How to Talk to Your Hosting Support Team

If you run a website long enough, the day is going to come where you need to ask your support team for some kind of assistance. Whether your site is down, you need help fixing some kind of error or you need a new feature enabled, you’ll have to file a support ticket and get some help from the people in charge of your server.

Resolving issues with the help of your support team is not as simple as writing an incoherent note and sending it to them. If you want prompt and effective help with your site, you need to learn how to communicate with your support team effectively.

Unfortunately, hosting can be a very jargon-filled industry; one in which a novice might not be able to communicate all that well.

To help with that, we’re going to take a look at three common support scenarios and ways to make sure that related trouble ticket is a) taken seriously, b) is useful to the support team and c) that the issue is resolved quickly.

1. Site Outage

The first step to any site outage problem is to actually confirm that the site is down. If you use a site monitoring service, which you should even if you use a free one, you probably found out about the outage within 5 minutes of the site going down.

Your first action is to visit the site and confirm that it’s down and it’s not merely a hiccup with the monitoring service. If it’s down for you, then check your site with DownForEveryoneOrJustMe to see if they also report it as offline. If it appears offline at both places (and other sites on the server are offline as well), the next step is, strangely enough, to wait at least a few minutes.

Servers need to reboot from time to time and sites go down because of that. However, such a reboot or upgrade usually takes less than fifteen minutes. So, you need to make sure that your site has been down for at least fifteen minutes before filing any kind of report.

Once that quarter hour of downtime has passed, log into your host’s support area and see if there is any kind of known problem. Many hosts will post about known issues and provide an ETA for fixing without you needing to say a word.

If there’s nothing there, your next step is to compose a short, simple support request saying that yourdomain.com is offline and you’re after some help getting it back online along with, if possible, an ETA for resolution.

That is usually more than adequate in these cases. However, I usually find that hosts already know about the downtime, even when they haven’t created the public notice, so you may get an automated response letting you know they are working on it. If so, that’s more than fine. Demanding a human response, especially at a smaller host, might be taking engineers off of the job of working on your site.

2. Site Error

If your site is throwing back an error when you’re trying to do something, such as add a post to your site or use a new feature, you can often contact support for assistance. But remember that you need to give them the information that they need to help. Specifically, the following:

  1. How to Replicate the Error: What steps can they take to replicate the error for themselves. Give them step-by-step instructions for replicating the error you experience.
  2. What the Error Is: If possible, either copy and paste the error text or use a screenshot to illustrate what the exact error says.
  3. What the Expected Result Is: Finally, they need to know what’s supposed to happen when they replicate the error. Sometimes this is obvious, such as a post going online, but often times they don’t know what the steps should do if everything works well.

If you explain in this way, you should find it easy to describe the error without any jargon or confusing language. In fact, when reporting an error (as with most support requests) using plain language is much better than attempting to use jargon and using it incorrectly. Doing the latter only causes more confusion so it is much better to keep the report simple and factual than try to impress your host with your technical knowledge.

3. New Feature Added/Server Modification

The process for requesting a a new feature or a server modification is actually very similar to reporting an error. After all, the server is not functioning as you would like it, so the only difference is that you already know what the solution is.

When trying to request a server modification, take the following steps:

  1. Explain What You Are Trying to Do: Tell your host what it is you’re trying to install, setup or otherwise do. They might know another way to make it work.
  2. Explain What You Were Told You Need: Pulling from the instructions or the requirements you were given, explain what you were told you need; copying and pasting is often ideal.
  3. Ask For Help Setting it Up: Finally, ask for their assistance in getting it set up. Whether you’re asking because you don’t know how to do it or doing so requires a higher level of access, either way, explain ask them to step in and provide assistance.

In the end, your host may have to decline or help you find a workaround as many applications want you to use components that might be dangerous from a security standpoint, but at least you’ll get your answer as quickly as possible.

General Tips

Beyond those specific situations, here are a few general tips you should follow whenever you contact your host’s support team for any reason:

  1. Be Polite: Never be rude or write in an angry manner, even if you are frustrated. Sending threats or angry letters doesn’t help anything. Always be grateful for good service, many hosting customers don’t have it.
  2. Explain Thoroughly and Plainly: Don’t try to use jargon unless you are VERY comfortable with it, just explain what you need or are seeing in plain language, copy and paste when possible.
  3. Accept the Limitations of Your Account: You can’t host Google on a $4 per month account. If you don’t pay a great deal for hosting, appreciate there are limits to what it can do and what your support team can do for you.
  4. Respond Quickly: If you get a request for additional information, respond as quickly as possible. This greatly speeds up resolution time.
  5. Close Out Tickets When Done: When you’ve received a resolution to your problem, close out the ticket, if that isn’t done for you. It’s simply polite.

All in all, these are basic, common sense guidelines that sometimes seem to get lost when talking with the support team. However, following them will, for the most part, help you get better, faster and more effective service.

Bottom Line

All in all, there’s no big difference between contacting your support team at your host and asking for help at any other business. The only real difference is that, for many, hosting is a jargon-filled industry that requires someone with extensive technical knowledge to do the talking.

This isn’t true at all. Support teams are well trained to receive requests from non-technical individuals and do so all the time. As long as your requests are clear, well-thought out and reasonably sane, they’ll probably get a positive response.

So simply be smart about your hosting tickets and be prepared to work with them as a team rather than looking at them as servants to help you. If you do that, it’s unlikely you’ll have any trouble at all.

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