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Guest

An Open Letter to WordPress Experts

By: Guest | December 15, 2011 | 
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Jay PinkertToday’s guest post is written by Jay Pinkert.

Dear WordPress Expert,

Thank you for helping me migrate my blog from WordPress.com to my own self-hosted site. You satisfactorily met all the deliverables enumerated in our service agreement.

If you infer from that statement a recommendation or endorsement, please don’t. It’s a shame, too, because with a bit more transparency and salesmanship on your part, I gladly would have paid for additional work, and given you a full-throated endorsement (I’ve been known to blog about the power of positive Yelp reviews).

Here’s some unsolicited advice on simple, easy touches to add to your sales and customer service repertoire that can transform an OK client experience into a WOM-worthy one, generating more leads, higher revenue per engagement, and more/better ratings and reviews.

  1. Anticipate your prospective clients’ needs and practice suggestive selling. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, many professional services clients don’t know what they don’t know when they initiate a project (that was certainly my case — I even asked for recommendations). Be ready to suggest plugins, widgets, and especially themes. Too much choice can be paralyzing.
  2. Clearly define what’s in-scope and out-of-scope on the project. Lawyer-preneur Jay Fleischman does his prospective WordPress clients and himself a great favor with “Here’s What I Will Do For You” and “What I Will Not Do For You” lists.
  3. Provide a punch list of registrations, settings, and links that need to be completed before the site goes live. Helpful reminders cost you nothing and can make you look like a hero. If you’re not going to complete the tasks for your clients, remind them about:
  • Google and Bing webmaster tools
  • Feedburner/RSS feed
  • Google analytics
  • “Connect” buttons for social platforms
  • Domain Name System (DNS) update for e-mail (A three-day outage taught me that lesson the hard way)
  • Comment management tools

And last but not least…

Show up for meetings on time (or at least call if you’re running late) — It IS a big deal.

You know, on second thought, don’t take my advice.

Despite the reputation of WordPress for user-friendliness, I decided to engage a WordPress consultant for my blog upgrade because 1) I wasn’t confident in my ability to transfer the content database from my WordPress.com site, or implement even the simplest cut-and-paste coding, and 2) I didn’t have the time or inclination to learn. But being forced to figure out so many things on my own has more than erased both of those impediments to mastery.

I might even be proficient enough now to add simple WordPress blog implementation to my own service offerings — and compete with you.

I guess that’s another reason to say “thank you…”

Jay Pinkert is a principal with Shatterbox, an Austin-based marketing and communications consultancy that helps professional firms and small businesses generate leads and distinguish their brand through content-driven programs. He tweets from @FollowtheLawyer and @ShatterboxVox.

23 comments
Raj-PB
Raj-PB

Lawyer-preneur? - you do have a good eye for new words! LOL at the final suggestion of adding WP migration to ones services. If it is so easy, and can be done by the customers themselves - it is a short term business model, to say the least. And yes, customers time is very valuable - contractors always need to be on time.

tamcdonald
tamcdonald

Sorry Jay. Although I'm not arguing with the overall point of this story, I will say that as the consumer, you should have pushed more, asked more questions and not settled. Sounds like you've been around blogs for a while and have seen different options and plugins. Some features on .org that can not be used on .com and so forth. Even if you didn't know the names, you could cite examples of what you think might work well and realized if they just agreed with you and didn't offer options that would work better, you would not have to write this post. I'm not a WordPress expert, but have several friends that are. By specifically calling out WordPress experts, it really does not reflect on the industry as a whole, but rather your particular experience.

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

Hi Jay, Ah, customer service. So important, so simple and yet so elusive. It all comes down to walking a mile in your customer's moccasins and feeling the pebbles under their feet in order to really understand what they need and want. Empathy is so important in business (and personal relationships as well). I've heard similar stories about WordPress coders. Maybe the platform has become so popular there are a) Too many WordPress 'experts' crowding the market or b) So much business for them they just don't care about the customer experience. Regardless, you're going to love working with WordPress. I've been using it since September and absolutely love, love, love it.

JayFleischman
JayFleischman

Isn't it a shame that so many service providers focus more on the sale than on delivering a level of service that would cause a customer or client to do business with them again in the future? Glad to see you've migrated the blog, though; you'll find Prose a good child theme to work with as far as customization. And thanks for the shout-out!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

In a way, I wrote about this yesterday. Lack of good service drives me nuts, and is just pure laziness.

But here's what really hit me in your post - is anticipating your needs. You said you were clear about not knowing what you didn't know, so why wouldn't they give you heads up on those issues. I'd be willing to bet they spring that stuff on every single one of their customers. If they have any left. :)

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FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

@Raj-PB Thanks for the feedback. You're right. What I described wouldn't be a model for a standalone business, but it definitely works as a value-added option for customers in your main line of business -- which is what Jay Fleischman does. With low technical barriers to entry , superior client service becomes a significant differentiator.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

@tamcdonald

Tim,

Thanks for your perspectives.

I don't see how you can infer from the post how many/what questions I did or did not ask, how hard I did or did not push, or what plugins I knew by name. But since you brought it up, be assured that I had some specific requests, and asked for recommedations/opinions in other cases where I knew the functionality I wanted but didn't have the expertise or experience to evaluate which option would be best.

Heck, I even pointed out that a conflict with another plugin might be causing Livefyre problems (it was, and I fixed it myself).

I'm confident most readers of this post understood it to be a rhetorical exercise concerning customer service, using a WordPress project to illustrate, not a wholesale indictment of the profession.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

@Shelley Pringle Thanks for your encouraging words :)

I've been on WordPress for years, and decided to upgrade to a .org implementation because it was time for me to do more. And boy, howdy! It has made a huge difference.

As for my experience with the vendor, what I omitted was the ordeal finding a suitable candidate at all. I spent weeks just trying to get responses; most never called or e-mailed back. One fellow had me drive 20 miles to meet him in person, only to be told "I don't touch any job under $1,000."

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FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

@JayFleischman Hi Jay! I was reading one of your posts and came across your WP set-up service page. Wish I'd encountered it earlier; you might have had another client.

With benefit of hindsight, the astounding part is that it was all routine stuff that gummed up the works. Heck, a standard one-pager would have saved me confusion, delay and stress. Sometimes it's the small things that make the biggest difference.

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tamcdonald
tamcdonald

@FollowtheLawyer Jay, if you did ask and push all those questions, you were either duped or didn't do a very good job at qualifying them. At least that's what I took away from the way you wrote the post.

Using the title that you did and the tone of the post was very specific to WordPress and no where did you relate this to another industry or profession. Just calling it like I see it.

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