Recommended workflows for support and community?

:wave: all!

Super pumped to be officially launching our community this coming Monday, along with some other cool features at Tiller.

Right now, we use Intercom to handle all support inquiries. We’re getting burned out on the one to one model because we get a lot of the same questions and having folks post them to a community where we (and our enthusiastic customers) answer them gives a one to many benefit. So we’ve ramped it up, and we’re seeding content. It’ll be a slow to build we know, and Monday’s launch is really just adding it to the onboarding for new customers. We expect to learn a lot and continue refining.

We hope to use it to answer questions about our suite Google finance spreadsheet templates (which are transitioning to our “playground brand” Tiller Labs) and discussions for recommended workflows that don’t fit the box of the templates as they’re built.

We think our product is perfect for a community because it’s collaborative and great for tinkerers (the sky is the limit with a spreadsheet, right? :rocket:)

So, finally, to my question, how would you recommend we handle the flow of new topics and replies happening in the community and work that into our existing support workflows?

The replies from topics don’t make it into Intercom because of their automated flagging mechanisms (we were hoping to have those funnel into a special team inbox so none slip through the cracks). We don’t field support directly out of our email inboxes and we like having a queue based system to make sure we don’t miss inquiries.

Some ideas:

  1. Set aside a specific block of time each day to participate in the community and do this in shifts across all our support staff (but how can I be sure I’ve read and responded to everything and then how does my teammate efficiently know what I’ve already addressed?)
  2. Divvy up categories/sub-categories to a specific teammate by day (I handle template questions on Mon, Wed, Fri) during my scheduled block
  3. Something else entirely?

Ideally, we want this to make us more efficient and Intercom isn’t going away. Instead we’ll use it primarily to address core product questions/issues like bank data feed connections that might have sensitive data users don’t want to share in the community.

Appreciate any thoughts or ideas here!



Hello Heather. Exciting times!

I have a couple of clarifying questions first.

  • is your team primarily responsible for support or is that just a small part of their job?
  • is this community an additional support channel (with the existing ones still in action)?
  • do you have buy in from your team for this new initiative?

Thanks, @HAWK, very exciting indeed!

Yes, my team is primarily responsible for support. Yes it is an additional channel where we hope customers will post and answer questions related to recommended workflows + advanced how to’s that we typically answer via 1:1 channel (Intercom).

Yes, our whole company is bought in and fully backing the community! :rocket:


Awesome. Thanks for the clarification.

In my experience the key is flexibility. There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer. You might find that some people have a natural affinity towards the community while others don’t enjoy it as much. If that’s the case, I’d consider a division of labour.

If everyone (or no one) loves it then blocks of time is a good option. A category split works well if you have subject matter experts but otherwise it doesn’t necessarily equal a fair balance of workload because some categories will naturally be more busy than others.

If it were me I’d start with scheduled half day blocks and then revisit at the end of the first week to see how that’s working for everyone. Assuming you’ll be responding publicly onsite it’ll be easy to see which questions remain unanswered.

Does that make sense?


Thanks for the feedback here @HAWK. Things are going pretty well so far and it’s rolling along and growing pretty organically.

It’s still slow enough right now that I can pretty much stay on top of the new discussions and we have some engaged customers who are also helping answer questions. Just what we wanted, and we’re loving it!

One challenge we foresee in the future when the volume is a lot higher (and are already seeing a little), is that we haven’t figured out a really efficient way to know what’s not been addressed either by another community member or a co-worker. So when I log in during my “block” of time how do I quickly know what needs my attention without scanning to see “does this one have a reply?” “is there only one profile icon next to a post?” and then after I address what I can during my block, how will my co-worker know what’s not been addressed when she comes online. It seems that whatever is flagged as “unread” or “new” for me won’t appear as such for her.

Any ideas on a workflow to help manage that since we’d like to use our individual accounts vs a shared account?


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I definitely support the approach of using individual accounts but I’d recommend waiting to see if this will actually become a problem. We have a very busy support community here (and a team of 36 who are all tasked with responding to questions) and we haven’t yet found this to be a blocker.

We are experimenting with a “someone has read this” indicator for PMs (which is another support channel that we use) which might be able to be extended to public topics in the future if enough people need it.


Thanks for the reply. Within your team of 36 how do you manage to know what hasn’t been addressed by someone else on the team? Is it strictly looking within the Discourse community itself and certain folks are responsible for specific categories or is it a free for all?

