I have been thinking about this for a while and I decided to throw my ideas in the group and ask you all what you think.
In the past months I have talked to a quite lot of people that are trying to set up direct client support - where a support team resolves (confidential) client specific issues - as an addition to their existing (public) community support forum.
Most of those solutions involve the ‘assign’, ‘solved’ and ‘ticket’ plugins and then there are multiple approaches (but it seems there is no golden bullet and that is why I am making this topic).
This only works when you have a relatively small amount of clients, not when you have hundreds.
Solution #2: The one described by schungx “How to Use Discourse as a Private Support/Ticket System”
The main party pooper here is: “(…) that you are creating a dedicated ticketing platform, or that at the very least there will be no overlap between the users of your Discourse web interface and those requesting support tickets.”
But this topic does address one of the main issues: “You looked at the security/permissions system and you don’t find what you want: basically pure Create and Create/Reply permissions do not exist.” I will get back to this below.
Sams original idea “Discourse as a private email support portal” which became group inboxes. You set up a group inbox, assign it to your support team, and everyone can send or email messages to the inbox.
This is now the go-to solution and it works.
However, I don’t like it a lot.
In my opinion (!), there are a number of drawbacks to this approach, and the main three are:
- Messages sent to the Support group are hard to find (actually, IMHO all messages are hard to find if you don’t have a notification to click on) and although support staff has a good overview, a user does not. Where the staff users working on the tickets see a separate group inbox, users that have created the tickets can only find them between their ‘regular’ PM’s.
- Lack of tagging support in PM’s: Only staff can tag PM’s and users cannot see or filter on tags.
- There is no “place” where one can go and send a message to. The possibility to message the Support team must explicitly be advertised somewhere (and I find it hard to find a logical place for this, most of the time it ends up in some kind of banner).
All in all, for me it feels a bit ‘bolted on’ and a compromise between category topics and PM’s.
What if there was some kind of ‘drop box’ category where people can start a topic and interact with support staff (basically: a group), where only they and members of that group can see the topic?
That would be a golden bullet for this use case. We would have a clearly defined “support” category where every user can see their (and only their) support tickets. Everything is in a single place and you can use tagging and everything.
I see two ways forward: use the #3 group inboxes and hope those drawbacks are resolved, or give the #4 private topic idea another shot.
In the meanwhile a few plugins that
mess with implement per-topic permissions have come up, like Restricted Replies - only allow certain groups to reply in a category and Discourse Private Replies which makes replies invisible to everyone except the topic starter (and staff) … and it seems doable… so I have been considering giving this another shot in a plugin.
Before I proceed with this I would be interested to hear
- if other people share my opinion with respect to the group inboxes, since I am aware these perceived disadvantages could be very subjective.
- any (!!) feedback on the private topics plugin idea