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Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:25 am
by davo
Just wanted to suggest that a separate forum be created for discussion about the latest plans and all issues associated with changing to the latest plans.
Currently these topics are spread out all over the place - they're hard to find and messy to track because discussion is happening in multiple locations.

They used to happen in the "Changes & Events" forum, but lately have appeared in "Improvements & Suggestions" with some relevant topics also appearing in "Invoicing & billing", "Member facilities & usage meter" and the odd relevant ones in other forums too.

I'd suggest the new forum be used for all new plan announcements and subsequent discussion, as well as issues with changing to the new plans whether they be financial or technical. Because if one person has a question or issue in making a plan change, the odds are that others will have the same question/issue.

Maybe something like "New Plans and Changing Plans" would work.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 2:21 pm
by Gidget
Hi davo

No problem - I will set it up tonight.

Cheers

Gidget

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 3:13 pm
by CoreyPlover
In the interest of keeping the number of separate forum topics to a minimum, perhaps we can create a new forums for general "Sales enquiries" in the top "Exetel essentials" forum. In fact, I'm partial to thinking that "Changes & events" can simply be renamed to "Exetel developments" - New plans, customer newsletter and technical innovations. Alternatively, they can remain distinct in that one is for Exetel announcement and another for customer enquiries.

Regardless, I'd also suggest that the IPv6 sub forum be combined into "Other" and the "Wiki development" into (perhaps) "Improvements & Suggestions" as a sticky as these each only have a single topic. Fault logging and Forum essentials could also stand to be combined into one forum

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 3:44 pm
by davo
CoreyPlover wrote:In the interest of keeping the number of separate forum topics to a minimum...
I don't see why there is a great a need to keep the number of forums to a minimum. Surely the main objective here is clear communication - make it easy for customers to find stuff, encourage people to air their issues and post it in the right place.
CoreyPlover wrote:... perhaps we can create a new forums for general "Sales enquiries" in the top "Exetel essentials" forum. In fact, I'm partial to thinking that "Changes & events" can simply be renamed to "Exetel developments" - New plans, customer newsletter and technical innovations....
The problem with vaguely worded forum titles like "Changes & events" and "Exetel developments" is that they aren't specific enough - there are all sorts of changes, events and developments going on all the time. We've got those vaguely worded titles now and you can see what's happened - people posting bits and peices everywhere - or not being able to find an answer and drifting off to Whingepool.

Plan changes are a hot topic with Exetel - you've probably seen all the discussion on that other forum - and currently probably the greatest perceived weakness of the business. Yet, most of the time, plan changes are being made in the interest of Exetel customers and one of its great strengths - keeping plans fees low on an on-going basis. Yet that's not how it's often perceived in the marketplace. Have a look at what the Whingers are writing.

I think a central place which just focusses on the New Plans and plan change issues is now essential for Exetel. It needs to firmly grab the issue and make a strength of it. Then there's no need to drift over to Whingepool trying to figure out what's going on and then get submerged in all the negatives - especially for prospective customers.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 4:21 pm
by CoreyPlover
davo wrote:Surely the main objective here is clear communication - make it easy for customers to find stuff, encourage people to air their issues and post it in the right place.
Exactly right. And a list of too many forums makes that difficult to achieve, hence the desire to amalgamate and consolidate similar topics.

If you look at the current "Changes and events" forum, about half the topics already deal with new plan and plan changes. I'm just wondering whether it is useful to segregate the Exetel initiated *announcements* from the user initiated *queries*.

If you have any suggestions for the forum titles and sub title descriptions that would help in locating the relevant forum, please post them. Perhaps "New plans and other changes" or "Plan changes and other developments"?

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 8:13 pm
by davo
CoreyPlover, this isn't a direct reply to your post. It just occurred to me when I looked at the Board Index again.

If you look at the existing forum categories, they are pretty good except there’s no sales category – it’s all service, technical and admin. This is a serious omission in my opinion. People come looking to buy or upgrade and you want the door wide open when they arrive. Currently, many people are going elsewhere in search of information and to discuss their Exetel sales questions and issues.

