Engineering Happiness: How to Help Customers Navigate the WP Waters

Kathryn Presner

Kathryn Presner

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Jan Koch  00:05

Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining me at the WP Agency Summit. I’m here with Kathryn Presner from Automattic who is a Theme Whisperer, which is a super cool title, to begin with, and a customer Happiness Engineer. And we are going to talk about how you as an agency can delight your customers, so you can better communicate with your customers, how you can emphasize with the situation, if they’re sending a support ticket in, for example, and they are super frustrated. How do you emphasize with them in these challenging times? and Kathryn, thank you so much for coming on to this event.

Kathryn Presner  00:39

Totally. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Jan Koch  00:42

Absolutely. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing in the WordPress space?

Kathryn Presner  00:47

Sure. So let’s see, I come from a background where I had my own small Web Design and Development Agency. So I focused after you know, after a while, WordPress became popular, and I focused on building custom themes for clients, you know, small organizations, companies, individuals. And then I realized I was sort of burned out running my own business, and I applied to Automattic, and that was eight years ago. So eight years ago, I became a Happiness Engineer. And I’ve been doing that ever since. I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in a second. But I also want to mention that I’m based here in Montreal, Canada. I love the fact you know, one of the if we can say there have been any benefits to the pandemic, it’s that, you know, these remote events, collecting people from all around the world are becoming more common. So I love the fact that they’re going to be people from around the world participating here. So yeah, I’m a Happiness Engineer. And that means that I focus on helping our customers build and create their websites. And yeah, I focus on troubleshooting, customization. I’m a theme whisperer, because for five years, I was on the Theme team at Automattic, and I focused on helping users, you know, customize their themes, custom CSS, child theming. And I have a knack for knowing sometimes what’s going wrong in a theme. So that’s why somebody actually gave me the nickname Theme Whisperer. So I can kind of tell Oh, I think I know what’s going on here. So that’s where that came up. 

Jan Koch  02:16

That seems to be a super helpful skill to have in that position. I wish I had that at some point, I just sometimes get stuck in troubleshooting, not knowing where to look out for. When it comes to communicating with our customers, I think you are at the forefront of really being in the trenches of talking to people that have challenges that have issues in working with their websites. First of all, the question I have is how do you stay sane with this if there’s all the time people come at you sometimes being really frustrated and having really hard issues with which for them are serious issues for us as developers, we might look at that and say, just take this box and you’re done. But for the customer, it’s a serious issue. How do you stay sane when there are so many requests coming at you?

Kathryn Presner  03:08

I think two things one is at the root of it all is empathy. So just trying to remember, your customer is trying to accomplish something. They’re trying to build a website, whatever roadblock has come up in their way has prevented them from achieving that, or you know, if they had a website and it was going along fine all of a sudden, one day it’s not working. So I think empathy is at the root of staying sane, putting yourself in their place and saying what would I feel like if all of a sudden my website stopping able to take online orders, I’d be really upset too. So I think that’s the key. And the other is having an outlet having a place to vent and at Automattic, we use slack. And we have all sorts of channels. And we have my team channel, in particular, is a place that where we, you know, commiserate with each other if we’re having a very difficult to live chat. Live chat is one of our primary support routes. And it can be very visceral, you know, the person’s there in real-time explaining how unhappy and upset they are. So our you know, our team chat channel, Slack channel is a place to get support. So you’re not taking out your own frustration on the customer. You’re coming into this team channel and going Oh, I’m having such a hard time. What can I do and you know, even just to vent or to sometimes we post the link to the transcript as the chats happening in real-time and say what else can I say to this person to make them calm down? So I think those are the two key things empathy and you know maintaining communication and having a place to vent and ask for help when you’re getting really frustrated. As a support person.

Jan Koch  04:37

I think that’s super helpful. And for me, the challenge was when I’m dealing with support tickets is the turn just to be aware that I am getting frustrated at that person, even though it’s my job to help them at some point. So that self-awareness that reflection is again, it comes from talking to other people. That’s why I love that you brought that up. One thing that also helps me a lot is setting the right expectations for the customer. So if you go into a chat and tell them we have this solved in 15 minutes, and then the issue turns out to be a behemoth of a problem. And you take two weeks to solve this. 

