It should surprise no one that The Theme Foundry team has a soft spot for WordPress developers and designers.
They are our people.
The folks who are in the trenches building client sites are often the ones that push our themes to the limits, offering invaluable feedback, ideas, and pointing out areas for improvement. They’re a theme shop’s dream community and we spend a lot of time and effort checking in on them.
After switching from HipChat to Slack for team communications earlier this year, we knew we wanted to test the waters with some sort of customer channel, so back in June we created a group for Make Plus Developer customers and sent out invitations. Here’s what we learned in the last three months from daily chats with these users.
Human interaction is the missing link
We thought we had a close connection with our community through our support forums, and between Twitter and Facebook. But the nature of email, Facebook and forum posts is the inevitable lag between replies. Slack has given us the ability to engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations. It’s a place for us to solve problems, revise work, and brainstorm solutions for users — which results in a greater understanding of their needs.
Slack shares a photo along with every message sent, and we’ve all gotten to know the faces behind our developer’s names. Users tell us when they launch new sites using Make and we get to chat through their processes and recommendations — getting to know their work also. A few weeks ago I received an email asking for a referral to a developer for a specific project. I was able to toss it to the group and within a few minutes, had half a dozen recommendations for folks who specialize in just that sort of job. So while the group is still small, it’s laser-focused, and has helped us serve our larger community of WordPress users.
One on one communication
Initially we were concerned about opening up our tiny team to what we feared could become an onslaught of demanding support requests and distracting personal messages. But — and perhaps this is because of the type of people we invited to our channel — the reality is that we’ve still been able to funnel support through to our forums. Setting expectations for the Slack channel has been key to managing it successfully. We’re still evolving those expectations also, with input from the community.
For example, seeing the #general channel littered with feature requests, a member suggested we create a new channel to capture all those ideas, rather than risk them being lost in a sea of chats. This one small change makes it easier for the team to review and prioritize new developments for Make and Make Plus.
Private conversations have also increased in our channel — and based on our Slack stats, don’t always happen between Theme Foundry staff and users. Rather our community is chatting amongst themselves, sharing resources, tips, and tricks. It’s given Scott and Corey the chance to have deeper conversations about design and development, while I’ve been able to direct our community to outside WordPress resources, and connect like-minded customers for networking and collaboration.
A basis for community
We’re still working through how Slack might figure in our broader user base, or whether it would be as effective if the group were significantly larger than it already is. The benefit of having a team like ours though, is that we can experiment and move on quickly if a new tool doesn’t prove useful. For now, Slack is definitely changing the way we communicate with our users — for the better — and we’re excited about growing our developer community and getting to know them better, personally.
Are you a Make Plus developer? Did you miss your invitation? Drop us an email and we’ll get you set up on the channel.