Thank You for Contacting Esri Support, How Can We Help You?

10-18-2017 03:57 PM
Occasional Contributor II
22 10 1,990

As a Support analyst, I take for granted how easy it is to say the words “how can we help you?” But as a software user, I understand answering that question can be difficult.  My expertise lies in the enterprise geodatabase, and even with my near decade of experience, I can still get overwhelmed when discussing other technologies. 

Esri Support has taught me enough to fill a novel, so for the sake of your time, here are a few rules of thumb I live by when discussing technical details with customers, management, engineers, and development alike…

  • Write an accurate and detailed, yet succinct description of the issue. 

The subject line on a support case is often the first thing we Support analysts see.  A clear and universally understandable subject line can help your case get assigned to the right analyst the first time, and avoid unnecessary transfers. 

Hint:  Understanding the issue is key.  To help formulate a primo subject line by focusing  on the heart of your issue you can refer to my blog Understanding Software Issues

  • Use numbers and bullets to list steps in a workflow.

Paragraphs are great for storytelling, but bullets drive home details. 

Hint:  When reproducing the issue, think of each mouse click as a step in the workflow.  If there are 10 mouse clicks to reproduce the issue, then that workflow will have 10 bullet points.

  • Ensure the workflow starts at a point that your audience can relate to. 

The common ground you start on is relative, and can change depending on your and your audience’s combined experience.   

Hint:  If the first step in the workflow is to ‘click on the Manage Replicas button to open the replica manager’, then first make sure your audience knows where and how to find the Manage Replicas button. 

  1. Open ArcMap 10.5.1
  2. Click ‘Customize’ on the menu bar
  3. Expand ‘toolbars’
  4. Click on ‘Distributed Geodatabase’ to open the toolbar
  5. Click on the Manage Replicas tool

  • When in doubt about what to call a tool, open the software and call it what the interface calls it. 

For example, the terms ‘layer’ and ‘feature class’ are often used interchangeably in conversation, however, a feature class is data stored in a geodatabase, and a feature layer is a representation of that feature class, usually in-memory and often in a map.   These two items, while they look and act very similarly, will require different background and experience to troubleshoot.

  • Refrain from using pronouns, acronyms or industry specific language, unless they have been previously defined for both you and your audience.  Don’t assume that everyone knows what is meant by the “OPI”.  One person’s “Oracle Program Interface” is another person’s “Offensive Pass Interference” is another person’s favorite nail polish.


While no one knows everything, we all know something, and if we can clearly communicate ourselves, then combining that knowledge becomes much easier.  Ask questions, ask 20 questions if you must, because each question will help determine the most effective triage path to take (See my awesome colleague’s blog that discusses this method in more detail...  What Would Tech Support Do?). 

Esri Support Analysts practice this approach from day one.  I often recall my onsite interview where I was asked to explain to my future manager how to tie her own shoelaces with my back turned to her.  I thought “this will be easy. I can tie shoes with my eyes closed.”.   After about a minute of giving what I considered an award-winning description of how to tie shoelaces, I turned around to see her shoes did not even have laces!  I failed to ask the right questions and find our common ground.  That moment has taught me not to shy away from even the most basic questions, and has turned out to be very valuable when needing to describe technical details in a timely manner to people with wide ranges of technical experience.

So, whether you are just getting started, or a GIS guru, give us a call at Esri Support, where our first question will always be “How can we help you?”. 


MVP Esteemed Contributor

Well written and helpful blog. 

One comment/issue when trying to give detailed information thru the support web page; there is a limit to the formatting available in the detail box.  I've spent time writing a nicely formatted description, with bullets, etc. just to have it all run together.  It has been a little while since I have put in a tech support question that needed a bullet list, but has this been improved?  I do realize that after the initial contact, email allows a few more options.

Occasional Contributor II


Thank you for your comment!    That is a great question.  I will need to check in on the specifics of format/size limitations when requesting a case, however, if you prepare your details in a Word document, or your favorite text editor, you should be able to attach the document to the case.  You can then refer to the attached files in the body of your support case request for the analyst to review. 