Kathryn Presner  05:14


Jan Koch  05:16

what do you learn about them?

Kathryn Presner  05:18

We try never to use the words like, Oh, this is going to be simple, or Oh, that’s easy, or Oh, all you have to do is or Oh, I think we can do this quickly. We try to never say things like that, because of exactly the reasons you just said. Maybe there’s something else deeper going on, that is not as easy as you think. And then they’re going to be even more upset. So we try those sorts of things. And also, we try if we can, to set the right expectation, if something is not an issue that is sort of in our scope of support. So for example, we don’t provide you know, customization, or troubleshooting for third party plugins and themes. So if somebody has, you know, bought a theme on ThemeForest, and they want to customize a bunch of things on it, they’re going to have to go to that theme developer for help. So I try before saying, Oh, sure, we can help you with that. I try to say, sure, one moment, let me have a look. And see if it’s something third party and then say to them, Okay, I see you’re using a third-party theme in our scope of support for that is a bit limited. But let me see if I can point you in the direction, I’m going to see if I can find you their support guide or documentation. And so then they usually say, Oh, thank you, you know, you’re not saying can help you with that. So yeah, totally setting expectations. And, and not saying not something’s going to be easy, are very important.

Jan Koch  06:38

Those are two exciting lessons. And I think those lessons just come when you’ve been in the situation over and over and over again. And at some point, you’re really realizing what is it that is going wrong in those times? It reminds me of this famous story of the Zappos support, where a guy randomly ordered a pizza through the Zappos support, because Tony Hsieh just educates their support team to be as helpful as they can at any time. And if somebody calls them to order a pizza, they order the pizza. 

Kathryn Presner  07:07


Jan Koch  07:08

for their customer.

Kathryn Presner  07:10

Yes, we try to make our customers happy. I don’t think we ever ordered anyone a pizza, but I’m sure we’ve done other things to go above and beyond for sure.

Jan Koch  07:20

Yeah, I think that is such an important mindset. When it comes to the way of communicating, are there any other lessons that you learn the hard way on how to handle customer communication properly?

Kathryn Presner  07:33

Yeah, I mean, so we provide support in a few different ways. We do live chat, we do email, and we have sessions called Quick Start, which are in Zoom, and we share screen. So sometimes we share our screen with the customer, sometimes the customer shares their screen with us. Each of those formats has its own challenges. But I think the key thing that we do is that if we sense that, let’s say we’re in live chat, and it’s all text, if we sense that the customer is having a little bit of trouble following our written steps, we will quickly make a little screenshot, you know, with circling things, arrows, sometimes people will even say, give me a moment, let me make you a screencast. And we do a little recording. And we take a few moments to do that and send it because it can save a lot of time and frustration, you know, the web, you know, for those who are, let’s say, not visually impaired, obviously, it’s a visual medium. And so to see something, you know, a customer can maybe understand something a lot more quickly, than by saying now go here, and then go there. And now click this and click that seeing the screenshot or so basically using you know, not continuing to go back and forth in a format that we’re we’re not getting anywhere with somebody. So to be mindful of that. And in our emails, we often put a lot of screenshots as well. So yeah, I think it’s good to be mindful of what, what medium we’re using, and what we can do to enhance that experience for the customer to make it quicker for the customer to grasp what we’re trying to explain. And also to, to take clues about the customer’s level. In other words, if someone says something, like, explain it to me, like I’m in kindergarten, then we want to, you know, use not use any jargon use very simple language. You know, we try to do that anyway. But if somebody seems to be a bit more tech-savvy, we might, you know, we might loosen that up a bit. But in general, to err on the side of very plain language and not using jargon and acronyms. And, you know, sometimes I’ll say CSS and remember, wait a second, your customer might not even know what CSS means. I should explain it a little bit. So being aware of jargon and technical lingo like that.

Jan Koch  09:56

Yeah, that’s super important to assess the position where customers coming from.  Do you have like any standardized formulas to assess that to vet the customer if you will? Or is it just gut feeling?

