Customer Support at a Bootstrapped WordPress Theme Startup: The WooThemes Story

This interview is part of our Startup SuperStars series. You can checkout our conversations with other SuperStars here.

The rise of WordPress from a nimble blogging engine to a Content Management System powering millions of web sites has been meteoric. In addition to the selfless work by the folks at Automattic, a handful of indie developers were very much instrumental in taking WordPress mainstream.

WooThemes is a massively popular brand in the WordPress theming vertical. But, even before the inception of WooThemes and probably even before people started recognizing WordPress as a proper CMS, there was Adii, the WordPress Rockstar. He was very vocal, opinionated and his work, exceptional.

Shortly afterwards, he founded WooThemes and the history of the company becoming a million dollar enterprise is very well documented online. We asked him about their urge to innovate pushing the limits of WordPress, their business model, customer support practices, bootstrapping and more. You can read all about it after the break!

Customers have the option to either buy a theme or a club subscription to access all themes. Which one is popular the choice at WooThemes?

Our club subscriptions are very popular, but individual sales are responsible for a bigger chunk of our overall revenue.

What difficulties and bottlenecks have you faced with customer support and how have you solved them?

We have encountered quite a few and have worked with CoSupport to help us fix these. The fixes / tweaks are our secret for the moment though. :)

Comprehensive documentation for each and every theme is a USP of WooThemes. Does this help in reducing the number of support queries?

Yes, most definitely. We try to focus a lot of our energy on creating what we call “passive support resources” (our documentation, FAQ’s, tutorials, Knowledgebase etc.), because these should help solve customers’ problems without the need for one of us to manually intervene.

From time to time you retire old themes. WooThemes offers a steep discount for upgrading to a new theme, still it might not go down well with some customers. How do you handle customer complaints?

We try to be fair and reasonable in whatever we do; so every customer complaint is regarded to be valid. And then we react based on the merit of the complaint / problem; we don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all policy to implement in every situation and would rather try to give an individual customer the benefit of the doubt in such a situation.

You got hacked few months ago. How did your customers react to the downtime?

We were actually quite astounded by the response, since 99,9% of the feedback we got was very positive, understanding & supportive. I believe this was down to the fact that we’ve build a great relationship with our users, who we’ve found to be very loyal. So during the downtime, we did our best to make things as easy as possible for our users and they saw that we were sincerely doing the best we could given the circumstances.

The Affiliated Woo Workers program sounds interesting. What motivated you to come up with this idea and how is the response from your customers?

Many of our users require advanced help in customizing our themes, which is something that we don’t have the capacity to take on. So the Affiliated Woo Workers are designers & developers who we can recommend to our users for these types of projects, since they’ve shown themselves to be more than capable of working on great WooThemes modifications.

WooFramework, WooSlider, WooCommerce.. You guys continue to innovate and push the envelope when it comes to WP development. How much time is dedicated to R&D?

We probably split our development team’s time about 50:50 between R&D and maintenance (bugs, tweaks, upgrades etc.). We do however try to be as lean as possible and release very concise MVP’s for our V1 releases, which means we don’t “overspend” on R&D before we know a product has traction.

How do you tackle piracy?

We don’t. :)

Are you funded or still bootstrapping? Share with us your insights about keeping a startup profitable.

We’re 100% bootstrapped.

To stay profitable over all these years, I believe we’ve stayed hungry & continued to work incredibly hard towards our goals & vision. Sure, our technology and products are good, and we’ve built a great brand, but the one thing that has contributed most to our success is our work ethic.

What’s next for WooThemes? Do you have plans for diversification into other verticals (like app development etc.)?

We are planning loads of things that will see us go up & down our current vertical (and maybe even expand horizontally a little). But as far as I can say at the moment, we won’t be making any drastic changes in the short or medium term. :)

Big thanks for Adii for the interview. You can follow him on Twitter or catch up with him on his personal blog!

Got any questions for Adii? Drop it in the comments section and we’ll ask him for you!

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