Current forum categories
  • Exetel essentials
    Service issues
    Auxiliary services
    Technical assistance
    Administration
    Other topics
My suggestion would be to create a Sales category which would have (at least) two forums.
  • Pre-Sales Questions
    New Plans and Changing Plans
Other useful forums in a Sales category might include
  • Customer Plan Suggestions
    Customer Reviews
And perhaps something for the various types of affiliates and agents, though this may already exist and just not be visible to the public. Perhaps a forum for people who have questions about becoming an agent/affiliate would be useful. I imagine more agents is something Exetel would like to encourage.

The "Exetel Essentials" category, I would rename to something like “Exetel Basics”. Everything is "essential" when it comes to your ISP/link to the Internet and three of the four forums currently in this category seem to be about basic information.

Exetel Essentials
  • Forum essentials
    Fault logging
    Maintenance & outage updates
    Changes & events
I’d suggest moving the "Changes & Events” forum to the new Sales category and renaming it "New Plans and Changing Plans". I'd also round up loose sales topics from “Improvements & Suggestions” and the various other forums they now occupy and move them into the new “New Plans and Changing Plans” forum so the history is in the right place, everything is up to date and the direction set.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 12:22 am
by CoreyPlover
All good suggestions.

I agree that replacing the "Exetel essentials" forum area taking up the first 4 'slots' with a "Sales" area would be nice and intuitive
* Maintenance and outages can move down into Service Issues section
* Changes & events can be retained in the new "Sales" section (with appropriate name change)
* Improvements & suggestions can move up from right at the bottom into this "Sales" area too
* The "Pre sales" and "Reviews" suggestions of yours could be amalgamated into a "Pre-sales questions and customer testimonials"
* Fault logging can be a sticky in the outages forum

Give me until sometime later this weekend for a) me, and others, to figure out any further tweaks and b) me to re-learn the necessary forum permissions for correct user posting behaviour and I'll make the changes (or Gidget might beat me to it)

In the meantime, if there are any further changes (particular ones involving consolidation of forums as opposed to creation of new ones) post them here.
* I'm contemplating merging ADSL1 and ADSL2+ service issues as there isn't much practical distinction between the two.
* Can the "Mirror services" be merged anywhere intuitive? It has a low thread and view count
* Perhaps it is time for the old (and locked) "FAQ" to go to Archived threads?

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 8:26 am
by davo
I agree ADSL1 and ADSL2 have a fair amount of overlap and could be combined. Others may have a different view on this. Also I see plan change topics in both those forums.

Topics from “Mirror services” could be moved to “Other” in the “Technical Assistance” category with a change to the “Other” description to include the word “Mirror” so people know to look in there.

Wiki development”, though a desirable subject, doesn’t seem to be firing and could be handled by the “Improvement & suggestions” forum. The latter’s description line could be changed to feature a list of possible subjects for suggestions – perhaps the less obvious ones and the word “Wiki” if you want to remind people about it.

The use of the “Archived threads” forum has always puzzled me. A forum by nature is self-archiving - older posts move down the page, then off the first page and gradually recede into history.

Moving them to a dumping ground has several disadvantages in my opinion.
  • It moves them outside the reach of the “search this forum” so people searching for answers within a particular forum area won’t find them. They have to use the global search tool which then includes all sorts of topics – too much to sift through. Even an old topic can contain useful information or trigger a troubleshooting approach that the reader can then apply to his/her current circumstances.

    Even something like old announcements for outages is useful to leave in their original forum. That tells a prospective customer how well a business communicates with it customers, what to expect in the way of planned outages, and reminds them to keep an eye on this forum if they want to be aware of upcoming outages.

    I’ve also seen Exetel customers infuriated when their topic suddenly “disappeared” after being archived. It’s like telling them their issue is no longer important when in their mind, it may still not be fully resolved. Better to let it gradually move down and off the page in my view.

    Finally, it can give the impression that difficult issues are being “swept under the carpet” and can undermine the trust building process needed for customers to make or continue a commitment with Exetel.

    If a topic has seriously gone off the rails and admins wish to disable it, I suggest just lock it and leave it where it is. If you don’t wish to display a topic for any reason, then either delete it altogether or move it to a hidden “Archived Threads” forum for admin reference only.
So I’d lose the “Archived Theads” forum from public display, return any recent topics to their original forums and cease the practice of archiving topics except for admin reference as mentioned above.