Kathryn Presner  10:10

Sometimes it’s watching for the language they use, if they use a term, you know, is not correct. Like, instead of saying a URL or domain, they might say, you know the name of my site, when I’m putting the name in the browser. When you start seeing that there, they don’t know the terms you go, okay. So, you know, when you explain it back to them, they might say, Oh, the name of your site, you mean the address up in the browser’s address bar, you know, something .com, you sort of reflect back to them in the proper term. So you make sure you understand what they’re saying. So there’s that. Also, we leave, you know, at Automattic, we have quite a large support team, we leave notes for each other internal notes about the customer. So if someone’s already had five chats or five different Happiness Engineers, I’ve had five chats with the person. And they know the person is at quite a basic level, we leave a little note on the user’s page, we call it a user report card. And then the next person coming into chat, those notes pop in right away into the chat interface. And so it’s easy for us to tell what level the user is at. And we might do the opposite, saying, Oh, this is pretty tech-savvy, you can explain things. And you can go a little more advanced with them. So we leave notes for each other.

Jan Koch  11:26

Yeah, that is super important to have this transparency inside the support team. What do you think about using like fixed format forms to support to send support tickets like as you mentioned, you have various channels where people can send in tickets, but what if, say, an agency that has one person taking care of support? If they have this form where the most important questions get answered? Is that something that you would recommend or what you do differently?

Kathryn Presner  11:57

Yeah, so we do have? I mean, some people call it a gated contact form, where we have an algorithm that tries to find the answer to their question before they reach a human, which can be frustrating for customers. But it also can save a lot of time for everybody. Because if they type in, how do I renew my domain? And the support page comes up and answers their question, we’ve avoided a whole interaction that was not necessary. I think if that’s fine, as long as you still make it easy for them to bypass that and fill out the form and, you know, submit a ticket or access a live chat. So I’m not sure if that’s quite what you were saying. If that was your question, but.

Jan Koch  12:46

it was the direction. Yeah. 

Kathryn Presner  12:48


Jan Koch  12:49

What I also was wondering is what do you think about contact forms that can be used to send support tickets through? So if it’s like, for example, a contact form that’s then connected to a CRM, where agencies asked for what’s your WordPress version? What’s the theme version? What host are you on? So you just get, like a base level of information. 

Kathryn Presner  13:09

Sure, absolutely collecting some preliminary information can be super helpful. Because if it’s an email-based system, especially where you have, the customer is not waiting, while you’re reading all that. So you get it, you check some things, it can help you certainly do some troubleshooting before you reply. So absolutely. We do that in the forums. So in the, support forums, there are I think, some questions about what, as you said, what version of WordPress I mean, if you see, obviously, someone’s on WordPress, 3.7, or whatever that’s going to be the first thing you’re going to say is, please try upgrading your WordPress version, you know, here are the steps you can do. So yeah, I think those sorts of forums that collect some information before they go through are great. Yeah. I mean, as long as you again, allow people to bypass it, let’s say someone doesn’t know how to tell what version of WordPress they’re running, or what version of plugins or, you know, just make it make those things not… make them optional, I’d say,

Jan Koch  14:06

Yeah, that’s a good point. I remember being in a support loop where the chatbot, who was trying to deliver support. And I kept typing, I need to talk to a human and various versions of that. And they would just say, like, I didn’t understand what you mean. Do you mean this that or the other thing? No.

Kathryn Presner  14:27

That’s so frustrating. I think any chatbot has to immediately when they see the word human bypass, exit, exit the bot? 

Jan Koch  14:36

Yep, definitely. Do you see any other common pitfalls that service providers do when they try to deliver support?

Kathryn Presner  14:45

Yeah, I think not reading the question carefully enough and leaping to a conclusion. And I think, you know, even I’m sometimes guilty of that. If you read something too quickly, and you go, Oh, I know what the answer to that is and you reply, but you didn’t read it carefully enough and the person writes back and says no, that’s not what I said, it’s not that. So I think reading too quickly, assuming that it’s something without taking the time to consider other options. What else? I mean, that’s one pitfall, you know, not being detailed enough in your reply, you know, there’s a temptation sometimes to just try and get through as many tickets as you can, especially if you’re working somewhere where you have, you know, a strict quota system. I know some places are pretty are more, you know, attuned to numbers than others. So if you’re trying to quickly go through, you just reply with like a one-sentence reply. And you don’t actually give the user enough information to solve their problems. So that’s something I guess I’d encourage any company that does customer support, or customer support is part of the experience to set up a bank of I hate the term canned responses at Automattic, we call them predefined replies or pre defs for short. So basically, answers to common questions that will save you time, but that you also encourage people who are replying to adapt those replies so as to not necessarily ever or not often use them out of the box. So basically, you’re saving time. So you’re saying, okay, someone’s saying, I’m having trouble renewing my domain, you might have a predefined reply that explains a checklist, this, this and this, if you know they’ve already checked and B, remove those from your predefined reply and leave CMD. So you know, use those to your advantage, but also always think about customizing them. So that’s one pitfall is not, you know, writing a reply from scratch every single time is a pitfall. So think about setting something up.

