Writing Good Support Requests

I bet we’ve all had to write up a support ticket for a product or service we use. It’s almost always an email or some kind of text-based communication, as that’s proven to be the most scaleable for businesses.

Most of the onus for a good support exchange is on the company. It’s on them to be fast, friendly, and most importantly, helpful. But if you want all those things to be true for your ticket, dear writer-of-ticket, can do a number of things to help your chances.

A few caveats here. This isn’t about or for any particular company, it’s just generic thoughts. There is also no scientific research here, it’s just from me as someone who’s both worked at a number of companies, ran one, and uses a bunch of services.

Definitely contact support. It’s your money.

I know it’s a hassle. It takes time and mental energy. But it’s probably worth it. Don’t just stew in anger and frustration. It’s literally their job to help you and it’s in their best interest to keep you happy. They’ve already done the hardest thing of all: getting you as a customer. Keeping you should be the easy part.

From your perspective, they are literally experts and they can almost certainly solve your issue. Just gotta ask. Plus, it’s how services get better. Your support ticket is just a one-off thing, but in aggregate, tickets form patterns and they can fix and evolve their product or service so whatever problem you’re having is addressed.

It’s all in the context.

Say you’re having trouble logging in. A ticket that says “I’m having trouble logging in” isn’t exactly knocking it out of the park with helpfulness. What you see is probably quite helpful. Was there an error message? A weird redirect? What happened? Explaining that doesn’t take too much more time and will almost certainly speed things along.

In a lot of cases, screenshots go a long way. If they can see what you see, that can get everyone on the same page. It’s a shortcut to empathy, in a sense.

Yes hello. Why is the site weird.

Not everything needs it, but sometimes a video is even more helpful. If it’s a whole workflow or process that isn’t doing what you expect, perhaps a video is the way to go. Personally, I use Droplr for easy screen capture, annotation, and short video all the time. Like many, many times a day.

Let’s see that console.

Speaking of context: A lot of times when something is broken, it’s literally broken code. Since so many websites are highly JavaScript powered these days, opening up your browsers DevTools (try Command-Option-J in Chrome) and going to the console might provide that extra context. See some red errors? That might be exactly the problem. Or it could be a red herring (get it?!). In any case, if you are screenshotting anyway, might as well include it.

Make sure it’s not a browser extension interfering.

Also, speaking of that console, you might see some errors in there about things being blocked. You’ll see that pretty regularly if you use a browser extension like Ghostery which helps block unwanted third-party resources (often advertising scripts).

Taking a guess doesn’t hurt.

Do you have an idea of what might be wrong? It’s likely you use this thing all the time, maybe your intuition is worth something here. You might be wrong, you might be right, but even your best (or worse) guess might be extra insight for the support staff looking at your ticket.

Writing out a ticket will help you figure out the problem.

Sometimes when you have to take a second to collect your thoughts and explain something, the problem will become clear and maybe even the solution. Often times a bug is a bug and just needs to be fixed, but sometimes your support ticket might actually be something you can sort out for yourself and writing things out might be the first step toward that.

You know what they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Don’t be too bummed out about an initial response being basic troubleshooting.

If you ask LG why your TV doesn’t turn on, they are gonna ask you if you’ve plugged it in. It’s just gonna happen. Even if you write “I’ve plugged it in” in the ticket, you’re probably still going to be given some basic troubleshooting steps that include that. That’s because the majority of tickets are solved with very simple steps.

How do I upgrade my account?
Did you try clicking the upgrade account button?

It happens. To me. A lot.

How about y’all? Do you have any tricks for writing good support tickets that you’ve found get you better answers quicker?

About the Author Chris is a web designer and developer. He writes about all things web at CSS-Tricks, talks about all things web at conferences around the world and on his podcast ShopTalk, and co-founded the web coding playground CodePen. More by this Author