In part one of this series, I wrote about using forms and processes to be more effective and efficient in helping people. In part two, I took it a step further by writing about offering help on-demand, anticipating the help others might need and making it available 24/7 online.
Now, I want to turn the tables and look at help requests from the other side. What about when you aren’t the one offering help, but the one asking for help? I spend plenty of time on both sides of the fence. In addition to helping local churches, I work with a lot of vendors and platforms. Sometimes, I need help getting a product to work right. Other times, I am just doing research and need some information. Most of the time, getting the information is easy. However, there are times when I need to put some effort in. Here are some things I have learned from living on both sides of asking for help.
How to get better and faster to responses to requests for help.
1. Do some homework. Before I send off an email or fill out a form, I try to determine if I can find the answer myself. Many organizations make the answers to most common questions available on their website. I can save everyone a lot of time by looking for the answer myself. Even if I don’t find the exact answer I am looking for, I usually find I can ask a better question when I do send that email. Check out the companies “Frequently Asked Questions” page. Sometimes software or web platforms have help pages built right in.
2. Be specific. What is it I need or want to know? The person on the other end wants to help, but they need some guidance. For information requests, “I am looking for more information on your product,” doesn’t give them much of a place to start. For help requests, “The software isn’t working,” doesn’t offer a lot of information. Instead, how about, “I have read over the information on your website and I have the following questions:” Or “I am running your software on Mac OS Sierra, 10.12.4 and it is crashing when I try to save a file.” Being specific means you might get your questions answered or your issue fixed right away without a number of back and forth emails.
3. Be clear and concise. Let me be honest, there are some emails in my inbox that have been there a while. They are still there because I have read them numerous times and I am still not sure what I am supposed to do. Before I hit “send” on an email or “submit” on a form, I read it over to be sure I was clear about what I needed or wanted. Sometimes I go back and edit. Sometimes I rearrange the text so that the request is right up front.
4. Let people know how to get back to you. There are times when it is clear that I am just looking for an email response. There are other times when I need to talk with someone. If I need to talk to someone, I make sure I include the best number they can use to reach me and when I will be available. I need their help so I want to make it as easy as possible to get a hold of me.
These are all positive steps you can take to get answers and support. I do want to include one thing not to do if you want help. This may be a pet peeve of mine but I also know it to be ineffective. I get the occasional phone message, email, and even form submission that simply says, “Can you call me when you get a chance?” Now, I don’t mind calling people. However, given the total number of tasks I tackle every day, these requests tend to fall down on the to-do list. Why? Because I have no information. I don’t know what it is about, how important it is, how high a priority it is, how long it is going to take, what information I need to gather before the call, etc. I want to help, I just need a little background.
There you go. Whether you need help from the Media Center, Google, or your bank, these tips should get you faster responses and better information. Good luck!