How important is customer support in WordPress? Well, we’re going to find out today. It is my pleasure to introduce, WordPress lover and a customer support addict, Davor Altman. Currently he works as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic and he also started the Customer Happiness community in his home country of Serbia. Davor is passionate about providing quality support to WordPress customers. He inspires others to always look for more and to never stop learning. He is a speaker at WordCamps, where we also had an opportunity to meet him in person. He is very friendly, humble, easy going and fun to have around.
Hi Davor, first of all, thank you for taking your time for the interview, so happy to have u here. Let’s take a peek into your life. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you started your journey with WordPress?
Thank you for the invitation and kind words, Ana! I am honored to be here 🙂
I got introduced to WordPress in 2012. At that time, I was working in an Italian call center and I wanted to learn more about the web. A friend of mine told me stories about WordPress and I got intrigued and curious. I installed WordPress locally and I started learning the ways of the web. A couple of months later, I quit the call center job and I tried to dive deeper into the world of the open source and WordPress. I’ve been caught in the web ever since 🙂
When have you decided that WordPress will be your career? Did you know exactly what you wanted to be when you grow up ;)?
Absolutely not 🙂 I changed so many jobs! I was a basketball player for almost 10 years, I studied Italian language and literature, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to do in life. However, I always knew I wanted to help people in some way but I never anticipated that I’ll achieve that via Customer Support. And once I got to know WordPress, I knew I wanted it to remain a part of my life.
When I discovered it’s possible for me to combine Customer Support with WordPress, that was it 🙂 I realized WordPress is and will remain my career.
Let’s talk a bit about the customer support. I know you really love doing what you do. What made you develop such affection to providing support? How hard or easy it is to work with people? Can you share any interesting stories with us?
As I mentioned above, I always wanted to help people and Customer Support is a perfect place to assist them in resolving their problems. At the end of the day, I like to think about how many problems I helped get resolved that day and how many people are happier because of the work I did that day. Working with people is not easy, but it’s not difficult either. I’d say it’s complex because there are so many variables that should be taken into account – the customer’s mood, the type of the problem they have, the gravity of the problem, their own thoughts on the gravity of the problem they have, and so on. Nevertheless, I love the change of the customer’s mood that the work of Customer Support can produce. When they open a ticket or start a chat, you can often feel the frustration of the customer. After the problem gets resolved, you can sense the transformation that occurred and how frustration became happiness. That’s what I love the most about Customer Support. And that’s why I love the titles we have at Automattic – Happiness Engineers 🙂
I have so many stories to share but I think we’ll need a couple of extra blog posts for them 😉
How important customer support is for the WordPress business? Do you have some advice for our readers?
I believe that Customer Support is as important part of the WordPress business as is development, design, marketing, or any other aspect of a business. Customer Support should never be neglected as it serves as a bridge between a business and its customers and it has a major impact on both sides. Word of mouse that your Customer Support can create can be more powerful than another feature you add to the product, or another campaign you launch, or the new UI interface you plan on shipping. I think that’s something we should always keep in our minds.
What’s the story behind your current position as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic? How you ended up there and what have you learned from it? Is it your dream job? I know, three questions in one, but that is a standard here;).
Hehe, I see that! Well, it’s a really long story but I’ll try to fit it into one decent paragraph 🙂 Anyway, my first job that involved WordPress was a Customer Happiness engineer position at ManageWP. I stayed with ManageWP for a bit over 2 years and I ended up leading the Customer Happiness team there. I learned so much and I am forever thankful for the time I’ve been with them. However, at some point, I just didn’t feel happy about the work I did there and I knew I had to make a change in my career. I learned about Automattic and I was intrigued with what I heard about their company culture and the work they do and I knew I wanted to be a part of that. So, long story short, I quit my job at ManageWP and I applied for a Happiness Engineer position at Automattic. It took a lot of patience, studying, and sleepless nights in order to get there 🙂 I’ve been a Happiness Engineer at Automattic for a bit over a year and I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined but still less than I intend to learn 🙂 It’s definitely my dream job – I have an opportunity to combine my two passions, WordPress and Customer Happiness, and I work everyday to make the web a better place. That’s what I want and I couldn’t ask for more 🙂
Is there a project you’ve been working on that you are specially proud of? Can you share some of the projects that you are working on at the moment?
I worked on many things since I joined Automattic and there are a couple of projects I am really proud of. However, I am most proud of the work I did in regards to training people – candidates and colleagues. I am a great believer in sharing knowledge and I can never forget how I felt before I learned what I know now and how thankful I am to everyone who helped me. I think that’s the most important project in my professional career that will always be present.