I’ve found that sorting on number of replies lets me know when someone’s topic hasn’t received a response yet, but this is not a very efficient workflow and I have to do it for each category because we have our home page organized by category vs all posts by “latest” like the meta forum here.


It’s a free for all. There are generally three statuses – a question has been answered (no action needed), a question hasn’t been answered (action needed) or a question has whispers discussing the best course of action.

You don’t have to have that as your own homepage though. You can have latest.


How can you tell which is which is what I’m asking. There is no obvious or efficient way (as far as I can tell) to see which ones have been answered, not answered, and which have whispers (though we don’t have whispers turned on right now).

Maybe this is something we’ll try in the future, but have tried to organize around a “jobs to be done” concept. What is the user trying to do when they land on the forum… and make sure they can explore/find the appropriate content based on their job vs needing to see a thread of what’s got a big flurry of activity.

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My point is that you can personally use latest, without it being the default homepage for everyone.

We all read all the topics, I guess. Or filter by number of answers. Everyone probably has their own method but it works.


You could mark the ones answered as “Solved” if the answer given is final. But I do see what you mean… a sort of ticket system like:

  1. Open - not answered
  2. Pending - answered but still pending
  3. Closed - answered sufficiently and closed.

The “Ticket terms” are subject to whatever words you want to use. Is this more of what you are looking for? And to have an icon represent each type?

You can get all unanswered posts for a topic list by adding ?max_posts=1 to the URL in your browser’s address bar. There is a theme component that you can install on your site that adds an ‘Unanswered’ button to the site’s navigation: Unanswered Filter.

If you would like to find only topics that have not been answered by staff members, but may have been answered by other members of your community, you could add a Data Explorer query to your site that returns a list of those topics. It is now possible to allow groups to run Data Explorer queries, so you could add the query to your support group page.

A good approach for dividing support work among a team is to have members of the team watch the categories or topics that they are comfortable answering questions in. For example, I watch our #support:wordpress category, because I don’t expect any other members of the team to answer WordPress related questions.

The Assign Plugin is very useful for dividing up work among a team. We make a lot of use of it on Meta, especially in the #bug category.

A lot of the support work we do at Discourse is handled with PMs that are emailed to our support team. We use group PM inboxes to know what needs to be dealt with. PMs that have been handled get archived. We also use the Assign Plugin to assign PMs to team members. We have enabled the ‘On group messages publish group read state’ setting for our Support group. With this setting enabled, we can know which team members have read a PM.

Whispers can be useful for support work if there is a need for internal discussion before answering a question. They can also be used to let other staff members know that a support request is being handled.



Thanks so much! This is great feedback on how to use Discourse for support.

I’m experimenting with the “unanswered filter” right now. Thanks for sharing that component with me. Is it possible to further filter the list to exclude a specific tag in the results?

We use Discourse for documentation too and we don’t necessarily expect those topics to need a reply. I’m guessing the ?max_posts=1 is just filtering the latest list based on number of replies?

Either way this will help! I’ll also share your other feedback with our team as we continue refining our process.

Thanks again!

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I don’t think this can be done with the unanswered filter, but it can be done from your site’s advanced search page. The “Where topics” section of the search filters has a “zero replies” option. Select that option, and then add -tags:tag-name to the search bar exclude a specific tag from the results. Here’s an example search query that will return topics with no replies, but exclude topics tagged with feature: Search results for 'status:noreplies -tags:feature' - Discourse Meta.

Another approach to this would be to add a Data Explorer query to your site that gives you the results you’re looking for. It is now possible to allow groups to run Data Explorer queries, so this could be a good solution for a group that is responsible for customer support.


This is awesome too! Thank you :slight_smile:

Okay, last question for now. Is there a way to have “hidden” tags - ones that only admin or staff can see/use?


Yes, this can be done with Tag Groups. To create a tag group, go to your tags index page (/tags). Choose “Manage Tag Groups” from the top right menu.


Create a new tag group with the tags you want to restrict to staff members. Tag groups give you three options for how the tags can be used:

  • Tags can be used by everyone
  • Tags are visible to everyone, but only staff can use them
  • Tags are visible only to staff

Select the last option so that the tags can only be used and seen by staff.


Is it possible to have Discourse send a slack notification when a topic is assigned to a particular user?

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I don’t believe so, no. At the moment Slack notifications are limited to topics and posts.