As I dig deeper into the WooCommerce community and learn more about it, I find more and more dedicated souls who are always willing to share their experiences with others and help them with WooCommerce. This article is belonging tothe series of WooCommerce Developer Interview.
This time, I am happy to have Danny Santoro from WooThemes join me in an interview and talk about his experiences as a WooCommerce support ninja.
Now get your favorite drink and read on!
Hi Danny, could you please tell something about yourself – what do you do and what are your daily tasks?
Sure thing! Let’s see – I’m a 25 year-old tech fanatic based out of Cincinnati, Ohio – if you want to really get into it, you can check out danielsantoro.com 🙂 .
Day to day, in addition to working with the support team I get to bounce around different departments to find any kinks or issues and better streamline user experience. For example, we might move around buttons to reduce the number of clicks, or work on optimizing the Knowledge Base so it’s easier for users to find answers.
Support is always such a busy nine-to-five job, isn’t it? As a support ninja at WooThemes, what do you think are the common problems related to e-commerce or WooCommerce that users usually have?
That’s a harder one to answer for WooCommerce itself, just because it’s so different from what other things are out there. E-commerce in general is always a battle with search and marketing and real business management, but typically a lot of that is (poorly) handled by a monthly, hosted solution.
WooCommerce is self-hosted, which is definitely a bit of a shock for non-coders – the total freedom of being able to do anything can be extremely overwhelming. Introducing users to the WooThemes code mentality is the biggest struggle – understanding why it’s so different from other solutions is the miscommunication. 🙂
To be more detailed, I mean, what are the most popular questions you usually get asked by WooThemes product users? Is it about the performance of the product on their site or something else like themes or plugins/add-ons?
Hands down the most common question is “Can I do this with WooCommerce?”, and in most cases, absolutely. Chris Lema did a great talk at WooCommerce Conference I hope to share online soon about it, but to sum it up – there isn’t really a limit on what can be done.
While some features like Multisite are complex and have yet to be explored, for most shop owners it’s a matter of finding what products they need to build what they have in mind, which is something our Support Ninjas are working on – again, I can’t say too much, but customers should be pleasantly surprised with what we’ve got cooking.
Is there any plan to improve support quality on WooThemes.com Support channel? For example creating more video tutorials, more documentation, involvement of 3rd party developers, hiring more support staff?
When I joined WooThemes back in March, our support was actually very different than it is today. Most of 2014 has been spent improving our support workflow – there’s a great blog post I put up back in October that summarizes some of the biggest changes we’ve made with some early results.
In short, our ideas for improving support are nonstop. We’ve diversified and specialized our support teams, reducing response times by 66% and average customer happiness by a huge margin – we’re now sitting at the top end of quality support.
Without giving up too much, I think people are going to be really impressed by some of the ideas we’ll roll out in 2015 – it’ll be a whole new support approach. With a revitalized video team, we’ve been working on an introductory course to WooCommerce to get new shop owners up to speed. This is a good example of the mentality we’re taking – moving to make our videos a more interactive learning experience.
In addition, we’ve been (quietly) sneaking out video scripts when we can for all of our products – one day, we hope to have full documentation in both text and video form for all of our products, including advanced tutorials and setup guides.
Surely there’s a lot running behind the scenes with a support team! So to help you with the huge workload, which tools or apps do you use for providing quality support? Like, a testing tool?
All of our Support Ninjas are expected to use the products in test environments and live shops – we all have localhost installations where we can quickly test, break, replicate, and fix issues. Of course we use the standard tools for testing and development – GitHub, SVN, Browserstack…
But, the most important thing I think we use is Atlassian’s excellent Hipchat program. This allows us instant communication with WooThemes ninjas from around the world – when you stop to think about it, it’s an impressive feat to be able to ask a shipping pro in France if he’s seen an issue before without leaving your house in the States.
What’s the most exciting thing about being a support ninja at WooThemes, from your point of view?
Oh, this one is easy. Bonding with the team and the way we work together is unlike anything I’ve seen in a development company – instead of coworkers, we’re friends, and the distance doesn’t even seem to be so far, especially with things like the annual WooTrip – check out this awesome video summary of our last meetup in November.
