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3 ways to get more help by asking for it the right way

Jami Mays's Layout avatar

As clients’ needs become more complex, the pressure is on designers to come up with more sophisticated solutions. Premium plugins, themes, and other tools are all designed to offer you access to complicated code without having to start from scratch, but sometimes there are bugs in the code or your client asks for a feature that might be not be built into the product. The next logical step is to ask for help.

But your support tickets leave things unresolved and your forum and Facebook group posts go ignored. You’ve bought licenses for these premium products and you’re still not getting great support. Here are a few reasons why that might be happening.

Take a second and think it through

I can’t tell you how many times I have opened a chat window or a support ticket, started typing my query and then, halfway through completion, I realize my mistake and close the window. There are also those instances when I get halfway through a conversation with someone only to realize my mistake – talk about embarrassing!

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It’s important to remember that whoever is on the other end is not a mind reader; they don’t know what you’ve already tried and they don’t know what your skill level is to offer solutions to try something else. They will likely have a script of sorts – or at least a protocol – that will help them guide you through some hoops to determine where your problem lies. The neat thing is, the longer you use a product, the more familiar you become with it. If you can take a guess as to what these hoops might be, you can save yourself (and the tech support person) a heap of time.

Is it truly the product’s problem? Or are you at fault?

There are just going to be some things that a support ticket won’t be able to fix. If you’re struggling with a specific coding language and, at the root, it’s because you don’t know the language well enough to trek out on your own, that’s not tech support’s problem. Hint: this is when you rely more on your community than tech support.

I ran into this with Genesis a lot when I was first getting started. I had learned just enough to know what Genesis was capable of but did not yet have the full base knowledge to accomplish customizations on my own and, after opening a support ticket with StudioPress, I was directed to the forums and told that my request fell outside of the scope of support. I remember being a little miffed by this move, “I’m a paying customer!”

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But you don’t pay your plumber to come over and install your new tile shower – in the same way, you’ve got to step back and ask yourself, “Is this their problem or mine?” If it’s the developer’s problem, by all means, open a support ticket and ask for help. If it’s your problem, seek out your own answers or preface your support ticket with, “I know this is likely out of scope, but I would really appreciate some direction here.” This tells the support person that you’re trying and they can likely help you understand the issue more. Which leads me to…

Put forth some effort to solve it yourself

Most reputable developers will create a documentation area to help you learn and understand their product. If it’s a pretty new product, documentation might be slim, but for well-established products, you can usually find pages and pages in Google of official documentation as well as third-party tutorials or walkthroughs.

I sometimes have a difficult time combing through documentation when I first start using a product, mostly because I’m excited to just start using it, but also because of my learning style. I learn most things through trial and error. This means most of the time I ignore documentation and try to figure out how to use something without directions. Then, after I’ve thoroughly confused myself, I circle back and read the documentation. It’d be easy to send a support ticket once I’ve thoroughly confused myself, but I’d have a hard time explaining myself (see #1) and ultimately, it’s not tech support’s job to hold my hand through my learning style baggage (see #2).

If you need to, print off the documentation and get out a highlighter, take notes in the margins, and treat it like it’s meant to be treated — like a learning tool. All too often, we skim the documentation and never really read it through, end to end. It’s also a good idea to read through the documentation after you’ve been using the plugin for a while; sometimes you’ll find that you’ll have one of those a-ha! moments the second time around after you’re more familiar with the product.

Got some more strategies for finding help successfully? Share them below!

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