While managing our support email here at Roompact, I’ve encountered a wide variety of questions and writing styles, ranging from short report requests to detailed technical issues to frustrated parents. To date, I’ve answered over a thousand emails. I love helping people work through everyday questions and technological hiccups, collaborating to solve problems–support is really a partnership rather than a service.
I’ve learned a lot from my support partnerships. Over time, for instance, I’ve learned what style of communication allows my team to investigate most quickly, solve issues most efficiently, and answer questions most thoroughly. Below you’ll find a few insights I’ve gleaned, to help you as a software user optimize collaboration with your support team. Here are some tips for sending requests that get better, faster responses.
1. Provide details and give specific examples if you can.
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it isn’t the soul of a support email. Try to give as much information on the problem as you can. The more details you share, the easier it will be to isolate your problem. It’s a bit like a duty report. Let’s imagine you’re a professional staff member on duty, and an RA submits an incident report that says “Resident Lawrence Kohlberg slapped his roommate Arthur Chickering. End of report.”
What’s your response? You’re the person responsible for following up, but right now, there simply isn’t enough information. Understandably, you would have a lot of questions. It’s the same when a support team member receives an email without details. Help them by telling them more. Giving a specific example is the most surefire way to help them isolate the problem.
Write a support email like you’re writing an incident report. Your support team will be able to investigate and answer much more efficiently, and you’ll get a resolution without them having to email you back asking more questions.
2. Describe the problem you’re trying to solve.
Imagine that you’re not feeling well, so you go to the doctor. Do you immediately ask for a medication that you think might help, or do you tell the doctor about your symptoms? Rather than taking a guess at your own diagnosis, it’s usually a better idea to talk to the doctor about what you’re experiencing and let them recommend best courses of treatment.
The experts can always help you most if you present the problem you’re trying to solve. You might already have an idea of how you’d like to solve it–that’s great, and you might well be right–but you never know when there could be an even better solution.
3. When you’re emailing about an issue on someone else’s behalf, CC the person experiencing the problem.
If you’ve played the game Telephone, you know that relaying information from person to person isn’t always the most reliable means of conveying information. Support teams always appreciate it when clients forward questions, because they want to help—but if the forwarded issue is only being experienced by one user, they’ll probably need to ask that user some more questions.
If you email the support team on the user’s behalf without CC’ing the user, the exchange turns into Telephone. The support team sends follow-up questions to you, you send them to the user, the user sends answers back to you, and you forward their answers back to the support team. This is time-consuming and may garble the original message. There’s more speed and clarity if the support team has a direct line of communication to the user experiencing the issue.
4. Screenshots help.
A picture is worth a thousand words. If a screenshot will help describe the issue, don’t hesitate to include one. For example, if you’re seeing a strange error message, a screenshot of the message tells your support team very quickly what it looks like and what they need to look into. A few months ago, full-page screenshots allowed my own team to deduce that a particular browser extension was interfering with our code and causing problems for users.
Not sure how to take a screenshot on your computer? On a PC, you can use the Snip Tool, and on Mac, press Shift-Command-4. On a Chromebook, press the Ctrl and “Switch window” keys.
The Bottom Line
Writing support emails, like answering them, is an inexact science and requires practice to perfect; but if you follow these tips for any software or service you use, you’ll get more efficient responses and build a better relationship with your support team partners. We’re here to help!