Jan Koch  16:47

When is the, what’s the threshold that you would use to set up a can reply for a common question, how often does the question need to be asked?

Kathryn Presner  16:56

Ah you know, I would say like more than twice, we said, we have a ton of predefined replies. And if you’re using a system like Zendesk or in our case, we built a custom-built chat service called HappyChat we built-in predefined replies in certain places. So I’d say, you know, if you find yourself typing the same thing more than twice, literally just put it somewhere, even if you know, if you’re a small agency, you know, put it in a Google doc or put it somewhere where everybody answering can have access it also, it also does an important thing. It encourages consistency. So if you have, you know, five, support people, replying to the same question 10 different ways, you don’t want that you want consistency. Especially if a customer is gonna be having a conversation with multiple people about the same issue. You really want them to feel like they’re talking to, you know, one person with a consistent support experience.

Jan Koch  17:53

It is so important. I couldn’t agree more with that. And also, sometimes I see agencies turn those if they have a common question that gets asked like four or five times, they turn it into a blog post, they turn it into a knowledge base article, they send it out via email proactively to customers, to just say, Hey, we’re still there. We’re still alive and your care. Your care plan is in good hands with us. And we’ve got your back for them. 

Kathryn Presner  18:18

Absolutely that’s a great idea. I also just want to add to and correct something I said before, we in our happy chat live chat system, we don’t actually have predefined replies built-in. But what we use is text expander. So text expander is an app. for Mac at least I’m not sure for PC. And it basically allows you to save snippets, these predefined and it allows you to save them across an organization. So you can have shared text expander snippets. So that’s just one thing. I want to throw out a plug for text expander because it’s a great tool.

Jan Koch  18:49

Yeah, yep, definitely is. So you have like tons of shortcuts that you need to remember for TextExpander.

Kathryn Presner  18:56

Yeah, I mean, I don’t try and memorize them all. I keep text expander open. And I just quickly type in the word that I know is part of the predefined reply. And I find it quickly. But yeah, some of them I remember. But yeah, there’s too many to memorize for sure.

Jan Koch  19:09

Yeah, I can imagine. And so speaking about tools, what other tools do you use in your stack for customer support?

Kathryn Presner  19:16

Oh, gosh, well, we do a lot of scheduled meetings with customers for our quickstart sessions, which are the live one on one sessions where we share our screen. So we use zoom extension, a zoom  Google Calendar extension, which allows us to schedule a meeting directly in the calendar. I use Notational Velocity or they the newer version of Notational Velocity called NV alt. So it’s a it’s a note app. And I really like that, but we all use no at Automattic we’re encouraged to use the tools that work best for us. So some people use Simple Note is one of our products and it’s great. A lot of people use that. I use Todoist for organizing my lists. I’ve been a longtime user of Todoist even way before Automattic. So I use that for, you know, recurring tasks, daily tasks, project-based tasks I love Todoist like those are the main ones. We also internally use, of course, GitHub for organizing bug reports and enhancement reports. We also use Trac another bug and enhancement reporting system, we have sort of the two in parallel, we mostly use GitHub now. Some teams use Asana, some teams use Trello for project management. It depends on the team, we don’t require one particular system. So it depends on what people want. And of course, we use P2, which is, you know, people might have heard P2. P2 is a special WordPress theme that has some real-time communication features. So for example, it has comment threads that appear in real-time, kind of like a Facebook feed. That’s how I compare it. If you’ve never seen P2, it’s kind of like that. Comments are in line just below the posts, and another post and more comments. And we’ve just released a sort of a revamped version of P2, which has some really cool features. So we will use P2 all over Automattic we have you know, hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of P2’s for teams for projects. And so those are critical to our work.

