How to Get Good Support - SiteDistrict

How to Get Good Support

Understand How Support Works and Improve Your Results

When you reach out to your hosting provider - or anyone for that matter - to get support, there are some things that are good to understand, and some techniques that will help you get support efficiently, and make it more likely that the experience will be satisfying.

Types of Issues

You might contact support for a few reasons:

  1. Something isn't working
  2. You don't know how to do something
  3. You want to know if something is possible or available

The catch is, you might not know which is the case for your problem. Or, you might think it's one, when it's actually the another.

Whose Problem Is It?

Let's talk more about this point above: 1. Something isn't working

Is it Me, or is it my Host?

This is a good question, and you might start by asking yourself this. But we believe this is the wrong way to look at it. Or at least, it tends to lead to looking at things as too "black or white", "me vs. them", or blaming the other side.

Solving a problem with your website requires work. It might be the host needs to do some work, to fix a bug or add an enhancement. It might be that you need to do some work, such as changing settings inside your site, or updating a plugin. Sometimes either one of you might be able to fix the problem, in a different way.

No matter what, there is also work to be done together. You and your host should work together as a team to understand the problem, and figure out the best solution.

"Is it me, or is it my host?" The problem might be more on the hosting site, or more on your side. Either way, teamwork is usually a big part of solving the problem.

Incompatible?

Successfully hosting your WordPress site somewhere is a partnership. Your site will have certain needs and requirements, and to successfully host it, your host will need to meet those requirements.

If your needs don't match what your host provides, neither of you is wrong. There is just not a match.

Not every host is the same, and not every site is the same. Most hosts, including SITE DISTRICT can host most WordPress sites without without any issuess. However, some WordPress sites are highly customized, and may have plugins & requirements that a host has not seen yet, or just doesn't support.

When you contact support, one thing that may need to happen is to determine if your site and the current hosting environment are compatible. If the answer turns out to be "No", then there are usually several solutions:

  • Your host can change or fix someting on their end.
  • Your host can tell you what to change with your site, or in some cases, can change or hack it for you.
  • You can decide that the plugin or feature that you're trying to use isn't actually worth it, and get rid of it.
  • You can find an alternative solution that works with your existing host.
  • You can switch to a different host that can support your needs without making changes on their end.

Which one is best will depend on the situation, and some solutions involve additional risk and uncertainty.

In many cases, and especially if your host has good support & the ability to adapt their platform, the solution is relatively quick and easy. In other cases, there is no quick and easy solution.

In some cases, the easiest solution is to switch hosting, to a host that can better support your needs, either because of difference in their platform, better support, or both.

Basic Advice

Before you contact your support person, here are some things than can increase your chances of success:

  • Be Polite - The person you are talking to on the other end is a person too, just like you. Be courteous and patient by default.
  • Give the Benefit of the Doubt - If it seems like the support person doesn't understand something, assume that there might be a mis-communication, and try to figure out how you might communicate more effectively.
  • Be Open - You might contact support thinking that you already know the solution, and the host just needs to do X. But be open to the idea that the host might know some things that you don't - especially on the technology side - that could lead to an easier (and possibly better) solution than what you had in mind.

The Support Process

When you contact support, you usually have some type of problem or question. In order for the person on the other side to be able to help you, they need to understand your problem or question.

This is not as easy as it sounds. The reason for this is usually a lack of context.

The person that is helping you often needs to (or at least should) know some background information about how you got to the point when you decided to contact support. The person you are talking to also did not see and experience everything that you did. What might be "obvious" to you might be much less so to other person.

Try to make sure that the person who is helping you understands the background of your problem. If you've talked about it before, remind them. If this is a new issue for you both, tell them what you were trying to do and how you got to where you are now.

Shared Understanding

In order to solve a problem, the person you are communicating with must first understand it. Often, the easiest way to understand it is to see the problem.

Let me say that again, because it's so important:

You want to make it so the person helping you can see and experience the same thing as you and also understand what is wrong with what you are seeing.

 This is HUGE.

Reproducing a Problem

The easiest way for a support person to help with a problem is often if they can reproduce the problem for themselves.

A good way for a support person to do this is for you to provide the following:

  1. Steps to Reproduce
    • A list of steps, in order, that the support person should be able to follow, to reliably reproduce the problem for themselves.
  2. Expected Results
    • A description of what you expected to happen.
  3. Actual Results
    • What actually happened. What you saw or didn't see that caused you to conclude that something isn't working.

Example Report

Let's say you are editing a page on your blog, and you get an error when saving. You might need to communicate as follows:

  • Steps to Reproduce:
    1. Go to https://example.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post=1234
    2. Click in the content area
    3. Add some text
    4. Click the Publish button
  • Expected Results
    • Light green message at top of screen saying "Changes saved"
  • Actual Results
    • Red message saying "Changes could not be saved"

Supporting Evidence

How you communicate your issue can vary. Also, if the support person understands enough of your context, you may need to communicate less.

More details are almost always helpful, but they take longer to communiate.

Some things that are almost always SUPER helpful to a support person are:

  • Your current URL - Copy this from the address bar in your browser.
  • Screenshots - Of the error, at least. Even better, of each step, if relevant.
  • Written steps - Following the outline and example above ...
  • A video / screencast - There are some great tools out there that let you record your screen, and audio, and share it via a link.

Your support person may ask for these if you didn't provide them. Think about how confident you are the the support person can fill in the details. If there's doubt, it's often better provide more details and screenshots right away, as it could easily reduce the time for understanding and solving your problem.

Intermittent Problems

Sometimes an issue can't be reliably reproduced. Either because you don't know exactly what you are doing that is causing it, or because the cause is something that is not under your control, and might not be consistent.

This often makes it a much harder problem to solve. But not always.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Provide Context
    • Same as before, tell the person what you are trying to accomplish and why.
  • Recount Your Steps & Results
  • Provide Times
    • Tell your support person when the problem occurred. As precisely and accurately as possible. When a support person can't reproduce a problem, often the first thing they will do is look for evidence of it. Knowing when it occured can help them to find details in server logs, or correlate it with known issues.

Methods of Communication

There are many ways to communicate with your host or support person. What is available will depend on your hosting provider.

Some of the possible options include:

  • Email
  • Support / Contact form on website
  • Live Chat widget
  • Ticketing system
  • Text messages
  • Facebook messenger
  • Phone call
  • Slack channel
  • Video + Screen Sharing (Zoom, etc.)

Which one is best depends on both what your host offers, and what works best for you. The tools are means to an end. That said, for certain problems, some of the tools tend to be much better than others.

At SITE DISTRICT, we offer all these options (except a Ticket System, to come later ...) as a means of getting support.

Keep in mind that some formats are better for real-time or near real-time communiation, while others are better for longer messages & more details.

If you need to share URLs or screenshots, a phone or voice call by itself is not the best, though you might combine it with one of the other communication methods that lets you share those easily.

You or your host may like to keep things organized in a certain fashion as well. This makes it easier to solve problems efficiently, as you might both be working on multiple tasks or issues at once. Try to keep things organized, and each issue separate. This will make it easier for both you and your host to solve the problem and refer back to the solution later if necessary.

Debugging Website Issues

If the issue that you are experiencing is on a website in your browser, there are some specific things you can do to make it easier to either solve the problem yourself, of make it much easier for your support person to help you solve it together.

Coming Soon!

Summary

We hope that you found the page useful, and it will help you get better support, both at SITE DISTRICT, and with other services.

If this approach to support resonates with you, or you're just looking for better support with hosting your WordPress site, Sign Up and give us a try.

 

 

Looking for Great Support? We partner with you at SITE DISTRICT.

 

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