6-Months In, It’s Time to Make Some Changes

Wow, it’s hard to believe that yesterday was the first day of July. It seems like just yesterday we were dealing with ice and sitting around a fireplace. To say 2015 has been a busy year would be a major understatement, we’ve grown by double digits every single month this year.

Thanks to the growing workload, we’ve had to reevaluate the way we do things and we’re making some changes. Some of these changes are taking place immediately, some of them will be phased in during July, and there are a couple of internal projects that we’re working overtime on right now, but they’re not ready to share just yet.

Our new support system

I didn’t know how much our WordPress support clients would appreciate this change. Prior to June 1, we had an email based support system that flowed into our HelpScout support desk. Internally, this worked great: we could move tickets between agents, monitor support response times, reply to tickets, and have internal conversations if we needed a second opinion on how to implement a client’s change.

But we didn’t think about what our clients were seeing or rather what they weren’t seeing. All they could see were the emails. They couldn’t see that an agent had opened their ticket to work and they couldn’t see all of their previous tickets without looking for each email. Well that’s all changed.

Now, our clients have a complete help desk from within their support portal. They can view their plan level, billing history, create a new support ticket, and view every ticket they’ve submitted. This has been a major improvement in our support system. Internally, our system still works the same, but by making our client side support more transparent, we’re making our clients’ lives easier.

We’re launching a new billing system

This is the change I’m most excited about. Currently our billing system is managed through my computer with a cloud hosted database. With our new billing system, everything changes.

Because our new system isn’t just for billing, it’s an all-in-one project management portal for us and our clients. Once this system goes live at the end of the month, it will be used for proposals, project management, client communication, and billing. Gone are the days of one service to approve a proposal, another to monitor progress, and a third system to pay an invoice.

Now when a proposal is approved, it is automatically added to our workflow. All of the milestones and tasks from the proposal are brought into our project management dashboard where you can view our progress as we bring your project to life. And once the project is completed, you’ll pay your invoice balance through the same system and immediately have access to download all of your project files (or schedule for us to transfer files to your server).

But it’s not going to end there. The system that we selected was chosen specifically because of the API capabilities. This API will allow us to build out new features and further automate our processes as we move forward.

We’re changing how we structure payments

For years, we’ve followed the trend of a 50% deposit when the project starts and the remainder billed once the project is complete. Overall this has worked great, but as our project load has grown larger and pushed our availability of starting a new project to several weeks, we’ve started to notice a few issues with a couple of projects.

On a couple of projects recently, we’ve had to push back the start date because of their internal payment schedule. This doesn’t just create an issue for us by creating a hole in our workflow schedule, but it can cause timeline issues for our clients.

So starting August 1st, we’re making a couple of major changes to our deposit and invoicing schedule. For small projects (under $2,500) we’ll bill the complete amount up-front. Our smaller projects will be managed through our new Dedicated Developer service. You’ll schedule a particular time, one-half to two days in length, and have a developer dedicated to your project on that day.

For larger projects (above $2,500), we’re reducing our upfront deposit to 25% to place the project into workflow with the remaining 75% due within 7 days of when the project is presented for review. By collecting a deposit upfront, we’re able to eliminate scheduling holes which is allowing us to reduce our project rates by 15% – not something many agencies are able to do.

We’re dropping PayPal

There was a point in time when PayPal was the only choice in online payments. But over the years, more innovative companies have emerged while PayPal has lagged behind, a relic of the early 2000s.

We’ve been using Stripe for a couple of years, and the majority of our clients have easily adopted our online payment process. But a couple of our legacy clients have preferred making payments through PayPal. After having several conversations with them about security and our desire to move to a  system with a working two-factor authentication login, we’re confident in our decision to transition seamlessly to Stripe.

So once our new client dashboard and invoicing platform launches on August 1st, we’ll no longer accept payments through PayPal.

You can now book a dedicated developer

One thing that’s been really obvious this year is that our project timelines fall into two groups, those that only take 4-16 hours and those that take hundreds of hours. We’ve been managing our small projects the same way we manage our big projects, and that’s started taking a toll on our productivity.

So in the next week or two, we’ll be launching our dedicated developer service. If you have a project that’s 16 hours or less, the way your project is handled is about to change dramatically. Instead of scheduling a project and having it completed within a week or two, you’ll now be able to choose the exact day or two you would like to have your project completed. And instead of not knowing who is working on your project, you’ll have a single, dedicated developer that’s fully devoted to completing your project on-schedule.

The dedicated developer program will also be available as a monthly retainer, giving you access to a developer month after month on a day that works for you. This gives you the ability to continually improve and add larger features to your site, or add a WordPress developer to your team for a day.

Conclusion

The first half to 2015 has made this year our busiest year yet. But with more projects coming into the pipeline, it was time to reevaluate our processes to improve our efficiency and make our clients’ lives easier. So over the next month, you’ll see our new WordPress support ticketing system, a new client dashboard and billing portal, changes to our deposit and invoicing structure, and the launch of our dedicated developer service.

The half-way point of the year is the perfect time to evaluate what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve fallen short, and what you can do to improve and grow over the remaining 6 months. We’ve announced some of our major initiatives, but we have even more that’s still on the whiteboard.

What are the changes you can make in your business to make 2015 your best year yet?