It is not uncommon for site owners to receive emails where the sender includes assumptions about a website’s features or technical issues. Some of the assumptions are unnecessarily accusatory while others are based on little to no knowledge on which to base the stated assumption.
Most Assumptions are Inaccurate But…
Maybe it’s me, but I do my best to not assume things about topics I know nothing about. I don’t assume to know how my car works just because I drive one. I am not a mechanic.
When I go to the Doctor with an ailment, I do not assume what my treatment is. I let the person who is educated in the field, my Doctor, ask the appropriate questions. Then take the necessary steps to determine what the diagnosis is.
Even then, I don’t tell them what to prescribe. I am not a Doctor.
But when it comes to technology, there is no end to those who email websites who apparently believe they know what they are typing about. Enough so to tell the website owner what to do about something, to fix this or that, or to scold them about improper practices.
Many times the basis for their assumptions is not based on any experience or actual knowledge of how technology works. Sigh.
The Right Way to Reach Out
- Can’t login?
- Something not working as you think it should?
- Did you read the website’s FAQ and documentation before sending a nastygram?
If I have a concern or I think something is “wrong” I email my questions or concerns in a genuinely courteous and curious manner. But that is after checking out their FAQ or help area to see if there are any known issues or a solution I can give a whirl.
Even being online and coding websites longer than most, rarely do I assume I know what the issue is and state that in my email. No accusatory tone. Nor with a “look how much I know and you don’t” attitude.
My primary goal is to help and hopefully inform the site owner that there is an issue so they can find out what’s up and get it resolved. I leave the door open to the possibility that I may even learn something I am not aware of.
Before emailing website owners on technical issues about what you perceive to be “wrong”, “broken” or “not working”, did you…
- Check your settings.
- Clear your cache.
- Deactivate browser extensions.
- Reboot your computer.
- Double-check your firewall settings.
- Review your spyware settings.
- Check your spam filtering settings.
- Try again with an incognito window.
- Look in your email spam/trash folder.
These are a few things to check that you can then alleviate as being a potential cause on your side of what you may be experiencing. Whether that be access, functionality, or email receipt issues. You can also let the site owner know that you did double-check these issues to take them off the table.
Next, provide all the information they may need:
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- Include the steps you took up to the point where the issue appeared.
- Provide the URL of the specific page.
- Did you receive any error messages? Provide those exactly — that will tell the site owner where to start the troubleshooting process.
And just as important unless you have solid experience — check your perceptions at the door. What are you basing your accusation on? If not on actual experience and knowledge, your approach should be even more humble and curious.
Being Realistic About Skills and Knowledge
When it comes to technology there seems to be this perceived level of knowledge that exceeds the actual experience of many users on various topics. I see it all the time. A little experience adding up to a big fat chunk of finger pointing via email.
We have all experienced the increased boldness when one doesn’t have to look the person they are sending their comments to in the eyes. Comfortably hiding behind their screens.
In the end, it can be embarrassing for these folks. Luckily for them, when they contact me I respond in a courteous, factual, and informative manner. Using my experience to offer a teachable moment.
In a kind way, I help them to learn how their assumption indicated how much they really didn’t know. While allowing them to now know better.
Patience IS a Virtue
Unfortunately, not all site owners have the patience to spare. If you think about it why should they have to? Most simply choose to not respond to accusatory or demanding emails. That is unless there really is an issue to be addressed. In that case the faster the response the better.
It is for each website owner to determine the proper approach for them. With that said, it’s always best to err on the side of courtesy and transparency.
Those who appreciate my approach send me an email of thanks for enlightening them. The others, well, they are probably off sending corrective emails to other website owners. (Some folks have way too much time on their hands…)