We’re a month into spring, the time of year that conjures well-worn images of pulling dusty, warm-weather items out of storage and preparing them for summer fun. I have a strange way of relating seemingly unrelated things together, and the observance of changing seasons (at least in the Midwest) is a reminder to me to remind our customers on how to get the most out of TownNews.com’s customer support team.

Start with support.townnews.com

You can’t miss if you keep this page close at hand. It has our 800 number, it’s where you log in to create or check on tickets, has our policies, links to documentation, webinars and announcements including pending software updates, service alerts, and new features. Everything you need to know (at least regarding your website) can be found here.

Use tickets!

First and foremost, I must dispel an old, nasty rumor. I frequently hear from good, long-term customers that they were told they can’t call support, that TownNews.com only answer questions through support tickets. Not true! I’ll never know how that got started, but we all know that some problems can’t be explained in writing. We have phones, voices, and ears, so please call us whenever necessary. I do, however, want to encourage using tickets as a great way for both TownNews.com and our customers to better track current and historical problems, receive updates, and revisit past tickets. It’s also handy should you have a complaint. Call us with a ticket number, and we can often follow a trail to resolve an issue quickly.

Speaking of past tickets, it’s important to note you have access to all tickets you’ve ever created. There has been considerable confusion since we made a change last November, whereby we added the ability to search tickets (very handy), but at the same time, changed the default view to only show open tickets (not-so-very-handy). To find closed tickets, click on the Search Tickets tab, then Refine Search, select status “closed”, then click search.

A few additional tips:

  • Use priority appropriately. This is like crying “Wolf!” If every ticket you submit is critical... well, you know how the story ends.
  • Select the appropriate category, and when in doubt, always default to “? - issues”.
  • Create separate tickets for separate issues. Continually adding new items to the same ticket is a sure way to confuse us.
  • Have us create a support account just for you. Sharing accounts with coworkers to report on issues is also confusing.
  • Make sure we have your appropriate contact information, especially a direct number or extension. If you don’t receive e-mail notices when tickets are updated, verify we have your correct e-mail address.

Avoid e-mail

That sounds odd, but I especially have to emphasize using tickets over sending an e-mail directly to a support team member. We’re all aware of the limitations of e-mail: delivery failures, poor SPAM filtering, simply losing one message amongst hundreds, etc. Especially in our support team, where we have multiple talented individuals who can help, sending an e-mail to an individual directly nearly guarantees the recipient will be out sick or on vacation the day you need us the most. Using a ticket assures a whole team can help, not just one person.

Be Prepared

Like Boy Scouts, preparation is always key. A few things to consider before submitting a ticket:

  • Know the domain name of your site, i.e. example.com, rather than the proper name of your newspaper. We think in URL, and it’s quicker to pull up your site and locate your information with the domain name.
  • Don’t laugh at this one - but please, provide your full name. There’s a handful of people out of the 4,000 plus contacts we maintain whose voices we recognize and require no introduction, but by 4:30 p.m., we’re not sure which John we’re talking to.
  • If reporting an appearance issue, try viewing the same page in different browsers. Internet Explorer, Firefox & Safari on Macs are standard, but will render pages differently. Let us know what browser (and what version, if you know) doesn’t render a page correctly.
  • Let us know if you’re using a Mac. We have no preference, but it does make a difference.

Use the survey

We send a survey request with every closed ticket. You may have begun to ignore them by now, but we really do utilize them. We use the comments for praise and also gentle reminders of what we could stand to do better. A number of polices have been added or modified based on survey responses.

Finally, When in Doubt, Call

What? Didn’t I start with “use tickets!”? Yes, tickets are great, except when they’re not. From time to time, we make mistakes, we mis-communicate, we’ve even been known to make flagrantly incorrect assumptions. Straighten us out before we do more damage than good. Phone calls are much better for that than e-mails and ticket updates.

(Marc Filby is the director of client services at TownNews.com. He’s reachable at mfilby@townnews.com.)