YANML - You are not my linguist, but how do I say this?
February 27, 2015 4:20 AM   Subscribe

How to ask the user for confirmation, and not get snapped at....? The service-desk edition.

Part of my duties at work is to supervise a support desk function. They:

* recieve support tickets - ticket status: Open
* deal with them
* contact the user to confirm that problem is fixed - ticket status: Resolved
* close the ticket - ticket status: Closed

Looking though the user satisfaction surveys, and some general comments I can see that some of the users are a bit upset when receiving an email stating "We have resolved your issue, please confirm" (Step 3 above).

Their upset comes when they check what should be fixed, and see that.... something... in the fix is missing, or maybe not 100% fixed, the user feels that "Service Desk says its 'resolved' but its NOT, and they're INCOMPETENT!".

What we are, attempting, to convey in our email is "We believe we have fixed the issue, please confirm - and if it is not fixed then we can take this up again".

How would you feel about getting the email above "we believe...", too soft? any other wording that would give the message "we're just reaching out here to get your input".
posted by alchemist to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Soft is fine -- in fact, soft is good, because it leaves you an opening for the user to still feel OK about the interaction if the problem is not resolved yet.

If it's possible (are these completely canned responses or do they get human input?) I would change "please confirm" to more of an active, personalized request. For example, "We believe we have fixed the issue. Can you please go ahead and try logging in again and let us know how it goes?" In my experience (a few years on the service desk), people usually appreciate a more casual tone of email, and a lot of the time you need to really spell out what it means to "confirm" the resolution.
posted by telegraph at 4:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]

"We believe we have fixed the issue, please confirm - and if it is not fixed then we can take this up again" sounds fine to me.
As someone who is kind on the receiving end of this sort of thing, it's definitely annoying for someone to say "I've fixed it" when they clearly (to me) haven't. Just saying "I think I've fixed it, please let me know if it's working OK for you" is a subtle change but makes a lot of difference.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:28 AM on February 27, 2015 [14 favorites]

Yes, seconding telegraph's comments too - a casual tone makes it obvious you're speaking to a human being who's trying to help you, not some autoreply robot who's only interested in closing the ticket ("Please confirm" sounds very auto-reply).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:30 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

My workplace makes us fill in all "requests" (for leave, shift changes, new rosters etc.) online. When our manager has done something about the request, the status of the request changes to "executed". I think that executed is a bit of a scary sounding word... If I was choosing what to say, I'd say "Action taken". To me it sounds like something has been done, but doesn't necessarily say that the issue has been completely resolved.
You could also make it very clear how the customer can pass on feedback about the action and anything further that needs to be fixed.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:35 AM on February 27, 2015

"Have we resolved your issue?"
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [13 favorites]

You are a valuable and wonderful jewel in the land of first-line support. You care that your team fix the problem. That's rare.

You believe that your team is doing good work and solving problems. That's great.

Your customers think you suck. That's normal.

Customers call you when you broke something. On a good day, you fix it. On an average day, you fix part of it. Your customers are on a scale that goes: busy, in a hurry, under pressure, impatient, intolerant arseholes who hate you anyway.

The best you can do is turn 'system broken' into 'system normal rubbish.'

You didn't break it. Your team are doing their best.

So! Use language! Humans are easily hackable! (I assume you can't actually fix the underlying problems with piss-poor software, uncaring management, aggressive lowest-bidder outsourcing and sheer management incompetency) so - language it is:

"We're glad you asked us for help. That's what we're here for!"

"This system {rarely goes wrong | often works | annoys us all | we just have to live with}"

"We think we've solved {specific problem} by {specific action} "THIS IS IMPORTANT Do not use 'canned answers.' Convince the customer that you understood their problem, did something and tested the outcome.

If it's not fixed, call me - {$NAME} - on {$NUMBER}.

Let us know how we're doing

If you're still unhappy, the VP's cell number is...12345678
posted by Combat Wombat at 4:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

I have been on the other end of something like this. The biggest issue was getting an email asking if the problem was resolved when it looked like IT had done nothing, certainly not come and done anything with the laptop or desktop machine. It basically felt like It expected us to fix it ourselves or that they hoped the IT pixies had visited in the night. So I like kinddieserzeit's 'action taken' you could even say in very basic terms what the action was AND what is should have done. (ie don't send emails saying 'the manifold vortex was decrepusculated' because this will sound like nonsense to the user, at least say 'the manifold vortex was decrepusculated in order to unblock the tachyon projector and get the spellchecker to come back on' so it relates back to the user's issue. Basically say there has been action and then asking if it has been sufficient to right the problem reported by the user. Then offer the option to the user to say whether the problem remains, has there been any change, etc.
posted by biffa at 4:45 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Ticket #XXXX has been marked as resolved. Is this correct?" Yes [], No, reopen the ticket [].

If "reopen the ticket" sounds too much like an automated message from a help desk (which it is, but users may still find it off-putting), maybe something like "No, this needs further attention" might be better.

