My first IT job was doing customer support, later at another job I helped program an internal support application, and of course as a customer I’ve experienced different ways companies offer support. What I’ve learned is that customer support is essential for the success of a company, that offering support day in and day out is a challenge, but that the right tools help companies offer support in a professional manner. While I like support forums because I can learn from the questions others post, ultimately a company will need to have a ticket system in place in order to maintain customer privacy and keep track of support requests. The hallmarks of a good support system is that it captures all of the data needed to understand and respond to requests, customer interactions are tracked so nothing is lost, it is easy to use, and as much as possible the workflow is streamlined and automated.
Fluent Support is a new helpdesk plugin from the WP Manage Ninja team, the makers of Fluent Forms and other well respected plugins. It provides a robust ticket management system and has integrations with a number of popular WordPress plugins. The WP Manage Ninja team clearly understands the hallmarks of a good ticket system. They have been using Fluent Support in their own business and are now making it available for WordPress based businesses.
Fluent Support has a free version and a pro version. I think the best way to show the different features of each version will be to first walk-through the free version in the video and then to take a look at the features of the pro version. The text version of the review summarizes the features and includes the discussion and conclusions.
I have a test site using the Kadence theme. I installed one of the Starter Sites and customized it for a fictitious company selling the “Pippa Builder” plugin.
Fluent Support has an integration with Easy Digital Downloads, so I installed the free version of Easy Digital Downloads and created a product record for the Pippa Page Builder. The free EDD Auto Register plugin automatically creates a WordPress user when someone orders. On the pricing page there is a radio button to pick the package and a button to go to the checkout page.
There is a free version in the WordPress plugin directory. This is one of those plugins where you need the free version installed when you install the pro version.
Instead of roles, there is a pretty fine-grained permission system for staff.
The free version has basic ticket management features.
The customer facing portal has nice features. Here is a screenshot from the demo site. Note that the Department option is a pro feature as it is using the pro custom field feature.
Pro Version Features
The pro version is available from the Fluent Support website.
The pro version has good number of integrations.
Bulk processing options are available in the pro version. They can be accessed from the ticket management screen via a pop up button bar.
Other Pro features include;
Discussion and Conclusions
Fluent Support is very comprehensive for a first release. They used the plugin themselves and also have had a number of other WordPress businesses use it, so there has been a lot more testing than most new plugins.
There are several hallmarks of a good helpdesk and custom support system. You need to be able to capture the information needed to help customers and close tickets. Customer interactions need to be tracked. You need performance metrics to help prioritize and to make sure everyone is working efficiently. It needs to be easy to use with automations to streamline processes. Integrations also make it easier to use. Fluent Support does these things well.
On the frontend the support portal was easy to use as a customer. The integration with knowledge base articles is nice as it gives customers something to check on their own which may help them. The custom fields help to make sure tickets have the crucial information your business needs and makes it easier to route using workflows and organize the tickets with tags. The ability to submit and respond via email is a huge convenience for customers.
On the backend, for support staff, tagging, sorting and filtering of tickets, manual and automatic workflows, and saved replies are great features to make it easier to manage, respond, and close tickets. The integrations seemed to have been carefully selected and make a lot of sense. They represent the most popular WordPress plugins for ecommerce, learning management systems, and membership management. The notification and messaging options chosen are also popular and frequently used by development teams. In terms of metrics, on pretty much every ticket-related screen there were signals related to indicate time and priority. There were also decent reports for tracking performance.
Fluent Support is sophisticated and very full featured, but there could be improvements and additions. For example, the customer could have an option to indicate how happy they were with support and that could be shown in a time to resolution report. I didn’t notice in reports the ability to view statistics by priority, but such a report would help managers see how effective the priority options are.
I was pretty happy with the number and type of integrations, but I did notice that you need to manually create support persons both in WordPress and again in Fluent Support. The fine-grained permission system looked to work well, but maybe a support team role could be added when the plugin is installed and that would make it easier to add users to the support system. Another integration point is that you also have to enter the products manually and that could possibly be something that could have some helper code so that products or courses can be picked up by the system easier. Also, it is not hard to imagine that some businesses would want to install Fluent Support on a sub-domain and I’m not sure how well that would be supported in terms of single sign-on or web hooks for cross-site communication.
I was very impressed with Fluent Support. Obviously a lot of thought and care has gone into its architecture and user interface. The product is under active development and the team is adding new features at a fast pace. WP Manage Ninja has a solid reputation in the WordPress community and Fluent Support looks like it will be a winner.