I got an email the other day from someone who was frustrated that in a couple of cases where he’d sent emails to particular sites informing them of issues he was having, he never got a response.
Now, to speak for myself, I can’t reply to every email, I just don’t have time. (Though I did answer this one.) And, to be brutally honest, email’s not the best way to contact me with a question – the ask a question page is.
But I know it’s a common problem – you need help, want to report an issue with a site or service, you send email and …
Let’s examine some of the reasons that might result in your receiving no response.
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Before you blame the company
Based entirely on my own experience running Ask Leo! for the last 11 years, there’s often a very high likelihood that it might be your fault, at least in part.
I’m not saying that’s always that case, but I see it often enough that, honestly, it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
What I’ve found is:
- People regularly type their own email address wrong in the feedback form. This frustrates me no end, as I’ll take the time to compose a reply to a problem that someone presents, and then my reply bounces. Remember, if you don’t enter your email address correctly the company you’re contacting can’t reply even if they try.
- Many people don’t follow instructions. Have a look at my ask a question page. On that page you’ll note some very simple instructions: search first, give me lots of info, be complete. You would be amazed at the number of “it doesn’t work” questions that I get with almost no additional information. In many cases when I do take the time to probe for more information, the answer turns out to be an article already on the site that a simple search would have found. Depending on my mood (I am human, after all) questions that come in with insufficient information like this are likely to be skipped completely. I can imagine that the same is true when contacting companies for support.
- Some people write novels. At the other end of the spectrum some people will provide their life story in a question. Given that have I limited time per question, once I see that things are headed in that direction I may also need to move on. And again, I can imagine that the same is true when companies receive a lengthy missive. (It should also go without saying that lengthy rants, disrespectful messages and the like are also likely to be completely ignored.)
- Contacting the wrong target doesn’t help. This is related to following instructions, but often people will contact sales when they need support, or they’ll email a person when they really need to email a team, or they’ll assume an email address should exist when it doesn’t.1 The net result is that no one actually ever sees or acts on their request.
So, naturally, the advice I have for you is to not do any of those things. Make sure you’re contacting the right people via the right channels, and make sure that your message is respectful and contains the information that might be asked for without being excessive.
Do that and you’ll be much more likely to be heard.
Though you still might not get a response.
Problems at the company you’re contacting
The issue is that customer support – or whatever role it is that would reply to you – is massively expensive. Even when it’s outsourced, it costs a lot of money hire people to read and respond to what is most likely a fairly constant flood of support requests. Most companies, I’m sure, under-staff this role, particularly if the service being supported is free to users like you and me. Some go so far as to intentionally provide no support for direct contact at all.
It’s important to realize that no response doesn’t necessarily imply that no action was taken on your message. While it would be nice to get a response, it’s very possible that whatever it is being reported – such as a failure at the site – might be resolved without letting you know explicitly. The fact that the site begins working might be all the notification that you’d get, especially if many people report the same issue.
And finally, don’t expect instant responses. As I said, companies are often overwhelmed and speedy responses may not always be a priority compared to just keeping their service running. It’s not that uncommon for responses to arrive days after the original inquiry.
Problems WITH the company you’re contacting
There’s no escaping the fact that some companies just don’t get it.
Some simply aren’t interested in your feedback, problems or concerns, and anything that falls into those categories is promptly discarded.
They just don’t care.
And while we’d like to think that this would impact their business, often it does not. Often the service that they provide is so good, so unique or so entrenched that they can actually get away with poor or completely non-existent customer service and still make a profit.
And, yes, being on the user end of such a service can be very frustrating.
What to do
Whether for practical reasons of simply being overwhelmed and not being able to afford the support staff they might need, or because they just don’t care, companies are doing to do what they do regardless of what you and I want.
It’s our actions that are in our control. That means:
- Choose service providers that have support when support matters. This is one of the reasons I typically advise against free email services for anything truly important.
- Don’t expect support from free service providers. Yes, some do have it, but most do not. Remember, you’re getting something at no cost. Often that means part of the “price” you pay is that there is no direct contact customer service available at all.
- Look for and follow instructions that the service might provide.
- Look for support information, FAQs and knowledgebases that might be provided. Many questions are so common that the right solution is often to document the answers in online articles you can find without needing to contact anyone. (In many ways that’s all that sites like Ask Leo! really are – a massive FAQ or knowledgebase.)
- Use peer support when available. Many companies will now at least invest in discussion software to set up peer support sites where users can help (or commiserate with) other users of the service. Again, don’t expect the company to actually be present in these forums. While some will have support reps participate, many do not.
And above all, backup your information and keep yourself secure. A large majority of the problems that you might submit to a non-responsive company can actually be completely mitigated by taking appropriate safety measures yourself.