Forum, Tickets, Or FAQ?

Carl Hancock who is part of the team behind GravityForms asked an interesting question on Twitter the other day.

What do you prefer for software support? A support forums or a good FAQ and a support ticket system?

I thought it would be nice to expand on the question so that we can answer it with more than 140 characters. In the past, I’ve really enjoyed working with software that has an in-depth FAQ because I enjoy solving my own problems. I think the more avenues for support, the better. However, if you are offering so many ways to receive support to the point where it’s decreasing the overall quality of support, then you introduce a new problem. I’d rather go to one place that I know is going to give great support and not spend time with four or five different methods that are sub par. There is no reason though why a good FAQ can’t compliment either a ticketing system or a forum, although one could argue that a forum fills both needs. I’d to hear what you think is the best method of support based on experience.

Last but not least, do not use the commenting form on a blog post to provide support. Nothing like traversing hundreds of comments to see if one is similar to the problem I’ve having.


16 responses to “Forum, Tickets, Or FAQ?”

  1. FAQ and Forums I guess.

    Support tickets are just some glorified forums in terms of functionality (Ok I might overreact here but if you gent an answer on a forum or a support ticket it’s pretty much the same).

    Also with forums you have the possibility to search for answers. Chances are you won’t have to wait for some one to answer.

  2. My question came out of wanting to improve the support that we offer customers. Currently we have an FAQ (that is just getting started) and a forum system.

    My issue with the forums is it sometimes feels like organized chaos. I don’t always find them efficient for finding what I am looking for and sometimes feel like I spend too much time searching for an answer. This is my experience with most support forums.

    What got me interested in exploring other options was this post on the 37Signals blog about their new Answers system.

    They are basically blending a Question and Answer system into what effectively becomes a FAQ system powered by user submitted questions. Duplicating what 37signals has done as a WordPress Plugin would be pretty cool.

    My issue with this is I don’t think it would work paired with a Forum. As you mentioned, you can’t do all of them… so what combination works best?

  3. @Cristian Antohe – Support Tickets are better when passing sensitive information back and forth. They are more private by nature which makes requesting and receiving information such as site logins much easier to manage… with forums you have to take those conversations to email or private messages.

    Support Tickets are also easier to manage from a support team standpoint. You can assign tickets to specific people, etc. You can cut down on duplication of effort (multiple support people responding to one forum post).

    There is a reason why large companies with massive user bases typically rely on a support ticket system rather than forums for a paid support environment. It’s easy to manage.

    A lot of support ticket systems also enable you to turn selected support tickets into FAQ items that are then made public in a knowledge base.

  4. You really only need a support forums and a continually growing FAQ. That way you have two methods users can choose from. Those who need a quick answer, there’s an FAQ. Those who need who have more time to troubleshoot the bug and discuss, there’s a support forums.

    When the software launches, create a support forums, but also create a basic FAQ section with questions you know they are going to ask. With questions that repeatedly get asked in the support forums, add them to the FAQ. Also do that with popular threads so you’re always giving those who need quick answers a means of quickly getting them via the FAQ.

  5. Forums only work well when they are moderated heavily and there is an outstanding search feature. I cannot stand getting into forums that have the exact same question replicated over and over and can’t filter them out.

    Any system also needs to take into account deprecation of information. That’s always something that takes a lot of time and effort, but is hugely important.

    I like the idea of using a forum or a ticket system with publicly viewable tickets that the software owners then use to feed a comprehensive FAQ. This allows for the benefits of a FAQ, but also allows you to see current issues/resolutions that haven’t yet been absorbed into it.

    Forums also work well if you can benefit from crowdsourcing the support :)

  6. @Carl Hancock I do agree with you on the Support Ticketing for large companies and sensitive information. I did work a bit with Kayako SupportSuite in the past and it really helps the Support providers a lot.

    What I wanted to say is that in the case of Gravity Forms I would still like Support Forums over Tickets. It just feels right for me. :)

  7. Tickets all the way. I haven’t seen forums that enable you to manage and monitor support requests the way support ticket suites do. They feel like organized chaos, because they are. And stuff gets lost. And overlooked.

    If you’ve ever dumped your support question in a forum and never gotten a response, that’s no fun. With a ticket, there’s a higher level of accountability. Too many times things get lost in forums, at least in my experience.

    It depends on the price point of the product and degree of difficulty of the product as well though. I associate higher dollar products with support tickets and lower price point products with forum or FAQ support. Let’s be real here, FAQ’s can be helpful, but I don’t think they constitute customer support.

    Forums are great because users can help each other, which might be fine if you purchased a $20 piece of software, but not ok when you’re running into issues with a $1000 dedicated server.

    Short of phone support, I believe tickets are the most comprehensive way to give your customers the fastest and best service possible. :) Support tickets also provide a more organized means of not only reviewing tickets for quality control but documenting issues over time and then returning to past issues if needed.