If possible, could you please give me some pieces of advice for building a good e-commerce website with WooCommerce? Where should I start? What should I be aware of?
Such a broad question! It’s extremely dependent on what you’re selling and who you’re selling to, but there’s a few universal ‘rules’ I suggest when people ask:
Pick a solid theme. There is a common misconception that the more feature-packed a theme is, the better, but in truth it’s the total opposite. A good theme should guide the design of your website, not the functionality – pick a lightweight, flexible theme like Canvas or Storefront and customize from there. It’s much easier to add a feature to your site than it is to remove bloated code. OH – and for your own sanity, if you DO customize your site, use a child theme.
Only use trusted plugins. There are plenty of repackaged WooCommerce extensions that offer “the same functionality at a lower price”, but the issue is that none of them come with WooThemes Support, and we can’t guarantee that malicious code hasn’t been injected. When it comes to plugins in general, try to keep it to as few as possible, avoid plugins that add functionality you could do yourself, and ONLY use plugins from trusted sources. You’ll be glad you paid the extra $50 to avoid a total site failure during a routine update.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Not everyone is a developer, and even after working with WooCommerce every day for over nine months, I’d be very lost without documentation and a few choice developers I hassle. The beauty of WordPress and WooCommerce is that it’s open source – there’s so much information out there that you can search for any solution… Or even better, contribute back to the community and make an answer of your own.
Recently I see you joined the Advanced WooCommerce group. What do you think about this group, and what are your thoughts on the WooCommerce community in general?
I was shocked when I saw how active it was! One of the struggles we’ve had with the community is getting experienced users involved to help answer questions, and that’s a problem we’re still trying to address. These types of collaborations are fantastic, and it would be even better if it had a central hub!
By all means people should continue discussion in the Advanced WooCommerce group, but be sure to swing by our Community every now and then – it’s a great way to help newcomers, ninjas, and the WooThemes community as a whole. A lot of changes are coming along in the official Community, so we’d love to see some activity there and get an idea for what you, the users, would like to see 🙂
Will the WooThemes support team be officially active to support Advanced WooCommerce members too? I see that there are some questions left unanswered there. Or will this group will be member-monitored and community support each other only?
Unfortunately, there’s no practical way we can moderate and respond to outside communities at this time, which is why I encourage people to step into the official WooThemes Community Forums. While we’d definitely like to have a presence in groups like Advanced WooCommerce, we simply don’t have the numbers – and at the rate WooCommerce and WooThemes is growing, it’s likely we’ll never have the numbers to pull it off.
That’s why Support spends so much time building out documentation, videos, and tutorials – to educate leaders in the community so that they might share their knowledge with newcomers. We make a special effort to reach out to particularly active members of our community, so their input is always welcome – in a nutshell, unity is key, so let’s bring the conversation together!
For now, you can see What Woo Support Can Do For You as our main channels, but we’re always looking for the next great idea – we even have dedicated pages where users can submit their ideas on any subject that we could improve on, as well as the very active Ideas Board that our developers are constantly monitoring. We’re huge advocates of customer feedback and are always looking to make for a better experience, so never be shy to share your ideas.
Besides Facebook groups like Advanced WooCommerce, where else do you meet and socialize with other WooCommerce users? I mean, both on and off the Internet.
We try to contact our users through as many channels as possible. Be it through the WordPress community forums, searching through blogs (we Google ourselves, shameless I know), social media (we have three accounts! @WooThemes , @WooNinjas, @WooSupport ) and of course groups like Advanced WooCommerce.
One of the coolest ways we interact with our users is through things like the WooCommerce Conference I mentioned above and through our super-active ninjas at WordCamps and Meetups, where we get actual face-to-face interaction. It’s really something to see someone light up when they hear you’re from WooThemes, and that excitement is really what gives us the passion to keep coding.
With that in mind, everyone should definitely keep an eye on WooThemes.com for some exciting changes in the next few months – you might just get a chance to meet your favorite WooNinja near you.
Thank you so much for such a great chat about WooCommerce support and its community, Danny!
If you just wanna buzz Danny, he’s here @Danny_Santoroon Twitter and his home.
P.S. Next interview is scheduled with WordPress expert with Constantin Schneider. Prepare a good coffee cup and let’s read further insights from WordPress developers.