How to be well-supported

On Thursday I described how to successfully offer web-based support that your customers will love. But what if you’re the customer? Is there anything you can do to minimise your time investment and maximize your gains? As a matter of fact, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that you receive the best support that the company you’re working with has to offer.

  • Be very descriptive.

Assume that your problem is unique, and offer up any and every piece of information you can think of that might help the help desk team solve your problem in one go. Chances are, the support team doesn’t actually want to give you any kind of runaround, or to keep your issue pending for days on end while they await further information from you.

I can’t tell you how many people have submitted frenzied tickets to our own support center begging for fast help getting their software back online, only to leave out any information about how we could actually access the software, or even what specific error they were seeing. You want quick help, and the support team you’re dealing with wants to give it to you; your job is to make sure they can do that for you.

  • Keep it relevant.

If you need fast help getting your widgets working, this may not be the ideal time to explain how the widgets fit into your business model. Support staff are twitchy and tend to have ADHD–try not to distract them ;)

  • Take a moment to review the situation before you submit.

I'm mad!It can be very difficult to keep a cool head when you have an urgent issue that needs attention. But before you submit, take an extra few minutes to examine the problem, re-read your own support request, and make sure that you’ve included a clear, complete description of the problem and exactly what you have done to try and fix it.

Most web software support systems will knock you back to the end of the queue if you submit a second request, so the extra time you take before submitting could save you a great deal of waiting time later on. Also, when you’re feeling frustrated, it’s really just too easy to lose your head and forget about basic things. Ask yourself: Have I fully described the problem? Have I mentioned everything that happened in the time leading up to the problem? Have I provided everything that is needed to investigate the problem? Have I described everything I’ve done since the problem first occurred?

  • Make sure the ticket gets submitted.

Some online support systems have extra steps before the ticket is submitted; make sure there are no more buttons to click or windows to scroll through. Most systems will tell you directly that your ticket has been submitted and even give you a ticket number. Most will also send you a confirmation e-mail.

  • Make sure you know how you’ll be answered.

If you’re expecting an answer by e-mail, make sure you got a confirmation e-mail. It may also be a good idea to go ahead and whitelist the support address just to be sure. If you didn’t get an e-mail, check the company’s support web site. In our support area, like most, there is a page where you can view your open tickets to see their status and any replies.

Most of these tips come down to the very same things I talked about when explaining how to succeed in providing support. They’re based on the same principles you can use to succeed in just about any kind of communication: try to consider the other person’s perspective. Think about what they need, what they want, and what you can do to understand them. Your communication will always be more effective when you have a level view of the field and all the people involved. You’ll get more done, and will make people feel motivated to help you.

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