  8. My forums use a plugin that the user can mark as a support question. If it’s not resolved, the admin are well aware of it.

    I personally prefer forums over support tickets just because of the search feature. Also, with tickets, I feel it a bit impersonal. If a forum is run correctly, the users get to know the owners and vice-versa.

    For duplicate posts, I usually use the post content as another entry into my FAQ section.

  9. I think out of all the support forums I have access to I like the WooThemes one the most. They have 2 paid support people plus the rest of the team chimes in from time to time. I usually get an answer in less than a few hours.

  10. I’ve been trying to help my wife with this question for her startup.

    Reference. Use this when the userbase is sophisticated, hands-on and will want to understand HOW things work instead of just getting them to work. Example would be Buddypress or WordPress theming where how things work supports structured creativity.

    FAQ. Best used with discrete questions of how to get a task completed. If it’s frequent enough, it suggests a hidden feature, bug or area where enhancement is warranted. Example would be help in MS Excel – How do I copy multiple cells? Discrete question, discrete answer. No desire to understand how things work, just get things done.

    Forums. Best used in two situations. First, complex queries that require an iterative response where information is iteratively provided to understand the issue and solve the problem. Reviewers of the thread can determine if their context is the same as the original poster. Second, creating something new where iterative test-retest posts allow answers to become apparent asynchronously over time.

    Tickets. I think tickets are best when forums are too unwieldy and don’t provide support fast enough. Also, when privacy is important, tickets are superior. However, if structured forum posts are used in a vibrant community, I think they should be superior to tickets in most cases except when emergency response times are needed and supportable.

    In the end, I use all the above, but gravitate to reference and forums. FAQs are usually seldom updated to incorporate lessons learned in forums – a shame. Tickets except to webhosts tend to have horrible response times. Unfortunately, structured posting in forums is rare (and GF is a great position to change that on their site). As a result of these realities, I search forums to answer questions I know others must have and use reference to fine tune my implementations.

  11. I used the Gravity Forms forum today to search for a problem I’m sure others were having, and I was right. It was an issue with redirecting, and the thread answered my question.

    A ticket or an e-mail might have solved my issue, but the forum was faster.

  12. I agree with Carl that forums are usually ‘organized chaos’ and when you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, it’s frustrating if there’s no backup system. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a quality answer if you post a new topic.

    I like support tickets, especially when they’re answered promptly. That 37Signals idea sounds interesting as well.

  13. Well, a forum is good because in most cases the problem was already posted by someone. FAQ is not interactive so not too much waste of time to keep it up to date. A ticket system is nothing more than a private forum. Maybe some people don’t like to post their problems on forums but if they are public, the changes that someone will find the problems solved are probably around 95%.

    A live support will be a good addition, i think.

  14. Support forums and FAQ. You can even combine the two by stickying your FAQ in the forum.

    Ticketing systems just plain suck. If no one else can see the questions/answers then I see no point. Perhaps for paid support they’re okay, but certainly not for free support. For free support you need to make sure you can keep your support load as tiny as possible and so having a massive stock pile of previously answered questions can make a huge difference to reducing the support you need to offer.

    Blog posts are stupid place to provide support unless you only have a tiny number of support questions being asked. I refuse to answer any questions in my blog posts and having to rifle through hundreds of support questions in blog posts is a nightmare.

    I ended up with over 1000 support questions on the blog post for my first ever WordPress plugin. It only took a month or two before I purchased another domain and plonked a forum on it to rid my blog of the annoying number of comments.

    I’m also thinking of branching out into video-tutorials as some people don’t seem to be able to understand simple instructions in textual form.

  15. I think of you are going to effectively manage a forum (and that’s the big key), that can help a lot, but the nice thing about a ticket system is that customers can get an issue resolved and they know they are going to get a response.

    Realmac Software ( does a really nice job with their support system, especially when you consider that they have thousands of users and only a handful of employees ( They used to have the ticketing system built-into their community forums but they have since switched to a community forum area that is very helpful and that includes lots of people in the add-on community, as well as a separate direct support place that is run completely by the support staff. That aspect runs on Tender, which is a help desk backend from ENTP ( The nice thing about that is that it is searchable and archiveable, but you also have the ability to decide what requests or problems are kept private or public. So if you want to make every support request private by default you can. That’s pretty much what 37signals is doing (Tender, that is), only with a more narrow focus and a more accessible/product specific backend.

    I always like looking at what other people in maybe parallel fields are using. Get Satisfaction is common (but as an end-user I always prefer Tender-based help desks to the GS stuff) and if you could combine a way to mark an answer as ANSWERED and then tag it as an FAQ, you might effectively be able to get something from a forum that could also act as a repository.

    Not sure how difficult that would be to build as a WP plugin, as I imagine it might work better with its own database as its own PHP or Python project, but that’s just me.


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