I hope this helps, and we look forward to hearing from you!


MVP Esteemed Contributor

Thank you Tina... bookmarked to be shared!

MVP Esteemed Contributor

Good suggestion on putting my detailed problem description in a Word doc as an attachment, and I will try that next time. I always thought of the attachments as screen shots and error logs, not other details. Hopefully tech support staff take the time to read the attachments thoroughly before contact. 

Although it has been better in the past year (for me anyway), for a long time, I would put in a question with details, just to have the support person turn around and ask for the same details, whether in an automated "Thank you for contacting" email or more personal.  The suggestions in the blog apply to both sides of the support ticket.  But, overall, I have always had a good experience with the patience and professionalism of tech support, even if not all of my issues are solvable, or if I end up solving the issue myself during the back and forth. It's all a learning process. 

My thanks, to all tech support staff. 


Occasional Contributor II

I want to bring up, also, that sometimes there are issues with attachments when cases are logged through email.  I have had users mention that they had attached intercepts, crash dumps, issue details, etc when logging the case through MyEsri, only to have the analyst ask for those items again.  Sadly, I have had these interactions myself, and when I check the case attachments there aren't any there. 

I am looking into what may cause attachments to be stripped from cases while they are first being logged, but just keep in mind that these technical difficulties can happen.  When I get that information I will be sure to update this post for you.

Occasional Contributor II

Tina - well written and helps alot as I think many of us assume the support technicians know what button we clicked to get where and that oft times is more detrimental to getting help / assistance. I definitely have this bookmarked and in my system documentation notes for future reference.

Occasional Contributor II

Very good point Rick!  Today organizations are growing so fast, taking advantage of many features and functionality from multiple softwares. Our users are getting increasingly creative as well, using workflows that they have found to work for them.  That's great, we love that, but we need to understand that in order to help.

I will use myself as an example.  My background is in the RDBMS, and with that I often work within the RDBMS, ArcDesktop (geodatabase management), ArcGIS Enterprise (formerly ArcGIS for Server), and Collector for ArcGIS.  If a user reports an issue with the Network Analyst extension on data in their enterprise geodatabase stored in Oracle, but the same workflow on the same data stored in a file geodatabase works fine, then that case would come to me. 

As you probably know, many of our tools require some prerequisite, like specific types data to be added to a map first, or an edit session to be started.  At that point, the most time efficient way for me to get up to speed on the exact tools and workflow the customer is using is to learn that from the customer themselves, rather than attempting to digest general concepts from colleagues (if they are not also busy) or written resources in a short amount of time.  Our customers teach me SO much!  

MVP Esteemed Contributor

Next time I need tech support I'm asking for you Tina... (Tina Morgan‌)

Seriously, I like what you've written here;  I use support chat more often than not as most of what I get stuck with are little problems.  None the less, I fill out the form completely describing the hardware/software components, and provide as much detail as the little text box allows.  And then I hit send and wait...

Typically, I get picked up in reception (not sure why that is, but it is) and then get routed to an analyst.  Once the analyst gets on, I end up re-typing everything I already have.  It's like a cold call; either they aren't getting what I've given them or they don't bother to read it. Frustrating....

New Contributor II

When I sign in to ArcGIS Online with my corporate subscription I see a notation on the right of the screen indicating I have a  negative number of credits remaining. I do not use any of the tools. What does this mean? I cannot use ArcGIS for Office due to this. What is it? What is the solution? Thank you.

David Z.

MVP Esteemed Contributor

David-  You'd probably do better by starting a new tech support ticket with ESRI....

About the Author
Hello! I am a senior geodata support analyst with Esri Support Services in Redlands, California. Originally I am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and as you can imagine I love food and hurricanes. Most of my time in university was spent eating food and studying hurricanes...once I ate food while studying hurricanes during a hurricane. I also love animals...all of them. Regardless of the subject, I love learning new things, and as soon as I learn something new I want to share it with the world. Thank you for letting me share!