I might be completely alone in this, but the support desk is one of my favorite aspects of my job. It’s the instant-gratification of web development. Receive a request, solve a problem, and BOOM: happy client! Every time I close out a ticket, I feel like I’ve made a client’s life just a little bit easier. So here’s a few tips to help support clients return the favor:
1. One issue per ticket
I often see support requests that ask me to address two, or even three, unrelated issues in the same ticket. As I go through and try to solve one of the issues, I will reply to the ticket to get clarification, or the client will update the ticket with further instruction. But these clarifications and instructions can get lost if there’s a bunch of different issues being discussed on the same thread. Communication is clearest when we discuss just one issue per ticket. That way we can both clearly track progress, and any pertinent information won’t get lost in discussion about other issues.
2. Is this a learnable task?
Sometimes we get tickets for tasks that are simple content updates, or very, very basic configuration changes. Of course, I am always happy to do these things for clients -- after all, that’s what I’m here for! But if there’s a repeating task that may be simple to learn, it may be best if you ask for training. Beyond development, we can demonstrate regular tasks via shared screen or create custom how-to videos. If you don’t ask, we assume that you are happy requesting help each time a simple update is needed.
3. Time-sensitive requests
It’s great to let us know if your requests are time sensitive, or needed by a specific deadline. But you might not realize that it also helps to let us know when the opposite is true -- if a request is NOT time sensitive. For bugs and fixes, I generally assume these should be taken care of as promptly as possible. But if you’re asking for a tweak or a new feature, knowing that it doesn’t need to be done today will help me prioritize tasks and make sure that the most critical issues are taken care of first.
4. Time estimates
Many clients make support requests and ask me to let them know how long their request will take before I get started on it. It makes sense, there’s a limited bucket of hours per month, and clients want to make sure they’re going toward the most crucial issues. But we often don’t know right off the bat how long a particular task will take, especially if it’s for a brand-new feature. Sometimes it takes 10-15 minutes to research a solution to provide a ballpark estimate. If you need a specific estimate, it’s helpful to understand that estimates take time to produce, which means you will want to give us an idea of how long is too long, so we don’t dig in too deep for an issue that isn’t a top priority to begin with.
5. Like Douglas Adams said: Don’t Panic
If something is going wrong on your site, it’s easy to be alarmed and to send in a support request as quickly as possible -- because obviously, you want us to fix it as quickly as possible! But clients lose time in the long run when they do this because not enough information about the error is included, and we end up taking that much longer trying to debug it. So before sending in rushed requests, make sure you’ve provided as much info as you can: a link to where the error is occurring, a screenshot of what’s going on, what browser you’re using, and the exact steps you took that resulted in the error.