This is a guest post from one of our talented project managers, Jennifer Petsche.
It happens to all of us. We’re working along and run into a software issue or can’t figure out how to do something. We scour the FAQs page or the Help Center for whatever product/service we're using, but can’t find the answer we're looking for. Our next option is to contact support. We enter the support email address and stare at a blank screen, not sure how to initiate the request. What information do they need? How should the request be formatted? How much detail should I provide? Customer support requests are often a fraught, time-wasting experience when the user and the support agent aren’t on the same page. Below are some best practices to help you get satisfaction and avoid frustration the next time you have a software support request.
Try A Few Things Yourself
First, try to replicate the issue. Sometimes, the issue you encounter is a one time problem based on chance (e.g., internet connection issue or something specific to your computer). If you can’t reproduce your issue, it might not be worth reaching out about. Reproducing an issue can also help to further identify if it is something that is a larger issue, or something specific to your machine or environment. If you can reproduce it, you can provide those steps in your email.
If it’s a technical issue of any kind, try to close and restart the program or restart your computer. A lot of technical issues in web-based software can also be resolved by clearing your computer’s cache and cookies.
If troubleshooting on your own doesn’t provide resolution, then it’s time to starting formulating your message to support for additional assistance. Below we walk through the process of drafting a comprehensive support request.
Drafting The Best Request
It all starts with a good subject line.
The subject line should give the support team a good idea of what your request will be about. Not too lengthy, but also not too general.
Compare “Can’t log in” to “Receive the attached error message when attempting to log in for the first time”
While both refer to the issue at hand, the second option clearly provides more detail that will help the support agent guide their response as soon as they read it. It lets the agent know there is a specific error that will likely provide additional info regarding the issue. The subject also points to when the issue is specifically happening.
Now that you have an effective subject line, you can move on to the body of your request.
Each bullet provides information that may be necessary to solve your request. If you can include all or most of this info you will be well on your way to a successful request.
- Provide your name, email, contact phone number, and best time to reach you if a phone call is necessary
- In the body of your email, make sure to include as much detail as possible. Sometimes, the support team will need to know how to recreate your issue, so if you can include steps to reproduce it in your message, that will be extremely helpful at expediting the process.
- Attach some screenshots! A picture can be worth a thousand words. If they can see what you are seeing, they are able to more quickly identify where the issue might lie.
- Let them know what the urgency is (the true urgency). If you are encountering a business-critical issue, they are more likely to respond faster. With respect to our own customers, we often categorize support requests according to the following levels:
- Critical: Situation prevents business operations - no workaround or additional solution
- High: Notable impact to business operations, with no acceptable workaround or additional solution
- Medium: partial, non-critical impact on business, potential workaround, but not permanently acceptable
- Low: routine technical issues, requests for information, changes to documentation, issue affects a limited amount of users, with an acceptable workaround or alternative solution
What To Expect Next
Once you’ve formatted your request and sent it off, what should you expect to happen next? Most support desks provide an automated response that includes info on response times and a support line to call if you need to contact someone immediately for a time-sensitive resolution. No one likes running into an issue or a bug, but if you’ve provided all or most of the information covered above in your support request, you should be on your way to a seamless resolution in short order!