Jan Koch  21:23

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that.  I want to shift the focus a little bit towards the human aspect of providing customer support. And we talked about this at the beginning about staying sane and putting yourself into your customer’s shoes. For me, I will admit it I’m not the most outgoing person even though I’m hosting this virtual conferences, which might sound contra intuitive to what I’m saying now I’m rather an introvert than an outgoing. And I’m not the one bumping onto a table with 10 other people introducing myself. So for that reason, I’m also struggling a little bit with having patience for people who don’t know, things I would take for granted in that situation. So I would love to hear your thoughts on developing empathy when you are providing customer support.

Kathryn Presner  22:18

That’s a great question, how do you develop empathy. So across Automattic, we do empathy exercises. So you know, even developers and designers do this. So a couple of things you can do, basically, you can sign up for a fresh account on And that’s our scenario, create a new site. Be aware of what is feeling intuitive, what is not feeling to it, or what is feeling frustrating. So basically, to go through the process that your customers would, with a fresh eye, help friends and family with their sites. So I recently helped my friend set up a site for a teacher at her college who was retiring, so she collected, you know, messages of support pictures and people and she said, You know, I’m really intimidated by WordPress, can you help me so we did some screen sharing sessions and watching her struggle, and, you know, ask me things was so eye-opening, even though I work with customers every day, you know, this is a friend who can be very, you know, uncensored when she speaks to me, and you know, it’s, you know, we were on for several hours on several different days. So, you know, helping your friends and family build WordPress sites and seeing things through their eyes and remembering what it’s like to be a beginner. I think you need to keep in touch with that beginner’s mind. Because it’s very easy. After you started working with WordPress for a while to start feeling Oh, I know things now. But you have to constantly be going back to that beginner’s mind. So, you know, it’s one thing to go through the process yourself and try and pretend you’re a beginner, but, you know, working with a friend or family member who’s a beginner is a great way. And it’s because they’re not a true customer. You can, you know, you can see how do I put this, you know, you don’t have to, you know, hold back, saying, you know, you can say things like, Oh, you’re right, that should be much more intuitive, you know, so you can take notes, you can go Oh, I should report that and track, you know, core track, that really doesn’t make sense. So I think yeah, working with friends and family to on sites. And yeah, I mean, I think those are two really key things. And also just, you know, too, I think if you’re doing customer support for a living, being patient and having empathy are just two core things that you must have as a human being to do the job. I’m not sure those things can be learned. You can always learn the technical skills, and all those things, but those two qualities I think are essential. If you’re doing support as a side thing, in other words, if you’re not your main, if that’s not your main purpose, like let’s say you, you know you’re a developer of a plugin, but you also do customer support. I know it can be more challenging because, you know, maybe your key strength is programming, development, and not so you, I think remembering that people are not coming to this from the same place that you are is important just reminding yourself, these people are not developers, they may not know any of the words you’re using when you’re trying to explain the solution, just, you know, speak to them, as if it’s somebody who’s looking at WordPress for the very first time. So I think those are all things to keep in mind. I know, it can be challenging for a lot of people. At automatic we have when people start at automatic, they do what we call a support rotation for the first two weeks. So basically, they start at Automattic, they might be working in HR or accounting or a designer, but they do two weeks of support at the beginning. And that can be extremely challenging, but I think it sets a great tone for, you know, for their work at automatic. And I think you might consider that for your company. If somebody is coming on board as a developer for your plugin, maybe have them do two weeks of support when they start. And maybe also do that once a year, or three times a year, or four times a year, you know, after their first two weeks at Automattic and their support rotation. Once a year, they do about a week of support as well. So I think that’s a key thing to do as well if even if you’re not going to be doing support on a regular basis to dip your toe in. And just remember who was this all for? This is for your end-users, this is for your customer. It’s not for you as a developer. So keeping in touch with your customers and users is so important.

Jan Koch  26:39

That’s a fantastic tip. And I love the approach of going back to support even that’s not your primary role, because it’s also forcing you to take in fresh perspectives onto what you’re building. Because, for me, my main frustration was support or with delivering support would be why didn’t they ask Google? It’s so easy to just Google and I’m always tempted to send them a let me Google that for you link, which is probably the worst way to do support ever. But then when I remind myself of taking this as an opportunity to learn how people understand the product that I’ve built, and how they use it, and how I can potentially improve it, and therefore grow my business because of that improve. And I think that is the perspective that for me personally, at least works the best when doing customer support. 

