Killing Support

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on January 23, 2014 in Internet |

Some people are just in it for the money, some for pleasure and the money. I can understand the need to make a profit when producing and selling something, no matter what it is, but there have to be limits when it comes to supporting your customers, and by customers I mean both those who buy a premium service and those who use the free version.

Wordfence is a WordPress plug-in designed to check the security of a WordPress installation, the amount of access anyone may have over a certain period of time and stop, as far as is possible, hacking attempts. It registers visits according to IP and the number of visits over a specified period of time, throttling those who try to overwhelm a server or who simply click too quickly and continually from one page to another. It is a free plug-in with a premium version, although the premium edition seems to add very little to the free version aside from one additional check, scheduled scans, cellphone sign in and the ability to block entire countries, facilities offered by other plug-ins for free.

Viktoria Michaelis: Customer Support

Photo Credit: jm3Creative Commons

Up until last week Wordfence had an easily accessible support page – in the form of a forum – where anyone could ask a question or highlight a problem. I used it myself to ask whether IPv6 would be implemented at any time in the future, since Wordfence, at the moment, is incapable of assigning a value to IPv6 visitors. My question went unanswered for several weeks, not even a cross-reference to the (very limited) FAQs.

In fact the lack of answers from the makers of Wordfence resulted in my answering several of the posted questions myself, which finally brought someone from Wordfence out of the woodwork and a few further answers to questions. Nothing major, nothing that would have taken up much of their time, but help for users nonetheless.

My second attempt to gain an answer to the IPv6 question – when I saw that there really was someone there – remained unanswered. I suspect that it will remain unanswered until the end of time but, sadly, I will never know.

Wordfence have changed the link to their support forum. Anyone clicking through from the scan page which invites people to seek support:

Viktoria Michaelis: Wordfence Support

is now automatically redirected to the (very limited) FAQs where, in order to gain an answer or pose a question it is suggested they now have to sign up for paid premium support.

Viktoria Michaelis: Wordfence Support

There is no longer any other form of customer support easily available. If your question isn’t answered in the thirty-three entries under FAQ, you get to pay, no matter what the problem may be. And if you can’t find where the old, free support section has been hidden, you’ve had it.

Wordfence also suggest that users should go to wordpress.org and give the plug-in a five-star rating ‘now’. To me, a five-star rating needs to be earned, and customer support is a part of the service that they should be offering, regardless of whether a user has premium or the free version. Some parts of the support can be placed in the premium section, I see no problem with that at all, but these should be limited to answering questions on the premium version alone.

If you offer something, free or otherwise, be prepared to support it. Wordfence falls down severely on this simple idea of gaining customer satisfaction by hiding the support forums and suggesting that the only way to gain an answer is to sign up for premium, and pay. But they had a less than perfect rating from me before this change, thanks to their inability to answer a simple question on IPv6; thanks to their inability to answer so many other questions on their support forum while it was still easy to find.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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  • Francois says:

    Cyberchimps, one of the largest producers of premium WP themes, no longer provides advanced support (as of Jan 17th) to the free versions of their products unless users subscribe to help for a $9 monthly fee.
    Chairman Trent Lapisnky cites the runaway cost of support, now the biggest part of Cyberchimps’ overhead, as the factor that motivated the decision.
    Users who purchased a Cyberchimps theme prior to Jan 17th will continue getting pro support “for an indefinite period of time”.
    Cyberchimps, with its responsive themes was one of the major actors in the transformation of WordPress from a blogging platform into a real contender in the full-fledged CMS system arena. Their decision to pull back on support might have serious consequences on WP adoption.

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