In a previous post, 7 tips for better tech support, I discussed some of the issues facing the client-vendor relationship when it comes to getting things fixed around the office. This also applies to requesting website updates.
This time, we’re going to take a look at some tips to make your actual support request more effective (read: it gets resolved faster). If I’ve left any off, leave them in the comments. If this seems like a rant, well, at least it’s the productive kind.
1. Set the stage with a good subject line
If I had a nickel, even a penny, for every time an email came through with “website” in the subject line, I’d be sitting on the beach, retired, sipping a cocktail with one of those plastic swords skewering fresh fruit picked off the tree behind me.
“Website” tells me nothing.
It could mean the website is down, the website has a broken link, or that you want to discuss the website in a strategic fashion.
Good Subject Lines
“Website update: new About section” – tells me more, doesn’t it? What am I expecting in the body of the email? That’s right, the updates to the About section. I’m on it.
“Question about search results” – I know specifically what you’re talking about, and am ready for you to lay out your search scenario in the email, so we can figure out what the issue is.
“Need help with ‘X’ feature” – Again, you’re driving me directly to the problem area.
Bad Subject Lines
“Questions about our website” – still too open-ended, it could mean anything.
“XYZ Company website” – no kidding…your email address, email@example.com, gave it away. Take away the company name, we’re back to “website”.
“I’m going to put the entire request into the subject line because I think it’s easier for both of us” – this isn’t an actual subject line, but you get the drift. Don’t do this, we’re only going to see the first 70 or so characters. If we use a help desk system, it will chop it off even more.
2. Be as specific as you can
Support personnel are not mind readers, nor do we know exactly what you were doing when something broke. While your email subject line may have given us a frame of reference, you now need to pull the rest of the request into a complete thought so we can get to work.
New content, replacing content, graphics, moving things around, etc., are all task-based requests. Give us the exact marching orders, and the supporting content, you’ll be all set in no time. We do these in our sleep.
Screenshots help if you’re trying to explain something you see on your screen, like an unexpected result of a content update. Being able to visualize where you’re stuck is a huge step toward getting you on the right track.
Copying and pasting the URL of the place you’re stuck is another good practice. That lets us go directly to the same page and proceed with the rest of the description of your problem. In many cases, while you have us there, we might even just make the update for you!
Also, explaining what you’re trying to accomplish (and why) is also very important. Knowing the expected outcome will make sure your support staff gives you the best solution and advice based on their experience.
It’s broken/I screwed up
When something goes wrong, refer back to my other post about getting good tech support. Screenshots, and explaining specifically what and where you are having the problem is paramount to getting fast, quality help.
3. One ticket per issue
You may have a handful of things to discuss or work on with your support staff, so the logical thing to do is create a big punchlist. That’s a great approach, however, I’d encourage you to break up the punchlist into chunks by type of request.
Additionally, while you can lump a group of content updates together as one ticket, it would also be prudent to break out Training/How-To or Technical issues into separate tickets, one request each. They will be prioritized and handled more efficiently that way. (This is another reason to have good subject lines!)
4. After the issue is resolved
Don’t send a “thank you” email back. It creates undue clutter in an inbox, and the technician may think the issue was not resolved (until they read your email).
When it comes time to send in your next request, do not reply to a previous email. Create a new one, so it’s handled accordingly in any help desk systems your team may have, and so it also reduces any confusion related to the previous request.
- Be clear about your request or question
- Include all support materials
- Provide as much context as you can, as well as the desired result
- Keep organized, one issue per ticket