Akshat Choudhary is the founder of BlogVault, Migrate Guru and Malcare – popular WordPress plugins and services that take care of your security and backups. He’s been a part of the WordPress community for a number of years now and has a very inspiring story.
This is not the first time we had the opportunity to interview him, so if you want to know more about Akshat and his WordPress story, you can read our first interview.
You might be surprised to learn that he actively participates in the product support himself, so this time, we wanted to ask Akshat more about product support and how he manages it.
Can tell a few words about yourself?
I’m the founder of BlogVault, Malcare and Migrate Guru. We’re focused on backup, security, and migration for WordPress. We’ve been doing this for many many years. And I love to be a part of this great community.
You’re not doing just management work at BlogVault, you are doing support as well. Can you tell a bit more about that?
I am actually an engineer and I spend more time than I should be spending (doing support) in spite of being the CEO of the company. I still spend time doing product work and engineering work.
Also being a small team, everyone has to spend a lot of time in support. Earlier it was a necessity because we didn’t have many people, so you have to do everything yourself. But also I think being so close to support means that you are able to understand the real problems in this business. I tend to go (on support) every day. I tend to answer at least a couple of queries. Sometimes I even solve some of the more difficult support queries, simply to understand what are the problems which customers typically face.
Do you have regular support shifts that you take during the day or it’s just random?
It’s randomly. Mostly I get assigned tickets and I need to look at those tickets when they get assigned to me. So I think my team does a great job of managing support but I like to be involved and otherwise, it’s very easy to get lost and not really understand what the customers need.
Because the entire team is involved in support, we’re able to build features and products which our customers end up using and help to solve their problems for them.
When you are on support, do your customers know that they are talking to the founder? How does it work?
This is the really tricky part because I would end up doing support all times of the day so the customers would know me personally and I started getting associated with the company and a few others were too. That’s the nature of small companies. But yes, people do ask us for support and sometimes customers will just mail me directly. Because they know that the bolt stops at me. So they’re like: “OK Akshat, there’s a problem…” (And I answer) we don’t have this feature yet and emailing me is not going to make us deliver it tomorrow.
What about other team members? As I understood, all team members BlogVault, Malcare, Migrate Guru, work on support.
I would say almost everyone. Some people manage. Someone from the marketing team would not take many questions but then you see them jumping into Facebook groups and Twitter and helping customers out, whoever needs help with WordPress or BlogVault. So you see even the marketing team gets involved with support and every single developer has to do support.
So it’s sort of the company culture to be involved in support?
Absolutely. I’m actually am a big fan of it. Support does two things to you. First, when you make something you really feel that you get a special joy when customers use it. And then they talk to you about how they use it. That’s what makes the product and engineering fun. So whatever you make end customers use it. And when you’re involved in support you get that first level feedback. And that makes you tremendously happy. Sometimes it’s negative sometimes it’s positive but overall it makes you happy that someone is using your product.
So the second one is, obviously, you are close to the problems that customers face. You have ownership. As an engineer, you build the product and then you are responsible for supporting it. So you have ownership and that makes you more involved in the product.
I know that many companies would love every one of their team members to participate in support for those reasons that you stated. How do you manage that? How do you get people to start doing support within your company? And how a new WordPress plugin can get their team on support and get involved and passionate about it? Any documentation or a learning curve?
This is actually a great question. You need to set up great processes. We have not done a great job yet but occasionally you come across these great resources like GiveWP, the plugin. Matt, their founder, has made this really great documentation “Guide to Support”. And it’s one of the things which can really help you set up processes. So even if you are not sure about how to do support, some of these great sources exist in the ecosystem that you should definitely look into and learn from.
So, for example, as an engineer, you’re so focused on the product and sometimes you take things for granted. And your communication with the customer might not be as polished as it should be. A guide like this helps you understand how to communicate with the customers. Because you can be very impatient. You can be like: Ok, I know, it’s supposed to work in this way and while we don’t have these great processes, sometimes we just refer to these guides and documentation that exists in other places.