I’ve never looked in the "FAQ" forum until now. It seems to be just another “Archived threads” forum where the topics were deemed to be more significant. Yet moving them away from their original forum into a combined pool just makes them harder to find. There are many sales/plan change related topics in there. Ideally they should all be moved to a sales forum or back to their original forums as appropriate. Then I’d scrap the FAQ forum.

I realise that moving old posts can be a tedious job. I’m doing it myself on one of my own forums at the moment. Although I haven’t used phpBB for many years, they can probably be moved in big chunks rather than one at a time. Doing 10-15 minutes a day soon had me back to 2009 and breaks the job up into digestible portions.

If you want to reduce the size of the Board Index page, sub-forums are an option. Though a little less obvious, they still divide up subject matter while compressing the size of the Board Index. The phpBB forum does this, though their use of sub-forums is more suited to their tech-savvy readers and is too much for the general public. The Simple Machines Board Index is a better use of sub-forums in my opinion.

However, I believe it’s better to have a longer Board Index so people can just scroll down a highly visible list of forums, find the one that suits their issue and dive straight in. I’d rather scroll a bit and find a forum that exactly fits my issue, than have to go back and forward, looking in one, then another, trying to find the right place to search or post.

That’s about all that comes to mind at the moment. Better get on with the weekend jobs now.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 12:15 pm
by CoreyPlover
davo wrote:The use of the “Archived threads” forum has always puzzled me. A forum by nature is self-archiving - older posts move down the page, then off the first page and gradually recede into history.

Moving them to a dumping ground has several disadvantages in my opinion.

So I’d lose the “Archived Theads” forum from public display, return any recent topics to their original forums and cease the practice of archiving topics except for admin reference as mentioned above.
Correct. I raised exactly the same objections a while ago and auto-archiving has been turned off for quite some time now, with all "old" topics remaining in their original forum in perpetuity. But as you said, returning the old archived threads to their original place would be incredibly time consuming (there are 1,800 threads!).

The FAQ suffered from the same limitation; it was a catch-all for a variety of threads and it is time consuming to move individual threads to their respective place.

So, barring the manpower to categorise these two forums, I'll probably merge them, and lock the resulting "Archived" forum.
davo wrote:However, I believe it’s better to have a longer Board Index so people can just scroll down a highly visible list of forums, find the one that suits their issue and dive straight in. I’d rather scroll a bit and find a forum that exactly fits my issue, than have to go back and forward, looking in one, then another, trying to find the right place to search or post.
Agreed. Something of 2 - 2.5 screens worth I think is a good balance; complete and comprehensive but not too long-winded.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 2:12 pm
by CoreyPlover
OK. I've made a number (all?) of these changes. Rename "Exetel essentials" to "About Exetel" and tried to fill with sales, and sales type forums, etc. All information that might be needed to help prospective customers learn about Exetel's services and philosophy. I kept the "Changes" forum as an "Exetel announcements" one and create a new one for "pre sales questions" which I moved a few recent threads into. However I've just now realised that this forum only allows current users to post. Prospective users cannot post, so I'll look into the permissions and see if that single forum can be allowed to receive guest posts.

It appears that "Archived threads" is still being used to archive the Outage announcements, so I renamed that forum to "Current maintenance and outage updates". Plus, I doubt that I will ever get around to categorising the archived threads into their proper categories.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 2:29 pm
by CoreyPlover
I can allow guests standard access as opposed to read-only access, but Exetel requires a login with service number and password to post. I will email the sysop to see if that requirement can be removed for the "pre-sales" forum.

In the mean time, I've renamed that forum to be just "Customer testimonials"

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sun May 29, 2011 8:44 am
by davo
That’s a good start CoreyPlover. Here’s a few suggestions to finish it off.

“About Exetel” is a bit too broad for the first category. What’s missing from this Board is a clearly labelled place to discuss plans, offers, changing plans and all the issues that arise in these areas. It’s about what you get for your money - the core area for any business. If you would prefer not to use the word “Sales”, how about “Products and Services” or “Exetel’s Services”?

So the first category could look like this.

