We’ve all done the song and dance: something is broken in the product you’re using, so you decide to contact technical support for help. You send your message and wait for a response as the minutes (or hours, or even days) drag on until you finally see the reply appear in your inbox. You breathe a sigh of relief, ready to move on… But no – it’s not a fix to your problem. It’s just a list of follow up questions for you to answer. Once you respond, it’s back to the waiting game. This continues on for several interactions until, at last, your problem is resolved. In that time, you’ve graduated from college, adopted a dog, switched jobs three times, and sworn off of technology altogether – but hey, at least you finally know why your auto-correct wasn’t working.

Luckily, there is a way to escape this level of Dante’s Inferno. The key to a fast and pain-free customer service interaction is to provide as much information as you possibly can up-front, in your very first message, so that there is no need for back and forth questions and bantering. But how do you know what information to send? Take a mental trip back to grade school and follow the five W’s (and one H):

What?

This is the most basic and helpful information, and it comes in two parts:

  1. What did you expect to happen, and what actually happened? Include as much information as you can here, including any error messages.
  2. What (if anything) have you tried in your own troubleshooting?

The last thing anyone wants is to live two lifetimes waiting for a response from technical support only to see the dreaded “did you try turning it off and on again?” response. You can almost see the support rep sitting in a bland basement office pushing a giant button which generates the same pre-written responses over and over again.

If you do any troubleshooting on your own (yes, you should try turning it off and then on again), be sure to list what you’ve done in your message so that no time is wasted with support suggesting for you to try things you’ve already done.

Who?

The answer to “who was impacted?” will help the support team define the scope of the problem and will give them a jumping-off point when beginning their investigation. Is your entire team seeing the issue, or is Susan from HR the only one having trouble?

If it’s just one person or one group of people, try to include anything that they might be doing differently from everyone else. Does the HR department use different computers than everyone else? Does Susan work from home, while everyone else works in the office? All of that information can help the technical support team pinpoint the issue.

Where?

Knowing where the problem occurred will help your support team hone in on the issue quickly. Is it everywhere you navigate on the platform or just the settings menu? Do you see the issue when using one internet browser but not another? Does the problem appear/disappear based on your physical location? Does everything work fine when you’re sitting in the main office, but stop working when you decide to work at the café next door so that you don’t have to listen to Brad tell you all about his weekend (again)? Knowing these things will help the technical team find the problem expediently.

When?

This is one of the most crucial pieces of information for tech support during their investigation: when did you notice the issue? Companies handle an unbelieve amount of information on a daily basis and knowing when a problem began can be the difference between spending three hours or three minutes looking for an error. The more accurate the timestamp, the easier it is to identify a potential issue.

Why? How?

Sit back and relax for these ones; with all the information you provided with the other “4 W’s”, technical support will be able to fill in the answer to why the issue happened and how to resolve it with speed and ease.

 

Keep in mind that some issues are more complex than others, and therefore some may require extra resources and time to resolve. Providing the most information you can, however, will allow your support representative to start that process sooner rather than later, and will save you the frustration of days worth of back and forth discussion. You might not need to give up on technology after all!

 

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