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Customer Service Tips FOR CUSTOMERS - How to Squeeze the Best Support out of Companies

by Alex Yumashev · Updated Sep 9 2019

There are soooo many "best practices" posts for support agents out there. But almost none for angry customers! How can you speed up case resolution? What do you do to expedite a response? How to fill in your requests efficiently? What are the hacks to poke an unresponsive agent?

After decades of being involved in the customer service industry and 10 years of selling a customer support app I've become a real jerk customer I might have one or two hints for customers this time, not for support agents.

OK, jokes aside, use these best practices when emailing support, and it will get your tickets answered much faster.

1. Don't put several unrelated questions in one request

When you put two unrelated questions in one ticket you slow things down. The ticket ends up being ping-pong'ed between different agents (sometimes departments), reply history becomes a mess, everyone (including yourself) has to filter out the history on which of the two problems a reply blongs to etc. File two separate tickets.

1a. Never reply to an old ticket with new questions

For similar reasons, do not reply to an existing case with a NEW problem. File a separate case. People tend to think "oh, this person seems helpful, I should grab her while she's at it and throw more issues that I'm having". But in reality - your ticket becomes lengthy and unmanageable. Your next question probably needs someone else's attention anyway. And this "someone else" has to look through a lengthy conversation, scrolling a wall of text that is 10-15 screens long. It's fine, it's their job after all, but this will slow things down.

Sure, many helpdesk apps (including ours) can "fork" a lengthy conversation into a separate ticket, but it's still more work and most people forget to do that anyway.

2. Provide more (structured!) info when filing a request

We are super lucky to have IT-people as our customers, they know exactly how to file a proper support case. Like, when filing a bug report - they usually include step-by-step instructions on how to replicate the bug.

Be like IT-people!

"I cannot log in" is not enough. "It doesn't work" is not enough. Define what "works" means to you. What is the expected outcome, and what is the actual outcome. If you get an error message - include the full message with your ticket. A screenshot would be great. If you're screenshotting a browser window - make sure to include the address bar. If you're getting an error message - provide the exact steps to reproduce that message.

3. Keep the subject descriptive

Subjects like "Help!" or "Urgent bug" are not helpful. On the contrary, subjects like "Issue with email server" or "Add feature XXX" are great. Your ticket will be moved between queues, transferred to other people, categorized and prioritized. But most importantly, it will be listed in a huge grid along with many other tickets, and if all of them just say "Help!" - it's hard for a support agent to tell which is which. So keep the subject line clear and descriptive.

4. Include the specs

What is your browser version? What is the OS? Is it mobile or desktop? If mobile - what is the device? If your question is about an app you installed - what is the app's version number?

If the question is about a recent order - provide the order number, items, your name, email and the shipping address.

Never include sensitive info like passwords or credit card details. Support rarely needs this data. In fact, if someone asks you for this information - it is almost certainly phishing.

5. Poke unresponsive support using other channels

Support reps can be unresponsive. We've all been there. I hate to say this (being on the "support" side of the fence) but sometimes it takes an angry review to get them to respond. Or a tweet. A review on Google maps. Or a Facebook post tagging the company (works great with airlines, at least here in the EU).

When talking to a SaaS company (like, uhm, ours) - remember that almost all of them are listed on websites like Capterra, GetApp, SoftwareAdvice and FinancesOnline (weird name for a software marketplace, I know). Threatening to leave a negative review on these websites can really speed things up ;)

If the problem is still unresolved - try the Quality Assurance department. Works best with "old-school" (AKA offline) companies, like banks and insurance corps. See, big companies have rules, if a QA complaint has been filed - it has to be dealt with. I do this regularly when my shitty local car dealership stops responding while still having my car in service. I don't call the service department, I call the QA directly. Now it's their job to poke the unresponsive auto mechanics.

6. Don't be afraid to set Priority to "High"

I'm probably going to regret this, but... Don't be afraid to set high priority for your tickets. If shit is urgent - it should be "Critical". There's no time to be nice. Adding an [URGENT] prefix to the subject line might also help. This has direct effect on the order in which tickets are looked at - in most helpdesk ticketing systems.

7. Follow the agent's instructions (even if they seem obvious)

Now I apologize if this one sounds arrogant. But I'll say it anyway... If a support rep asks you to do something - don't argue. Even if it seems weird or stupid. Just shut up and do it. Even if you think that's not what needs to be done. They've probably seen your issue a million times before. They know how to fix it. If it makes you feel better - do it for the sake of the future argument ("I told you, idiots, it won't work!")

8. Remember: you're talking to a team, not a person

Our stats shows that 72% cases are being handled by more than one person. And every time a ticket is forwarded from one support agent to another, the second agent has to look through all the notes and reply threads. Keep that in mind.

9. Opening a new ticket is almost always better

If a fixed issue comes back again after a while - many times people think it'd be better to look up the old ticket in their email archives, and reopen it. No. Open a new ticket. You might reference the old "resolved" ticket in your new message, but still open a new one.

First of all, "new" tickets get more attention in the queue. Agents jump on them, unlike with the "updated" ones that bring nothing but an "oh, that guy again". Second, it's actually easier to manage for the support team. Third, it's better for their stats and metrics (imagine a ticket that lasts several months saturates the statistics, which, again, demotivates the agent). Briefly re-describe the problem, reference the old ticket add file as a new request.

10. Speak Their Language

Shouting "where is my order, you assholes, I'm a valued friggin customer I paid you $$$$" - gets you nothing but a canned response in return: "we really regret blah-blah but we're doing our best to blah-blah please wait a bit longer".

Instead try this - "What are my options to escalate this ticket if I don't get my order in 2 days?" (I have literally just tried this with Revolut's live chat after they faild to deliver my card for 2 weeks). The phrase is calm, short, clear and won't let them get away with a canned template. And the guy was like "uhm... ohm... well, here's what you do".