I’ve just reached my business anniversary — eight years working as a professional SEO and web content writer. I started out as a freelance blogger and moved on to provide SEO strategy and web content for clients on four continents, including lots of blogs, white papers, analytics reports, and website content for web design and SEO firms. In 2011, my daughter Rosie joined forces with me and Haden Interactive was born. Since then we’ve been building and optimizing websites for businesses and nonprofits, in addition to providing our core content services of blogging, social media management, and SEO strategy. My son Gideon joined the family firm after his graduation a couple of years ago, and the family continues to work with long-term associates Jay Jaro and Tom Hapgood to provide the best in strategic web content and design.
Through the years, we’ve enjoyed developing partnerships with clients, working with them to make their digital marketing an essential parts of their overall marketing strategy, bringing our skills in writing for the web, SEO, and digital marketing strategy together with our clients’ deep knowledge of their goods and services and target markets to create successful strategies over the long term.
In the course of these partnerships, we’ve gotten to know and love our clients and we have frequent communication with most of them. But we’ve noticed that — as our company grows and we add more exciting projects to the mix — things can fall through the cracks.
I can get engrossed in a project and miss emails. Gideon can assume that Rosie is taking care of something when she figures he’s doing it. And sometimes all three of us jump in and work on top of each other without realizing it. We have to acknowledge that even though we’re a family business, and even though we are deeply committed to our clients, we need a more businesslike approach to dealing with client requests.
Our girl Brittany said, at this point, that we should have a page where our clients could put in the details of their requests and those requests would automatically show up in our Tasks list. Smart idea.
So we’ve decided to add a Support page with an automatic work ticketing function, so that we can track requests and make sure they are handled by the right people at the right time.
Building a Support page is straightforward with a WordPress website: make your page, configure a ticketing plugin, and Bob’s your uncle. All you really need is a form that lets you gather the information you need, and a mechanism to send the information to the right spot: typically, an email address for notification and a database so you can find and follow up the ticket. A thank you page and an automatic confirmation email are also good things.
So, basically, you could do this the same way you or your web people made your contact form. Still, there are plugins specifically to create helpdesk support pages, so we gave them a shot.
We first tried out WP Ticket, a simple helpdesk plugin that lets you generate a form and use shortcode to place it on your Support page.
The screenshot above shows the form straight out of the box in Chrome — broken, as you can see. It’s easy to remove any of the fields in the form, though you can’t add any with the free version, and you can add a ticket yourself from the same screen, so you can easily keep tickets that start with a phone call or an email in the same system as the automated ones.
All the tickets are collected in the admin area, and you can add comments, priorities, due dates and the like even if you decide not to offer those options to your visitors.
It’s helpful, too, that clients can upload a screenshot or other file, and a captcha is included (that’s the broken part shown above, and it kept our testers from getting their requests in). So this particular plugin wasn’t ideal for our particular needs, though we probably could have fixed it.
There are many more plugins with similar function and features, and there’s also a Zendesk plugin for those who already use Zendesk.
At this point in my research, I thought how nice it would be if we could just integrate our Zoho CRM ticketing system with our WordPress website. In fact, Rosie said with some asperity that it didn’t make sense to do it any other way.
There are WordPress plugins for Zoho, but you can also generate code directly from Zoho, in the Settings>Website Integration area shown below.
Configuration is simple, and copy/pasting a bit of code into your Support page is not much more trouble than using shortcode. Here’s how the form looks right out of the box:
If you’re at all comfortable with html and css, you can change the form to suit you, but it will take its basic style from the css files in your website even if you don’t make any changes.
The takeaway here is that, yes, there is probably a plugin for anything you want your website to do, but integration with your other business systems is probably a better plan than starting afresh with a plugin, even if your current systems don’t have WP plugins. Go to your current software — get help if you need it — and take advantage of the opportunity to integrate your systems.
No systems yet? Then WordPress plugins will help you set those systems up right in your website.
Would you care to try out our Support page? It’s still in beta testing, but I’d appreciate your comments below.