Exetel’s Services
  • New Plans and Changing Plans
    Customer Plan Suggestions
    Pre-Sales Questions
    Customer Reviews
The first forum “New Plans and Changing Plans” is the core forum of this group. It needs to be clearly labelled as the place to discuss new plans and plan changes so they don't get spread all over the place as they are now. From a broader perspective, I think Exetel also needs to bring its regular plan improvements into sharp focus and turn what some perceive as a weakness, into a strength.

Then we have “Customer Plan Suggestions” which isn’t the same as “Improvements and Suggestions”. It’s specifically about plans - the main reason why people buy from Exetel. Exetel listens to it's customers suggestions and I think plan suggestions needs its own area so both Exetel and customers find them easy to locate, read and post. Suggestions for everything else can go in the “Improvements and Suggestions” forum.

I note your comments about the service numbver/password requirements but mention this anyway. “Pre-Sales Questions” should be a separate forum where people feel it’s safe to ask dumb questions – or at least questions that seem “dumb” or obvious to seasoned Exetel customers.

For the last of the four, I suggest using the title “Customer Reviews” instead of “Customer Testimonials”. The latter implies a list of glowing reports that businesses use to support why you should buy from them. It also implies you have to write something positive to post in there.

“Customer Reviews” is more neutral – the good and the bad. It’s more inviting for someone to write a “review” than a “testimonial”. It conveys to the reader “this is an accurate statement of my experience with Exetel. The “Customer Reviews” should also be the last forum in the category so it’s not mixed in with the core forums about sales.

What to do with the existing forums in the “About Exetel” category?

“Forum essentials” – scrap it.
The information contained in the three topics currently in “Forum essentials” could be rolled into one concise post called “How to Use this Forum” or something more inviting than “rules”. Then put this post as a sticky topic at the top of the most used forums.

“Exetel announcements”
If you want a place for Exetel announcements other than about plans and offers, then this could be added in to the “Exetel Services” category immediately above “Customer Reviews”. But it should not be used for plan change announcements. Maybe "Exetel News" is a better title.

Then I’d suggest splitting the last category, “Administration”, into two.

Administration
  • Invoicing & billing
    Member facilities & usage meter
    Web site
Other
  • Fauna & flora projects
    Other Improvement & suggestions
    Anything else anyone wants to discuss
    Archived threads
After these changes, (if my memory is correct) we will have removed four forums (ADSL, Mirror, Wiki, Forum Essentials) and added four (New Plans, Plan Suggestions, Pre-Sales, Reviews). Plus one extra category for better grouping.

That seems like a pretty economical swap to me. And one that fills a big gap in Exetel's main customer communication avenue.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sun May 29, 2011 12:43 pm
by CoreyPlover
The problem at the moment is that the forums are designed purely for current Exetel customers; you actually need an Exetel service to post (due to the requirement to login with your service number).

I will have to wait for an update from the sysadmin as to how (or if) a sales forum with guest / registered user access is feasible, but I'll rejig some of the current forums based on your further suggestions.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Sun May 29, 2011 1:40 pm
by CoreyPlover
Some further modifications:
* Forum rules and other forum based information amalgamated into one post and linked to directly in the disclaimer
* "Other" forum category re-created at bottom of page
* Pending the ability for new users to post, I've retain the renamed "Products and services" and "Customer reviews" at the top. They are intended to have information posted by Exetel and existing users, but prospective users should be able to read them to get a good overview of information that will help them make their decision. We'll see what is feasible with respect to a full "sales" forum or two in the next week or so.

Re: Separate forum for new plan discussions

Posted: Mon May 30, 2011 1:54 pm
by CoreyPlover
Opening the forum (or a particular sales forum / sub-forum category) up to allow for non-Exetel user posting doesn't seem like a trivial undertaking, so for time being I think we need to hold off on introducing a dedicated sales focus on these forums.

However, the forums have guest read-only access so we can still concentrate on re-locating posts to give new users useful things to read about in the top-most forum sections.

There is also an ongoing request to implementing a persistent cookie for the login screen, to remove the need to log in twice to make a post but this has been raised several times in the past already. At this stage, I'd like to give a general call out and invite and more feedback on any other forum structure suggestions. If there is a wider desire for a "Sales" area in the forum I can ask for it to be investigated further.