Alex King, who is most well known for his popular WordPress plugins and more recently, his Carrington theme framework, made a big announcement the other day regarding a project that his company Crowd Favorite has partnered with called the WordPress HelpCenter.
The HelpCenter is not aimed at replacing forums, email, comment forms, or other means of support. Instead, you’ll be able to pick up the phone Mon-Fri between the hours of 9am-7pm Pacific time and give them a call to answer any WordPress questions you might have instead of waiting around on a forum for someone to reply. In fact, any phone call under 3 minutes is free.
The pricing scheme for the types of support queries most commonly asked is as follows:
- The pricing scheme for the types of support queries most commonly asked is as follows:
- Phone Call under 3 minutes is Free
- Phone Call 3-25 minutes Includes making changes to resolve most problems. $19.99
- WordPress Installation $19.99
- WordPress Upgrade $14.99
- Basic Plugin or Theme InstallationIncludes most plugins and themes. $9.99
- Advanced Plugin or Theme InstallationExample: WP Super Cache, etc. – when additional configuration, permissions changes, etc. are required. $19.99
- Theme TweaksChange colors, fonts, change a header image, etc. $19.99
- WordPress BackupYour database and all files (including themes and plugins). $19.99
Plugin or Theme Customization: Priced Per Request
Judging by the pricing scheme, it looks like most phone calls will cost about $20.00. While reviewing the pricing scheme, I had to chuckle regarding the $19.99 charge to be told how to upgrade WordPress. If you’re using WordPress 2.7, you now have the ability to upgrade the software with the click of a button, granted your webhost has to play nice with WordPress for it to work, but it should work in most cases. Of course, not everyone is running 2.7 so I can easily see how they could receive a few phone calls wanting to know how to upgrade.
Testing The Waters
I decided to give the help center a call around 2PM EDT to see what the experience was like. First thing I noticed is that you can clearly understand the female recording which reads off a number of options and describes what the HelpCenter can do. She lets me know that I can schedule a call back by sending an email to the WordPress help center. She also tells me that in order to receive help, I need to agree to the HelpCenter TOS located on their website which by the way, is one of the simplest terms of service pages I have ever seen. I figured what the heck and pressed 1. I then had the chance to listen to some funky hold music for a few minutes. After listening to the music, I was patched in to one of the support reps. Unfortunately for me, he was not at his desk and I had to leave him a message. Not exactly what I was expecting.
So, hoping I would be patched through to someone else, I hung up and redialed. This time, Chris was at his desk. I described to Chris how I did not want my blog to be crawled by the search engines while still being viewable by human beings. Chris told me to login to my WordPress administration panel, click on the Settings link on the left hand side and then click on Privacy. He then explains the difference between the two options and that I needed to select the second one which would do precisely what I needed. Chris also told me that if my site had already been crawled by search engines, it would take 2-3 weeks for that to be flushed out.
All in all, the call lasted under three minutes and Chris did not attempt to fill my head with rambling in order to keep me on the line for a longer period of time which I’m thankful for.
Does This Make Any Sense?
While I like the idea behind the WordPress HelpCenter, I wonder why we need one in the first place. Has the WordPress.org support forums which are supposed to be the go to place for support become such a pain for end users that it would be much simpler to just pick up the phone and give these guys a call?
In the WPTavern forum, we are in the process of discussing the HelpCenter topic and a few people have brought up some good points. For instance, WordPress is used internationally. Unless the HelpCenter employs people who know every language, this may be a bottle neck in their service. Also, the center is closed on the weekends and is not open 24/7. What happens if your database crashes or your WordPress upgrade fails at 3am in the morning? Better not pick up the phone and give these guys a call, their sleeping. Thankfully, email, forums and other support means are available when the HelpCenter is not.
The help center operates on Pacific time. Considering the international nature of the software, it may have been better to pick an internationally recognized timezone. But this is not a big gripe in my book as there are plenty of time zone applications out there to help people figure it out. Also, while the site displays the dollar sign next to the amount for certain calls, it may not be obvious to some folks that the type of currency they accept is the USD or U.S. Dollar.
Last but not least, if you’re going to dial into the HelpCenter internationally, you better use SkypeOut or you’ll be paying some hefty charges.
Poised For Success?
So will the HelpCenter knock other forms of support out of the water? I don’t think so given their inherent limitations. However, I do think Alex King is on the right track creating a service where people can simply pick up the phone, answer a commonly asked question, and provide immediate satisfaction. What I think will be interesting is how the HelpCenter plans on handling support of third party themes/plugins. There are so many in existence that it would be very hard to know everything about them to provide the level of support typically found via the plugin/theme author.
At the end of the day, the HelpCenter is just another avenue of support if you choose to go down that route. With Alex King being involved, I’m willing to bet the site will maintain its high quality of service which I experienced today.