I want to talk today about the Question Writer Support Forum because it's one of the things that is working really well for Question Writer. It's a warts-and-all forum - you can see the kind of problems people are having and what's getting resolved. I offer e-mail support too but offer a faster guaranteed response time(24hrs) for the forum than for email(48hrs). I've incentivized it that way because that's where I prefer to deal with support enquiries. Here's why -
1) It grows and creates a knowledge base. That's searchable, so users can find the answer to their question immediately if it has been answered before, although I'll always answer a question rather than expect users to search for the answer.
2) It's indexable. Google indexes it and it's already full of the keywords that people searching for quiz software are looking for.
3) It's public. Each post is timestamped - that provides a public record of how long it takes to get answers to support queries. And it's usually much faster than the guaranteed 24hrs - I'll drop nearly anything to respond to a support forum request.
It requires dedication - but the benefit was crystallized for me last year when I got this e-mail confirming the direct link between forum support and sales -
"I want you to know that one of the things that convinced me to purchase the software was looking at your support forum and seeing how well and, especially how fast, you always responded to questions and comments." - Alan Merrell
I made it a priority to get the forum right from the start because I knew that quality of the forum is important in making a purchasing decision and because so many software companies make mistakes with their forum. The main problems I see are -
1) Hidden Forum. Some won't let you see the forum until you're already a customer - that doesn't suggest confidence in the product.
2) Empty Forum. Some forums are empty with few or no posts - you wonder if anyone is using the product at all.
3) Undersupported Forum. Some leave all the support to a customer support department - but some questions can only be answered by the developers.
4) No Forum. Some don't have forums at all - they have 'Frequenly Asked Questions' but they're more like 'Favourably Answerable Questions' - only questions that cast the product in a favourable light are there.
5) Private Forum. And most have some kind of registration system (but who wants to set up a whole new account just to ask a question?)