Or: Open sourcing Phusion’s customer support product

Support is a great place to start when trying to get a feel for how people are using your product. Understanding the type of problems developers run into and analyzing the words they use to describe issues and (feature) requests is a great value when writing documentation, release notes, bug reports or blog posts. The ability to back product ideas up with customer requests means you’re halfway towards team buy-in.

A little while ago we wrote about all the ways you can up your customer support and teased the blog post you’re reading right now.

(Support) life hacking GitHub

Relatively new to the Phusion Passenger team I grab every opportunity to learn from the vast amount of customer interactions. Phusion self-hosted tool ‘Support Central’, an aggregator for various support channels, makes that task ridiculously easy. Support Central displays, in a central interface, which support tickets need replying to (but doesn't offer a history of archived tickets). This allows our support team to easily handle both community and commercial support, over multiple channels, in a central interface.

I've learned that Phusion started with GitHub tagging through Support Central because they needed a more efficient way to monitor GitHub issue tickets. Support Central helps us get a quick overview of which tickets are potentially blocked, rather than us periodically scrolling through the list and re-reading all the tickets. More efficiency means we can help more people!

Supported channels include:

  • GitHub issue tracker
  • FrontApp (endpoint for Phusion enterprise customer support)
  • SupportBee (not currently used by Phusion)
  • Any RSS feed. We use this feature to track tags on Stack Overflow.

Support Central dashboard

Support Central tracks Github issues, so for every repository for which the webhook is installed, the following happens:

  • If a new issue is opened by a non-Phusion member, the issue gets the 'SupportCentral' label
  • If a new issue comment is posted by a non-Phusion member, the issue gets the 'SupportCentral' label
  • This label is removed if a Phusion member posts a comment in that issue
  • Support Central displays all issues with the 'SupportCentral' label

Support Central label
The ‘SupportCentral’ label is automatically added, Hongli is not frantically assigning and un-assigning labels (usually).

Next steps for Support Central

Support Central is written in Ruby on Rails and its source code is hosted on GitHub. A deployment guide can be found in the root folder of the repository. We encourage you to clone/fork away and make your DevRel / CSM team’s day!

Support Central will be one of the projects that participants at ROSS conf Amsterdam can get their teeth in. Among other things we’re looking for contributions that help filter content, present tickets in better ways, add smart/canned responses and add auto-refreshing.

We’ve so far been unable to upgrade to Rails 5.2, probably because of schema_plus gem related issues. I’d be grateful for every suggestion here, until May 11/12, find me on Twitter. I’m equally curious about feature requests you might like to add to the issue tracker: https://github.com/phusion/support_central/issues

Phusion is looking for a Customer Success Manager to join the team. Make sure to check out our careers page.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash