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Agent Perspective: A Bad Ticket Just Needs A Little Context

This post originally appeared on The Call Center Weekly blog on July 12, 2013.

We’ve all been there as support agents. You get the dumb question, the demand to “add this feature or else” or a cryptic ticket with a single sentence that doesn’t really describe the problem that needs to be addressed.

The fifth ticket like this is no big deal, but after the 75th you feel like you’re going crazy. After 100, you’re asking yourself, is this person crazy? Do they think I’m a genius and can figure this out from a single word? We’re not building a feature just for them!

(If these thoughts haven’t run through your head, you probably haven’t worked in customer support very long.)

Of course, you can’t say any of those things to a customer, and so instead you write out a civil email (not necessarily super nice) and say, “No we don’t have that feature.” Or “Here’s an article that will help.”

This is not a bad way to handle the situation, but it doesn’t get to the root of the issue. When it comes to cryptic tickets, there’s usually more going on than you realize.

I recently got a ticket from a customer asking to use one of our premium features for free.

The first thought that went through my head was, “You want to use one of our top features, but not pay us a dime? Um…no. “

Instead of saying, “It’s not possible,” I asked for more details about why they didn’t want to upgrade to a paid plan. Initially I thought they just didn’t want to pay us anything.

Then I got their response. It turns out they were a start-up, and were still waiting on funding, so they couldn’t afford a paid plan yet. And in order for them to use the tool, they had to have the premium feature.

I wasn’t dealing with a “cheap” prospect, but a new company that would most likely turn into a great long-term customer.

The same happened with a user who asked an obvious question about how our product worked. I was surprised at such a basic question, but it turns out (when I got some context), they knew how it was supposed to work, but couldn’t get it to function as expected. It was a bug.

Being able to really help customers requires getting context, so you have all the pieces to the story. And customers often forget that you need that context to really help them.

Instead of getting annoyed with those “bad” or “frustrating” tickets, ask for context.

Claire Talbott started out as nanny and spent several years as a copywriter before falling in love with customer support at UserVoice. When she’s not helping customers or putting together documentation, she enjoys writing fiction and hanging out with her dog, Mr. Knightly.