I'm assuming this is helpdesk software and you don't actually have the ability to add custom messages as to what's been done and so on.
posted by hoyland at 5:22 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think, "If this has resolved your issue, please confirm. If not, please follow step X. Thank you." would work very nicely.
posted by xingcat at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

If at all possible, perhaps train your team to not send the email until they have gotten some sort of verbal feedback from the actual user confirming that the user feels their issue has been resolved. Supposedly they're talking to the user in the course of all this. At the point where the tech feels like their job should be done, say something like "Have I resolved this issue to your satisfaction?" If the user says yes, then send the email. There should be no reason to use canned email to find out if the user thinks the job is done. You can send an email to have the user officially confirm the job was done. Even if you're working on these issues remotely over email, the email to find out how the user feels about the work shouldn't be automated, it should be written by a tech.
posted by bleep at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I want to point out that "We have resolved your issue, please confirm" is not correct written English. It should be: "We have resolved your issue. Please confirm."

Carefully proofread your messages. Even people who might not think they know correct English usage pick up on mistakes. I believe I have come across articles about studies that show this, but I don't have any links right now to verify it. For example, ads with mistakes in them perform a lot worse than those without typos. In any case, I think this is fairly self-evident. Messages with mistakes in them will annoy your users (at least on an unconscious level), and that could be one reason why they are primed to respond with hostility.

Also, I want to point out that "Please confirm" is a command, softened a little by the "please." People don't like being bossed around. I agree with others that you should rephrase this stage of the support process as a request, a conditional, or a question.
posted by Leontine at 6:37 AM on February 27, 2015

What you're sending is a statement, but it sounds like you really intend to ask a question. You're asking the recipient if their issue is resolved, so why not phrase it as a question: "Have these steps (assuming your department's actions are outlined above) resolved the problem?"
posted by amtho at 6:54 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to be devil's advocate...are you sure that your support reps are actually resolving the customers' issues? Sometimes there is a gap between what support thinks is "fixed" and what the customer thinks is "fixed." I've seen this happen at the company I work for (I'm not in support but I have to nose around our tickets sometimes).

As for the wording, I'd say "Have we resolved your issue?"
posted by radioamy at 7:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

If at all possible, perhaps train your team to not send the email until they have gotten some sort of verbal feedback from the actual user confirming that the user feels their issue has been resolved. Supposedly they're talking to the user in the course of all this.

That depends on the office and the kind of requests.. Eg, the printer on level 3 is broken, I need to be given admin permissions to this SharePoint site, I need my employee to be approved for a conference trip - lots of requests don't require interaction.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2015

My workplace uses a similar system. The times it makes me angriest are when the helpdesk "resolves" my issue by deciding it's not their problem.
posted by yarntheory at 9:44 AM on February 27, 2015

I think you will get more responses if you phrase your question as a question. "We did [STEPS TAKEN] to fix [PROBLEM]. Has this solved your issue?" Is an email I would be happy to answer either way, and if I still had a problem, I would be inclined to answer it in a nice way.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Eg, the printer on level 3 is broken, I need to be given admin permissions to this SharePoint site, I need my employee to be approved for a conference trip - lots of requests don't require interaction.

If people are getting as bent out of shape as the OP describes over one-and-done requests like this not being completed, then that's a bigger problem.
posted by bleep at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2015

This literally just happened to me yesterday. I got an email that my ticket had been resolved when clearly it WASN'T resolved because the software still wasn't working. I had to go put more comments in the ticket and I gave the agent a very poor score on the survey. It did not occur to me until this question that "resolved" isn't the same thing as "closed."

So, the email I would have liked to have gotten would be something like this:

Hi, this is so-and-so from the help desk. I understand you were having issues installing [software]. I reactivated your account and reinstalled the download app. Please try installing the software again. If it still does not work, call me and we will work through it on the phone.
posted by desjardins at 12:43 PM on February 27, 2015

Is it possible to add a new status to tickets? Something like "Pending" or maybe more explicitly "Pending confirmation"? The idea is that tickets don't get moved to "Resolved" until the fix is confirmed by the user, so the user doesn't see "Resolved" until they're satisfied.
posted by mhum at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

How to Satisfy Your Customer Using the Right Tone covers some great guidelines on when to be more formal or casual, what that looks like for customer support messages, and of course MailChimp's Voice and Tone site.

Because some people are frustrated when they get this "resolved" email, I would stay relatively formal (see top link for supporting research). I agree with posters above that an approach like the following could work:


On December 16, you submitted the following support request: [link to support request]

Since then I have updated your DNS settings, which should give you access to Netflix again. Has this resolved the issue?

Button 1: No, it's still not working. - link this to a form to keep the ticket going
Button 2: Yes, works great! - link this to a satisfaction survey


Your Name
Your Title


I've noticed that MailChimp support also links me to related Knowledge Base articles, which are often helpful.
posted by heatherann at 2:59 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ughhhhh this is the IT department at my office. I have a lot of ~feelings~ about the IT department, none of them good. The #1 thing I will tell you is to stop calling it "YOUR" issue, which sounds accusatory and as though I have done something wrong. Refer to "THE" issue instead. That alone would make me happier. Somehow IT always makes me feel like I am some jerk in their system complaining about it unreasonably, rather than a billable employee with a broken computer..

Semantics, I know. Normally I'm against tiny parsing of language like this, but I really hate those emails about "my" issue - it's not MY issue, my computer is broken!
posted by annie o at 9:24 PM on March 1, 2015

Thank you ALL for these great suggestions and insights! Over the next period of time I will attempt to incorporate various things mentioned above to see which works best with the users. Thanks again!
posted by alchemist at 2:59 AM on March 2, 2015

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