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Do You Know How to Ask for Software Help?

I don’t think you do! I can only judge from the people who contact me asking for help and rarely do I get a question with even the most basic information. What basic information is that? I’m not even told what software is being used. One person even referred to “this product” in their request for help and to this day I have no idea what product they were asking about even though two more e-mails went back and forth asking for this most basic piece of information.

While this post is about the questions I get, I’m sure these same problems happen with anyone you contact for help. At the very least, please read what I’ve provided and try to do better the next time you ask for help whether it is software or something else.

Sometimes the question is about a product we at Unleashed have created. So a person may say they are having problems with “Unleashed”. OK, great, which product? You’ve had a problem and looked up our phone number to call and you don’t have the product in your hand so you can tell us the name of the product?

Then there are the calls and e-mails saying that “Corel” or “Adobe” don’t work. Really? Did those companies take a day off? Yes, I’m being sarcastic but those are not the names of software products but rather companies! As hard as I have tried, I am unable to read your mind to know what software you are using. For those who say “Hey dummy, they mean CorelDRAW” you should know that isn’t always the answer. Even if it is, is it that difficult to type four more characters? Please read Insert Company Name Here Isn’t Working for details on this.

If you actually mention the full name of the software, keep in mind that the version number is part of the name. The solution for one version is not necessarily the solution for a different version. Or maybe the problem was solved in a later service pack or maintenance release. If you don’t tell me the exact version number, how am I to know if the solution may be as simple as installing a free update.

Once we get past the simple part of the name of the software and the full version number, then it is important to have as many details as possible about what you are doing and what is happening (or not happening). I’m not looking over your shoulder and I can’t see what is happening. Therefore you have to paint me a full picture so I can answer it for you. I’ve written three full posts on this in the past and I beg of you to read It Doesn’t Work, It Still Doesn’t Work and Good Support Requires More Information Than “It Doesn’t Work” for even more on the subject.

Sometimes the person asking does ask very nicely for my help and thanks me afterwards for the help. Yet there are other who demand my help as if I owe them something. Let’s use a CorelDRAW question as an example. I don’t work for Corel Corporation and I am not compensated by Corel. So please tell me why I owe you help for another company’s product? Yes, I probably have the answer.

When I teach, I do my best to help you save your time because I value your time. Yet the people demanding my help don’t place any value on my time. Want to see me jump up and down excited to help you? Pay me for the time!

When you need your car fixed, you pay a mechanic to fix it. So how is it different if I fix your software problem? Heck, it is rare to even get a “thank you” even when a business that was at a complete standstill was moving again thanks to my help. Makes a geek feel like Rodney Dangerfield

About Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III
Foster D. Coburn III is the author of thirteen books on CorelDRAW, the latest being CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed. He has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site and many more, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics and Web conferences.

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  1. I read your blog almost daily. I have attended many training sessions you have taught. I have used your products and services. I am always greatful for the knowledge you share…and rarely at any cost to me.

    I try to alway provide as much information as I can based on my limited knowledge when I ask a question. And I will continue to ALWAY appreciate the software, hardware, and other wisdom you share.

    Thanks for all you do to help so many of us business people use the tools to make us profitable!

    Milton, WI

  2. Thanks MRW, you would be one of the few exceptions!

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