It goes without saying that if you’re running a business in 2021, you’re using technology and at some point, you’re going to need some help.
Knowing how to write a great support request when things aren’t working quite right will help you get your issues looked at and solved much faster then if you send a panicked message about something not working.
Most people don’t realize that writing a great support request is actually a skill! And if you’re a non-techie business owner in a technical world, then this is one skill that is well worth your while to develop. Doing so will save you a ton of time and frustration.
So let’s dive into what goes into a great support request.
Know who to contact for support
Make sure you understand the very basics of the technology that runs your business. That means knowing things like the difference between a domain registrar and a web host (hopefully you don’t use the same company for these). You don’t want to be contacting your email service provider about your website being down.
If you're running a business, here are a few common categories of support you may need:
Your web host runs the servers that store the code that make up your website. If your website is down or malfunctioning, this is a good first place to start.
This is the company where you bought your domain name. You're most likely to need to chat with them if you're moving your site to a new web host and you need help changing the settings to point to the new host.
Email Service Provider
If you're using email to market your business, you should be using a service provider like Active Campaign or ConvertKit. If your emails aren't making it to the inbox or you message up an automation and need help figuring it out, this is who you'll want to call.
Theme or Plugin Provider
If you've got issues with the software that is running your website like the theme or any plugins that add functionality, you'll have the best luck contacting the makers of the software directly. This is one reason we recommend using paid theme and plugins when building your business site. You're paying for continued development and updates for the software and support when you need it.
We use Airtable to document every software tool we use in our business and give our clients a template to do the same. That way you have one handy place you can document the support URLs for each company.
How to write a great support request
In my time as a web developer and a business owner, I’ve submitted and received plenty of support requests. I think being on the support offering end of things makes it easier to be empathic to the people at the support desk.
Remember, they really do want to help you solve your issue as quickly as possible, and there are things you can do to make that more likely to happen.
The less technical you are, the more difficult it may be not to freak out when something goes wrong, Especially if it’s something critical like your website being down.
Let’s pause to remember though, that your website being down is not the same level of emergency as say, the hospital electricity going out.
So pause, take a breath and consult that handy spreadsheet if you need to figure out where to go for help.
Tell the whole story
It’s tempting to want to get your message out quickly with just the thing that isn’t working. But if you take the time to give some context to your request it will help you in two ways.
It will humanize you to the person on the other end of your request. They’re likely dealing with hundreds of requests per day or week, many of them probably filled with ALL CAPS and expletives. A little clarity and friendliness goes a long way.
It will help them give you better advice if they know the context in which the malfunction occurred and your overall objective.
Start with a clear concise subject line.
This is the first thing they’ll see and will help them know the severity and category of your request.
Consider these two examples:
- Plugin not working!
- WooCommerce plugin error preventing all transactions!
The second subject line is going to give your support person a big head start for getting to the bottom of your issue and let them know that the error is business critical.
Give as much detail as possible.
Depending on the nature of the error, that might include things like file names, what browser you were using, where your website is hosted, your operating system, and what you’ve already tried to fix the problem, if anything.
Make sure your software is up-to-date
If you’re dealing with website issues, a lot of things can be fixed by just keeping your software up-to-date. It’s the first thing you’ll be asked if you’re writing in about something like a plugin error.
If you’re a busy business owner, make the investment to hire a company to keep your essential software up-to-date. Flywheel offers WordPress plugin updates as an upgrade to their hosting packages and staging sites so you can experiment with your website without worrying about breaking our live site.
Access WP will manage your whole site and allow you to send unlimited 30-minute task requests as well.
Show don’t tell
If you take nothing else from this article, the single best thing you can do with a support request is fire up a screen sharing app and show exactly what happened with a screen capture or video. We’re big fans of Loom (free) and CloudApp.
A screen share is worth 1000 words (and quicker to make)
Make sure you show:
- What you were doing when the error happened
- What happened as a result of the error
- What you want to happen instead
If you do this, the support team will love you, and you’ll get your issue fixed faster by avoiding a bunch of back and forth because they need more information or can’t recreate your issue.
There are a lot of non-technical business owners out there, trying to navigate a technical business world. You don’t need to become a tech wiz, cut having a basic understanding of your tools and how to get support for them, will save you a lot of time and frustration and help you get back to doing the things you’re good at.