Tips For Writing Support Requests

People really like Populi’s customer support, and it seems that we really like to provide it. At some point or other, close to 100% of the people who work here have interacted with a user in need of help—whether it’s a technical issue caused by a software bug, a new feature that requires some training, a question about how a Populi workflow supports your school’s process, or anything else. Support is baked in to everything we do here; this company is unthinkable without it.

Support’s job is to make sure Populi’s working for your school. If something’s getting in the way of that, that’s where you come in: you get to describe the problem to us so we know what to fix. Accordingly, here are some pointers on how to write support requests that help us help you—swiftly and knowledgeably.

Details, Details

When explaining your issue to us, give us as many specific details about the problem as you can. For example, if you tell us that “The course button isn’t working,” we’ll need to pepper you with questions. “Which button?” “Which course?” “What were you trying to do?” But if you write in with, “I tried clicking the Add Course button on Academic Term > Courses, but I got a red error message saying that this isn’t permitted. I clicked this button yesterday with no trouble.” Using that information, we could instantly surmise that the update that we pushed at the end of the day yesterday inadvertently created a permissions error; your detailed message told us right where the problem is—and how to fix it. We know not every issue is as cut-and-dried as this example, but you get the idea: the right details from you help us take action quickly.

(Details we never need: Social Security Numbers and passwords! Never include those in your request, whether in the message, an attached file, or a screenshot. They definitely won't help us solve your issue, but sending them could expose them to eyeballs with no right to view them!)

Include URLs

URL, of course, stands for Uniform Resource Locator, which is nerd-ese for “web page address”. If you’re having trouble on a particular page or with a particular student’s profile, for example, including a URL helps us zoom in on the issue more accurately. If you tell us that you’re “having trouble with student charges”, we’ll have to ask for examples. But write in with “This student was overcharged, and for the wrong fees, to boot,” we have a specific instance of your problem to dig into.

Pictures Tell a Thousand Words

Lots of times, we can’t see what you can—that’s the nature of how Populi and its user permissions work. Screenshots can provide us with important details about your issue, showing us exactly what you’re seeing. Depending on your device, you should have the ability to take screenshots and attach them to your support requests. Look up the instructions for taking screenshots on Windows or Mac, memorize them, or make a cheat sheet. To that end, this website may come in handy.

Tone Matters

As they say, you catch more flies with honey. In this idiom, “flies” are “helpful support responses” and “honey” is the sweet disposition of your request. What a terrible metaphor! But I’m on a deadline, so I’m sticking with it.

We understand: you’re just trying to do your job, and you click “Add Student” and the whole page turns upside down on you—no student has been added, but a headache has been added to your temples. Now you gotta write support and tell us that the dumb button isn’t working, and you can’t finish the day’s work until the dumb button works again. The temptation is to write in, both fists banging on the keyboard, something about “Your dumb button doesn’t work because you guys are dumb, too!!!!”

Now how do you think that makes us feel? We’re not AI chatbots. We are humans and we need to be loved.

Kidding aside, professional courtesies do matter. If you’re looking for help, it’s easier to get it when your message is friendly rather than condescending or angry. Remember, we have no fondness for that “Add Course” bug, either!

Don’t Agonize

All that said, don’t worry about getting it perfect. “Perfect is the enemy of the good enough,” goes another proverb—if it’s a choice between letting us know about your issue or holding off until you have all the pertinent details and URLs and screenshots you think we’ll need, we’ll take the first each and every time! Just send in the request and the ball will start rolling. If we need more from you, we’ll ask.

This is our Pleasure

Whatever the condition or completeness of your request, we’re in the problem-solving business and we delight in helping you solve yours. That’s our demeanor towards all your requests, so approach us in that confidence that we really are happy to hear from you.