I’m : a web and mobile developer based in the Manning Valley, Australia.

Support for the small guy

Trying to maintain a decent work/life balance when you've got side projects can be tough. Up until a few weeks ago I'd been funnelling support emails for my apps through to my personal inbox as I thought I didn't have the volume required to look into a separate ticketing system. And besides, ticketing systems are for big companies right?

I don't mind tinkering away on my apps during my "off" hours as I consider that fun. What I don't like is seeing a support request pop in and feeling obliged to deal with it. I fully support my apps and often reply within a few minutes of receiving the email but, in the long run, I don't think it does me any good to be doing that all the time. When the usual 9 to 5 ends you've gotta get a break - especially on weekends.

My two options were to either create a new account at Fastmail, which was $40 per year, or give Zendesk a go where a single agent setup is $12 per year. While cost was a factor I ended up deciding against an email-based solution to ensure that I could track requests and that nothing would slip through the cracks.

Setup was easy enough - enable email forwarding. I did encounter a few teething troubles all stemming from the fact that I only had a single agent (me) setup.

Zendesk have it set up such that tickets will automatically be assigned if your account only has one agent. This had the unintended consequence of sending me an email alerting me to the fact that work was waiting. Definitely something you'd normally want but it was going into my personal inbox which didn't help with my goal of separating things.

Zendesk have confirmed that this "feature" isn't configurable so the next best thing was to head on over to Triggers and disable "Notify assignee of assignment". While you're there you might want to disable "Notify assignee of comment update" and "Notify assignee of reopened ticket". This does mean that you need to be diligent about logging in and keeping an eye on Zendesk when you're on the support clock. To help with that you'll want to edit your default view to include "Requester updated", "Assignee updated" and "Updater" to the list of available columns. That way you'll be able to gauge if you need to reply to anything or if you're waiting on the customer.

The final thing I did was to use Fluid to create a Zendesk "app" so I didn't have to keep it open in my main browser. Zendesk have embraced the Fluid idea with linking to an icon you can use.

I'm 10 days into my trial and with my tweaks applied things seem to be working well so far. I'm happy that I've got the separation that I'm after and as a bonus I get to look a little more professional too. Zendesk do have apps available for iPhone and iPad so you'll be able to continue support while on the go.