I have and still do produce my software… I have worked as first, second and third line tech support for major companies, so I am in a reasonably informed place to give out some handy advice here to aid people who run into a tech-support brick wall.
The most important issue is that you report the bug / issue / feature request. Even if you do not receive a prompt response, it is important to report the request/issue. If it is not reported, then why should the company fix / make the change? After all, if it is not reported, then no one is obviously running into that issue / need that change.
Here are some guidance for writing your report…
- If sending email, make sure you have a subject line. Seriously, blank subject lines aren’t going to leap out from someone’s inbox. Subject lines should summarize the situation, but don’t over-summarize.
- Bad – The game crashes!
- Good – The Game crashes on Level 2, after killing the boss.
- Make sure you state up-front and clearly what product or service you have a problem with. The publisher does not have access to your computer, nor knows what you are doing. Please be clear, and up-front. Is this a crash when using Excel? FileMaker Pro? Steam? World of Warcraft? State the application your having a problem with within the first few sentences.
- State anything unusual about your setup. Give a summary of your configuration, and be sure to mention anything that is not stock with your system. If your running under Linux, or Bootcamp let the publisher know. First, it ensures that they realize that Macintosh or Linux users use there in the application. Second, you may get an email stating they don’t support that environment, but especially with Bootcamp, you can reply that it’s WINDOWS. Bootcamp is just a pre-packaged set of drivers for Windows. Let the tech support guy be the judge of what is relevant to the cause, don’t assume.
- Find out your rough system specs first, and state them in the email. Everyone will need to know what version of windows you have, and for games, what video card. Find this out *before* you email them, because they are going to ask you anyway.
- Don’t get abusive. People, will just delete those emails. At the very least, you go to the back of the queue.
- Don’t write a novel. The guy scanning tech support issues is busy. Don’t include too much fluff.
- Include any previous correspondence, quoted below or attached. In an ideal world, all tech support staff can instantly see a log of your problem and earlier emails. This saves us a whole bunch of time. But if the company includes a “Ticket Number” or some other references number, please put it into the Subject line, and in the body of the email.
- Understand the problem from the other guys POV. Every consumer computer on earth has a different combination of hardware and software and configuration. It’s not ’stupidity’ that has resulted in a software crash. They are likely more annoyed at the software having bugs than you are. So keep in mind, they want to solve your problem.
- Use email if you can. Email is easily stored and searched. At least try to find the contact email address for support, as this will get the quickest response. Good companies do not hide their email address. If you don’t see any way to communicate with the company, think twice before using them.
- Don’t assume you are being ignored. It’s a big world and tech support may be asleep while you are awake. They may also be investigating the bug before getting back to you. Some problems are fixed in 2 minutes, some take 3 months. If you need to chase up a problem be polite, and remember 7.
Now the best template that I have seen for a request, is some Apple’s Bug Reporting website.. Here’s a slightly reworded version of their template:
- A short summary of the problem… No more than 3-4 sentences…
- What Steps are needed to reproduce the problem (preferably in numbered format)
- What the expected results are without the bug
- What the actual results are with the bug
- Describe any “edge” cases, where this issue occurs, or doesn’t occur. For example, Spell checker in Powerpoint changes frog to frogs. Whereas in Microsoft Word, it does not change frog to the plural.
- Any Additional notes, and more detailed description of the issue (if needed).
- Disconnect *ALL* hardware except for the mouse, keyboard, and essentials… Reboot, and try it with the reduced set of hardware. A good example, is that original series of F.E.A.R. games (http://www.whatisfear.com ) refused to run, if my 2414U HouseLink adapter was plugged into my computer. No error messages, it would just exit 5 seconds into the introduction.
The key here is to make sure that the bug is fixed in the future, and the only way to do that is to actually contact the manufacturer of the software. If it is a bug in the Operating System, the manufacturer will contact the OS manufacturer and they can collaborate on the resolution….
Alas, I have seen far too many people just throw their hands up, and not report the problem… That simply does not solve the problem.