF, let alone some PHP scripts , I get a good laugh...how will he do this anyway..  why not post a small file so that he can replace the one in his installation...   and explain what you did so that those who want to learn can do it.

  maybe that I am an administrator of a support forum for too long and I am asking too much , but blaming it all on the members is wrong..  it is the mods and admins who make for a great support forum.
Thanks for the input regardless :) The idea is valid, but I want to make some comments about it...

The docs are for clean and concise answers to your questions. The support forums are for those that have questions not answered in the docs IMO. I am not a fan of removing support posts/topics. I think using those to create documentation is the way to go. Never-the-less, that is only my opinion and the idea will still be discussed.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline margarett

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 19,761
  • Gender: Male
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2007, 11:38:04 AM »
I have voted for "Human Laziness" and "Don't know what to search for"

I usually try to help in the Portuguese area. It happens alot, a new post appears asking for help about something that has been answered 2 topics below. In the general english support this also happens, but since there are sooooo many topics, it's not that noted.
Also, it happens not knowing what to search for. It happened to me more than once, want to find something, but not know what terms to use.

Anyway, I think that search works fine. the only thing that needs adjustment is the fact that people are lazy :P if you can find out a way to improve this, let me know :P
Se forem conduzir, não bebam. Se forem beber... CHAMEM-ME!!!! :D

Quote
Over 90% of all computer problems can be traced back to the interface between the keyboard and the chair

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2007, 11:57:53 AM »
Do you have some examples of the questions that you asked? Maybe we can break down questions to find the relative words in it. For instance "I deleted myself on my forum" would be broken down to "deleted myself". The first search phrase returns nothing, while the second returns 8 pages. It could also search the doc site at the same time? Maybe on the search page it would say "These 10 results were returned from the documentation [hide these results]". Then beneath those, it would show everything else. Probably showing a maximum of 10 results from the doc site would help a lot too.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline margarett

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 19,761
  • Gender: Male
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2007, 12:16:11 PM »
I am sorry, I don't remember any example now... Eventually I created a support topic, maybe repeated :P

It's fairly obvious that you will NOT search a complete sentence like that... And I believe people are smart enough to broke down their sentence to 2 or 3 words...

Anyway, the main problem is still laziness. When I started using SMF, I had problems with my phpBB converter. I searched for the problem, and found it somewhere in the 5th page of search results. But I found it, it was there! Then, I see on the converters support forum people having the exact same problem I had, asking for solution over and over and over... Yes, people are lazy. I am lazy too :P but not that much :D

If you really think you need to change something, then I would say:
* ignore "short words" like "I", "me", "we", "why" etc etc etc...
* pick up some human work, and compile a list of frequent problems/solutions. have it shown everywhere on the forum :P (wiki-style maybe?)
* have a check field on the post form, where people should confirm that they have read that list :D
* eventually pick some more human work, and translate that list as possible.
Se forem conduzir, não bebam. Se forem beber... CHAMEM-ME!!!! :D

Quote
Over 90% of all computer problems can be traced back to the interface between the keyboard and the chair

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2007, 01:53:03 PM »
Search engines do it - www.ask.com for instance - is known for it's ability to understand human. Short words are referred to as "stop words" in database lingo. If you see something about stop words, that is what that is referring to. There is a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), but I can tell that enforces one of the problems - not enough knowledge of the documentation.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline KGIII

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 6,293
  • Gender: Male
  • If you can build it, I can wreck it.
    • Web Hosting
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2007, 02:38:07 PM »
I like the idea that seems to come when reading Margarett's post. It seems to me that on the search page it wouldn't be too hard to make a quick blurb about, "For the best search results just use two or three keywords in your query." (Or something like that.)
My PC Support Forum
Please ask in-thread before PMing
                   SMF Help
                   Visit My Blog

How can we improve the support process?:
http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=163533.0

SMF vs. Godzilla? Who do you think will win?

Offline B Patterson

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 512
  • Gender: Male
  • Never Miss an Opportunity to be Great
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2007, 06:29:53 PM »
One thing that would be possible is to have a moderation queue in effect.  When a users posts a support request (in the support board only) there is a check-box for if they've searched.  If they have, they check it and the post goes up.  If not, then it's queued until a moderator can review it and either post links to the solution or give the solution.

Now i know the way around this is to just check that box ;)  But, let's say you also every night or a few times a day for large boards, run quick searches for the keywords inside of posts in the support area.   Resource hog I bet.... I'm just spiff-balling here.

Another option is to utilize a mod that says "This is the answer" much like experts-exchange.com or other type help places.  Then not only do you get a resolution to it, but you've also go a solution.  And you can then even combine the two posts (dynamically of course) so that the question is given at first (post 1) and then in a green-box or whatever the solution is given inside the first posts text.  That sounds like a fantastic mod.... hmmmm.... Shhh.... IT'S MINE I SWEAR!!!

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2007, 06:37:42 PM »
Resource consumption should not be a concern for this.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline LGLDSR

  • Semi-Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 73
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2007, 09:50:48 PM »
Well, since you asked....

Kevin has in his signature: "I can Install YaBB For Free If Anyone Is Stuck. Leave A Message For My Attention."

I emailed him sometime ago and haven't heard Word One    :o

Other than that, I think your support is GREAT!

Best,

Lyman

Offline Joshua Dickerson

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Super Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 12,775
  • Gender: Male
    • joshuaadickerson on GitHub
    • joshuaadickerson on LinkedIn
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2007, 03:10:52 AM »
Well, since you asked....

Kevin has in his signature: "I can Install YaBB For Free If Anyone Is Stuck. Leave A Message For My Attention."

I emailed him sometime ago and haven't heard Word One    :o

Other than that, I think your support is GREAT!

Best,

Lyman
This isn't YaBB and I don't even know who Kevin is. If you want to have someone install SMF for you, consider looking at getting a Charter Membership. I wouldn't trust just anyone with username and password to my site.
Need help? See the wiki. Want to help SMF? See the wiki!

Did you know you can help develop SMF? See us on Github.

How have you bettered the world today?

Offline KGIII

  • SMF Friend
  • SMF Hero
  • *
  • Posts: 6,293
  • Gender: Male
  • If you can build it, I can wreck it.
    • Web Hosting
Re: How can we improve the support process?
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2007, 04:10:08 AM »
This isn't YaBB and I don't even know who Kevin is. If you want to have someone install SMF for you, consider looking at getting a Charter Membership. I wouldn't trust just anyone with username and password to my site.

Early Morning Post/Drivel/Braindump:

People seem to also often think that anyone posting, offering help, etc. is support. While this is true and I, for one, am grateful for any and all posts that offer assistance I would have to wonder if maybe the Karma system or a thank-you or ranking system might be put into place? (Though keeping it secure would be ideal.) If people coming here could see who was ranked well and thus know trust is not an issue so much they might be more inclined to read older posts from them or search for topics by them.
My PC Support Forum
Please ask in-thread before PMing
                   SMF Help
                   Visit My Blog

How can we improve the support process?:
http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=163533.0

SMF vs. Godzilla? Who do you think will win?