Bridget Wagner

Refunds and Requests: How to Ask for Help More Effectively

About one week of every month I’m responsible for monitoring the instructional technology support channels DePaul offers to instructors. Instructors email their questions and requests directly to Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS), or can submit help requests through DePaul’s general technology support center (TSC). Those requests eventually make their way back to FITS, the Central Team, and for that one week out of the month, me.

Despite serving a support role regularly, I recently had an agitated conversation with customer service representatives associated with an in-flight wifi company. I purchased in-flight wifi before my trip because instructions online indicated it would be much cheaper if I did so. Then I got on the flight and not only was it cheaper to purchase wifi on the plane, but my previously purchased access code wouldn’t work.

With my cheaper wifi connection, I drafted an email to the company. And in doing so, broke so many of the best practices I’m about to map out for you. I assumed they would know where I had read the misleading instructions and description, that my name would be sufficient information for finding my order, and that my frustrated tone would be enough to imply that I wanted my money back.

A six email chain full of boilerplate responses requesting additional information ensued—and I ended up using my cheap in-flight wifi mostly to develop a headache over $19.00.

So, nobody’s perfect. However, there are some things everybody (including me) can do to ease the process of requesting support or filing a complaint.

Identify Yourself In Detail

In the context of a university, it’s helpful for the support team to know the course(s) you are referring to by course code or course catalog number, your ID number, and your role in relationship to the request. Are you a student in the course that’s broken? Are you the department head investigating an issue on behalf of an instructor? Knowing these things from the get-go will help your support staff more quickly and accurately address your concerns.

Give Context

Besides letting support know who you are, there are some key things that you can identify about the context of the issue or request. These details will help to cut down on the back-and-forth emails, and a delay in your solution:

  1. How long has it been an issue?
  2. When do you need your request filled?
  3. What internet browser are you using?
  4. What kind of computer are you using?
  5. Who is impacted by what you are describing? Can you provide specific identifying information about those impacted?

Show AND Tell

Describing your issue or question in great detail is helpful – but if you’re seeing something weird, it’s most helpful for us to also see that weird something. When you see something odd, take a screenshot (Here are some instructions for taking screenshots on Macs and PCs).

Call Attention To Your Goal

Tell the support staff what it is you want to happen as a result of your inquiry. Do you want something to change as a result of your inquiry, or are you just hoping to alert people that something seems off?

Let Them Know If You Change Your Mind

Good support teams will keep working on an issue until it’s fixed, or until they can provide some explanation as to why they can’t fix the issue. So, if you decide you don’t actually need help anymore, follow-up and let the people addressing your issue know so they can direct their attention elsewhere.

Whether you need to give a student access to that old discussion topic, or want to recoup some money, these are guidelines that should help you get to your goal faster.

Evidence: I was refunded my $19.00 for that in-flight wifi, but only after I provided a receipt of my bill, a screenshot of the poorly-written instructions, and a more pointed indication that I was hoping to receive a refund.

Bridget Wagner

About Bridget Wagner

Bridget is an eLearning Content Developer at FITS and teaches in DePaul’s Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse department. She’s also a DePaul Double Demon with a B.A. and M.A. in Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse. Prior to joining FITS she worked as a research assistant in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse department, and as a peer writing tutor and website coordinator at DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning. While she clearly enjoys her time spent at DePaul, she also enjoys cooking and exploring new places on foot.

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