I’d like to help you more. I’d like to help you faster. But to do so, I need your help. If you follow these three simple tips, there’s virtually no limit to the help you’ll get from me and my operations colleagues. What are they? Glad you asked.
First: Give me context — even at a high level
I don’t need pages of detail (I don’t even want lots of detail), but I definitely need more than an orphaned screenshot and a frantic plea on Slack, like this error message I got yesterday:
I need enough information to know where to start. Are you in a certain tool? Did you do a certain thing that led to that error?
Here’s a framework to consider as you explain your ask:
What problem are you solving?
Share context around the ask – why you’re asking for it, what the business value is, if it ties to other initiatives, etc.
Tell me which software you’re experiencing an issue with.
Describe the issue you are experiencing.
What is happening that you didn’t expect to happen? What would you expect to have happen that isn’t happening?
What were you doing when you got the error?
Reproducing the issue: If I tried to get the same error, how would I do that?
Select the category that best describes your question.
What is your question?
Please offer enough context and detail for us to help answer your question.
Second: Let me see what you see
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a screenshot is worth at least an hour of our collective time.
Before giving you a reliable answer, I need to recreate the issue you’re experiencing or go to the record you’re referencing. Links are super easy for you to grab and super helpful for me — so if you’re experiencing a problem, just copy the link and share it with me. How easy is that?
I’ll make it easier still. Here are some free tools that will simplify screenshotting:
Finally: Be clear and direct. Tell me what you need from me.
Do you need certain information? If so, what — and, if appropriate, why? Do you need me to do something specific? Tell me what it is. Do you need something from me in a certain file format and/or in a certain time frame? Specifying up front will save us a step later.
Vague requests could add cycles and delays because we need to fill in the gaps with guesswork or wait to hear back on qualifying questions. The more clarity up front, the less back-and-forth later.
In fact, while we’re at it, please, please, please document your request. Ops folks typically have a ticketing system that helps us stay organized. Catching us mid-meeting or shooting over a Slack may be easier for you but trust me: it increases the likelihood of us losing your request in the ether or missing some detail. Then no one wins.
That’s it. Really, that’s all we need. You see, in ops we’re constantly context switching — popping between one task to the next, one request to the next. If we pick up a ticket or see an email and you’ve made it easy to execute, there’s a higher likelihood we can help you faster.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to leave a ticket open for longer since I didn’t have the time it would take to do the information gathering required or I had to go back-and-forth a handful of times to get the information needed to help.
There’s a (potentially) larger upfront cost in filling out a ticket or giving more information — but as someone on both sides of the aisle (responding to and submitting plenty of support tickets to our vendors) I can confirm that time spent is worth it when you get what you need faster in the end.
Here to help,