Besides that, I worked on a few interesting projects which I am really proud of how they turned out. Actually, right now I am working on a project which is probably the most challenging project I ever worked on during my professional career. I can’t share what it is at the moment, though. I don’t want to spoil the fun but I’ll let you know in a few months what’s in question 🙂
How hard was to choose what you want to do in your life? Did you have some other serious interests that could have become your daily job?
I think our jobs choose us somehow 🙂 I wanted to be a basketball player when I was younger, but I had too many injuries so that didn’t work out. Afterward, I wanted to become a professional translator but at some point, I realized it wasn’t my call. As I mentioned earlier, I did always have a desire to help people but I had no clue what I wanted to do in my life exactly.
I think that, after I stopped thinking what I could do and after I just went with the flow, the answer presented itself to me. And I am glad it turned out to be a career in providing Happiness to WordPress users 🙂
What do you think about WordCamps? How WordCamps are beneficial for the people? What does WordPress community mean to you?
WordPress community is the biggest and the strongest part of the WordPress ecosystem. I believe it’s the very heart of it and it’s what makes WordPress so great. There are so many people who are working every day on making WordPress better and they are all contributing by working in their own areas of expertise. This is amazing! And WordCamps are places where you can meet all these interesting people, places where you can share ideas and where friendships and business deals are made, places where you can learn so much!
Whoever’s into WordPress but has never been at a WordCamp, go to a WordCamp – you won’t regret it! And whoever’s not into WordPress, and has never been at a WordCamp, go to a WordCamp – you won’t regret it 🙂 Everyone else, I hope I’ll see you at WordCamp Europe in Paris which is going to take place this June. Cheers 🙂
You are also speaker at WordCamps. How did you decide to do it the first time? Do you have a stage fright?
Stage fright is actually one of the reasons why I became a speaker at WordCamps 🙂 Basically, I wanted to overcome this fear of mine and I also wanted to share a few things I learned so far during my career. Whenever I get up on the stage I have this strange feeling which is a mix of fear, anxiety, excitement, and happiness. I like it 🙂
Do you think WordPress is the best CMS for beginners? Is there any feature you would like to see in the upcoming WordPress releases?
I think WordPress is indeed the best CMS for beginners but also for experienced folks with a background in web technologies. However, I do think that beginners should also try other popular CMS software like Joomla! and Drupal, just so that they can see the differences between those CMS and WordPress. Nevertheless, no other CMS has such a strong community as WordPress does and for me, that’s something that’s incredibly important, especially for beginners!
Regarding the feature I’d like to see get implemented into WordPress, that’s a tough one! There are so many things that I’d like to see there but if I had to choose, I’d go with a better way of handling plugin incompatibilities. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement here which would make all our lives so much easier. I’d classify this as a feature because I’d really like to see it get developed as a whole new WordPress feature with its own place in the WP Admin area.
How does your working day look like? Do you have some tips on how to balance work and free time?
I usually start working early in the morning, around 6:30 am. I found that I am most productive in the first 4-5 hours after I wake up and I tend to use that time to get the biggest chunk of my daily work done. Afterward, I take a long break from work and I enjoy my free time. If the weather’s nice, I don’t miss the opportunity to take long walks together with my wife.
At around 7 pm, I get back to work and I’m usually in front of my laptop until midnight. I found that, by dividing my work time into the morning and evening sessions, I am more productive than working 8 hours straight. Plus, I get free time throughout most of the day 🙂
What success means to you? How would you define success?
For me, success is being happy. Right here, right now. If you are happy with yourself and the life you are living, you are successful. My $0.02 🙂
Do you have a role model or a person that had a major influence on your life?
That’s easy. Son Goku! 🙂
What do you like to do in your free time?
Learning new stuff, reading exciting books, watching tv-shows and movies, playing chess, exercising, driving, running, walking. But most of all, I love spending time with my wife and for me, the biggest perk of the remote work is the ability to work from home and be with your family at the same time.
What are your plans for the future?
To be honest, I don’t know. I’ll just take it one day at a time and see how it goes 🙂
Finally, here’s your chance to freestyle:). Write anything you think could be interesting or useful to our readers.
Nice! I’ll suggest an experiment:
Pick a new skill you’d like to learn and devote at least 15 minutes every single day to learning it. It can be any skill – from learning to play an instrument to learning a new programming language. Do it consistently for 3 months, no less than 15 and no more than 30 minutes per day. Comment here how it went. Cheers 🙂