Tim Bowers: Josh.
Josh: We are calling you to discuss reviews and I told Micah that if we were gonna talk WordPress reviews, we needed to bring on Tim Bowers: the man, the legend, COO of WPMU DEV, and support god. So, tell us a little bit about what you do, and kind of how you started out.
Tim: Mmm, maybe we don’t want to tell people what I do, because then I might sound like I’d be replaceable [laughter]. Ah, so how did I start out? Well, James launched this, “earn a lifetime free membership,” and…well, yeah, I like competitions, I’m quite competitive, so yeah I think it was was something like two weeks, maybe, or two and a half weeks, and I had the first…free lifetime membership at WPMU DEV…
Micah: [laughing] That’s amazing.
Tim: Yeah, I think it was some months later on after in the lifetime membership, James finally asked me if I’d come work for the company. And then I think it was within the space of around a year… I took over as head of support and started building the team out. We took response times down from hours and sometimes even days, and longer than that….
Josh: How many people were on the support team–or maybe in the company as a whole–when you joined WPMU DEV?
Tim: I’m gonna say somewhere in the region of maybe like six to eight?
Josh: Six to eight people. That sounds about right. And and today, we’re clipin’ a hundred.
Tim: Pretty close to a hundred, yeah.
Josh: And you are in charge of trying to make those processes across, not just support now, but for plugin development and services and just everything that we do making it efficient and effective for our member.
Tim: Yes, well trying; you know, I can’t take credit for it all. I think, uh, the guys that we that we have working for us they they do all the hard work. they just ah, they just make me look good and I take the credit for it so…
Josh: So, when you think about reviews in WordPress, they’re really hard to get removed and so when when somebody publishes something–and and I guess that would go for pretty much any platform–but when somebody publishes something on WordPress…that’s gonna be remembered, and it’s gonna live long. So, how have we used reviews to help shape us as… shape our products, shape our services?
Tim: So, first of all…approaching the reviews…I’ve said to staff, that worked within the company before, trying to trying to approach it by being, you know human, first of all. I’m I’m I’m not gonna lie, you know, I’ve I’ve certainly failed that a few times in the past when I felt the reviews are a little bit too personal. Sometimes there is truth in it, and I suppose that that’s when it hurts a little bit more. Those are the situations when it feels like I’ve always personally handled them best: the ones that are true. Because, you you know, if it’s true, you gotta take that feedback and you can you know you’re gonna take it on board and try to fix whatever the problem is and if you can’t fix it there and then you’ve got to have some kind of plan when you constantly moved towards, you know, hitting that…that goal making sure that won’t be an issue for people in the future. Can you hear okay with that noise in the background?
Josh: Are you are you make a sandwich?
Tim: Um, yes let’s…let’s call it a sandwich. Let’s not call it like a … half a pint of rum and coke.
Josh: Are we boring you that much?
Tim: Absolutely. No, I’m a multitasker.
Tim: Yeah, so those those ones that maybe I haven’t handled personally took so well in the past is like I said, where I felt like it was unfair and unjust. And you know I…I try and encourage staff to learn from my mistakes so that they they take a much more level-headed approach to reviews.
Josh: Right. Yeah, and that definitely navigating between when there’s validity to something that is being said …and regardless, though, you have to respond, even if we disagree with the feedback. But making sure that people feel heard.
Tim: If you…if you actually look at some of my responses…to members over the years, when I don’t agree with their feedback, I will enter into a discussion, and usually tell them why I don’t agree with, you know, what they’re saying. But, on the other hand, you’ll also see that where they do identify an issue that I can totally get behind and that we need to improve, I’m one of the first ones to put my hand up and say, “Yeah, you know, this is a bit, you know, crap. This needs to be addressed. Sorry about that. It’s maybe gonna take a little bit of time to do it. We’re gonna…we’re gonna look into this and we’re gonna make it better.”
Micah: How far do we go to change somebody’s mind? If they leave a bad review, how far do we engage in trying to change their mind? Or, do we?
Tim: Oh, well. I was kind of hoping that you’d forgot about that. Because if we let the secret sauce out, you know, members will know the buttons to press.
Micah: I’ll just bleep your whole answer.
Tim: Yeah, so, bleeeeeeeep.
Tim: I feel like if a customer is, you know, incredibly unhappy about the situation and you know they just want their money back, then trying to identify with the customer–understand what the actual issue is, and ask them if, you know, if we can put that right for them…. But, I find that maybe like eight out of ten times, when when somebody’s asking for a refund, they’re often asking for help but they don’t necessarily want to actually ask for help. So, you know, just putting that option there, just saying, “Absolutely,” you know, “we can give you the refund. But before doing that, you know can we do this for you?” Or, “Can we do this?” And like I said, I find that those experiences are also the ones that lead on to really positive reviews.