Kathryn Presner  27:32

Absolutely. And you know, the other thing that it does, you know, for us internally, when someone comes in does a support rotation and they say, oh had it. And then they asked something and I give them the answer. And they say well, where’s that documented? I couldn’t find that. And you realize this was just something in your head. And it’s not documented anywhere. So it helps you refresh your documentation. And it keeps your internal processes documented somewhere. Because the worst thing is, you know, somebody is away that day, or maybe they’re on sabbatical, or they’re on parental leave. And nobody knows the answer to this question. And you realize that it’s because you’ve never written it down. So these support rotations with fresh eyes, as you said, are really helpful for that, too.

Jan Koch  28:15

It’s so hard, though, to make the time for that. Like nobody likes to make the time for documentation.

Kathryn Presner  28:23

Totally, at Automattic, we have a Doc’s guild, a documentation guild. So we’re trying to keep our at least our customer-facing documentation, more current, you know, every time the WordPress interface changes, we have to update a million screenshots. But it’s just so essential because you’re going to save yourself so much grief when, you know, I was in a chat with a user last week. And they said I was trying to walk them through making some fairly complex DNS changes and their domain dashboard and I said, you know, where you see the word “host” put this and they said, I’m not seeing host it says “name”. And then I went into the interface and I realized we changed the interface but not the screenshot. So it’s just so essential. So then I put in a, you know, anyway, point being, it’s so important to try and keep everything in sync. But I know it’s not always easy to make time for that, you know, maybe build it into your routine and say, you know, every Friday from 3 to 4pm I’m going to update three Doc’s or you know, just as long as also if you just write them down, say this doc needs updating, this doc needs updating, then maybe one moment when you’re, you know, you need a break from coding or something and you’re like, oh, let me go to that list. Okay, I’ve just checked off I fixed these three docs, just write it down, so you don’t forget. I think that’s important. 

Jan Koch  29:36

Yeah, I would often do those tasks when a meeting gets canceled, because then that’s time I’ve won, and I didn’t account for it in the planning. So yeah, when I tried to do that

Kathryn Presner  29:47

Great idea. Yep.

Jan Koch  29:49

Love it. I’m just looking at the questions that I’ve prepared. So one thing that I would love to talk about is we touched upon this a little bit already, like, how do we hold the hands of our customers as they are trying to achieve something, they’ll say, for example, we’ve built a website in Gutenberg. And we’ve just launched a website. And we need to educate the customer on how to use Gutenberg properly. How would you structure such a process?

Kathryn Presner  30:20

I would do two things, I would set up a screen share session. So zoom makes it really easy to share your screen. And there are two ways to do it, you can share your screen and show things to the client or customer, or they can share their screen and you walk them through it. I prefer the latter, I prefer letting the person drive so to speak. Because they start to feel empowered, you know, you can tell them where to go and what to click, but as they start clicking around, something happens, they start to just get more comfortable with things. So I would do that I set up a screen share session, walk them through, okay, you know, when you’re ready to make a blog post, here’s where you’re gonna go, here’s what you’re going to do. Here’s how Gutenberg works. I try and emphasize the things that Gutenberg allows that used to be so complicated prior, for example, making columns side by side, you used to need a plugin for that, or, you know, he needed to, you know, God forbid, flip to, you know, the code editor and put in the code. You know, it was so complicated. Yes, customers, it used to be so complicated. So I show them some examples of things, you can now do so much more simply. And they, most people get really excited. And so that’s the first thing. So to do a screen share session, share some fun things that you can do, and then document it for them. So when I had my own web development business, I used to make a training guide for each client. And of course, I didn’t start it from scratch every time but I had a base, you know how to use WordPress training guide. And then I would have special sections for each client, if there was something special about their site, like, you know, here’s your custom post type for, you know, recipes or whatever, if they had a special unique thing, I’d build that in. So build a training guide with screenshots. It doesn’t have to be I used to do in PDF these days, I probably just put up a webpage somewhere for them, that could click on things. But yeah, so and also encourage them that here’s something I think is important to encourage people not to spend too much time getting frustrated trying to figure out something to contact you and ask you, because the thing that really breaks my heart is when I have a customer that says, I’ve been trying to figure out this thing for three hours, I’m so frustrated. Oh, why didn’t you contact me after the first 15 minutes, It breaks my heart. So like to encourage your clients not to get frustrated trying to figure something out in Gutenberg or anywhere. But to contact you save them the grief, there’ll be less, there’ll be so much calmer. If they’ve only wasted 15 minutes, than three hours to so it’ll be everyone will be happier if they don’t wait.

Jan Koch  32:53

Yeah, yeah, that is a fantastic tip. And also, because that keeps you in the mind of your customer in a positive aspect, because you are able to help them in most cases. And then obviously, that will likely translate into more future work with the client, because they see how much you care about the progress. 

Kathryn Presner  33:11

Absolutely. Yep. 

Jan Koch  33:14

Love it. Um, when it comes to the screen shares, would you record them and send the customer a recording of those? Or would you not do that?

Kathryn Presner  33:23

Absolutely. I mean, when we do our quickstart sessions that I’ve been mentioning, I always asked the beginning if they’d like me to record it, and we’d send it to them. And absolutely, they can play it back, they can pause. Because sometimes, you know, we try and cram in a lot to these sessions. So I say, you know, we might be going a little quickly, but you’ll be able to pause and play it back later. So that’s a great point, to ask them if they’d like to record it.

Jan Koch  33:46

Love it. And what do you do if customers then don’t use the materials that you gave them, for example, I have one customer. It is a quite conservative, small business here in Germany. And my point of contact is this lovely 64-year-old woman. And when she sends me something that needs updating on the website, she would print the website and then highlight with a pen, what needs to be updating and I’ve tried so many things to get the screenshot to work. It just doesn’t work.

Kathryn Presner  34:21

That can be challenging. I mean, you can either keep trying but in different ways. So, you know, I try to be aware that if something I did, they’re just not able to follow. I try it coming at it from a different angle. So for example, let’s say you were trying to tell the person you know, to take a screenshot, you’re on a Mac, so click, you know, command shift, three, then attach it. If that’s if they’re just not getting that, try a different way. So for example, there’s a website that is called, something like that, that you can go to the webpage, you can click a button, it generates a link with the screenshot. So maybe try something like that. So I’d say like, just try another method for accomplishing the same goal. And that can, you know, that’s just one example. But like, you know, if someone’s trying to add a link to a word, and they’re just not getting it, and you’ve already sent them a screenshot, well try a screencast. You know, record yourself doing it very slowly, you know, use audio explain exactly what you’re doing at every step. So yeah, just try multiple ways. And if you’ve really tried five different ways, and they’re just not getting it, just say to yourself, this is their thing, we’re just going to have to bear with the PDF and the highlighted thing, and that. It’s their thing. What are you gonna do? Yeah, try a few different ways. But you know, a certain point, you know, you don’t know have too much time.

Jan Koch  35:50

It’s also about avoiding frustrating on your own. And as well, like, you’re not going to fight mountains with yours. You’re just finding at some point, you have to settle for a way that works for the customer and yourself. 

Kathryn Presner  36:05


Jan Koch  36:07

Love it. Kathyrn, we have so much more to cover. But we’re coming into land, unfortunately, already. And as we said, before the recording, I need to be respectful of your time here. If there’s maybe one important lesson that you’ve learned over the past of being a Happiness Engineer, what would you say that custom support people need to know to really excel in that position?

Kathryn Presner  36:34

I think it’s the two things that I mentioned at the start, which is empathy and patience. I think those are just so critical. And you know, if you want to work in customer support, and you don’t feel like those are strong qualities, you know, if you have a nugget of it, I think you can develop it. So I think just to be mindful of that, just remember that your customer is trying to accomplish something and your goal is to help them achieve it. And you know, to just keep trying to put yourself in their place. And remember they just want a great website, and you’re there to help. That’s it.

Jan Koch  37:15

I love it. Where do people go if they want to get in touch with you and want to learn more about what you do?

Kathryn Presner  37:21

I have a personal site. So And you can probably reach out to me on Twitter is the best way, if you want to chat.

Jan Koch  37:31

Fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on, Kathryn.

Kathryn Presner  37:34

My pleasure. It’s been fun!

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