We've been providing support for systems and software for a long time, and below is a brief guide on how to create support requests that help your service provider assist you in the best way.

It's fairly simple, actually: make your support requests SMART. You've probably heard that acronym, although with a variation, applied to goals: make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based.

The acronym as it relates to support issues is a little different: make your issue reports Specific, tell us the Magnitude, which Actions you tried, provide any Related info, and please please please do it in a Timely manner.

Here's how these break down, with some extra detail.


Make your support request as specific as you can. If you're having a problem with Outlook, tell me what the problem is. "I can't send email" is better than "I have a problem with Outlook", and "When I send email it just sits in the Outbox" is better than "I can't send email."


...or urgency. U just wouldn't work as well in the acronym, so Magnitude it is. Tell us how important it is that this issue is addressed as quickly as possible. Is this affecting only you, as far as you know? How big of a problem is it? Are there lives at stake? Money at stake? If you have a proposal for a multimillion $ contract tomorrow and you must print 20 copies of the report in color but the color printer just won't connect - that might require a little more urgency than printing a hard-copy of a menu to post on a bulletin board in the break room. Both are "problems with color printer", but qualitatively they're quite different.

Actions tried

if you tried to resolve this on your own or with help of another person, what did you do? Carrying on with the previous example of email troubles: "I tried restarting Outlook and I've already restarted my computer. Still nothing changed."

Related info

while sometimes it's hard to know what's relevant to the problem or not, it may be useful to throw in some stuff that you think might be related to the issue. "I'm not sure this is relevant, but I installed a new app last night."


this is critical. Please report issues as close to the time you've identified them as possible. If you wait a few weeks before bringing something up, it may be impossible to determine what caused the issue, and sometimes to solve it. In the case with email, for example, deleted email lives in a special hidden folder for a couple of weeks after it's gone from your Recycle Bin. If you wait 3 weeks to ask for help recovering a message, it'll be too late!


Here's an example of a BAD support request:

Subject: Help!


I'm having a problem with my computer.


This email just isn't SMART. It doesn't tell me anything about the problem and as a result I have no idea how I should focus my efforts to help John faster. I don't know how urgent the problem is, so if we're busy with other support calls I don't know how to prioritize it. It also doesn't tell me what the problem is. Is it printing? Is it with Outlook? Is it with a virus? Who should I assign to this issue? Is it something that I'm already aware of or, perhaps, an issue with a system that Doe Industries uses that's currently experiencing an outage?

Don't be like John.


Here's an example of a GOOD support request:

Subject: Document library link on Parts Order site isn't working

The document library link (left-hand nav) on the Parts Order site ( isn't working. 
Here's a screenshot of the error. 


I don't know exactly when that started, but none of the techs can order parts this morning, so it's pretty critical we get this resolved ASAP.
I tried refreshing the screen and emptied my internet browser cache, but it's still happening.



This request is specific, provides great detail - even a screenshot of the error! <3. Describes the magnitude of the problem, tells me what Jane tried, and that it started this morning. Love it. Now I know who I can assign to this request (it's SharePoint) and that it will supercede some others in the queue that aren't as urgent.

Be like Jane.

What support peeves do you have? Drop me a line at ilya [dot] lehrman [at]