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How to Ask for Help from Tableau Support

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This post describes an approach to ensure you get the best possible response from Tableau Support, with the fastest possible turn-around time.

Context

After years of working on Enterprise systems I've found that, when I have a problem, the best solution is to solve it myself.

If I cannot solve it myself, then the problem is significant, and I want a valuable answer as quickly as possible.

Problem Definition

Tableau is a complex piece of software. Communication challenges can be among the largest of the hurdles to overcome when working through an issue.

The free text entry box allows unformatted text: no headers, no images. Worse: if my plain text is structured poorly, the Support Engineer may have no choice but to waste valuable time asking me questions.

My Solution

In each new support request, my free text contains one sentence. And there are two attachments.

Dear Tableau Support,

Please review the attached PDF and packaged workbook.

Thanks!
Keith Helfrich
(415) 400-6640

The PDF

The PDF is a no frills document, which follows a logical structure.

Descriptive text is augmented with screen shots that are marked up with arrows & call-outs.

Not each of these sections is required for every request. Often, only a sentence or two is needed in each section, to produce a cohesive and logical flow. The idea is to concisely frame your issue.

You will know, depending on the issue, which sections to include.

  1. Title: One sentence. The short description of what we're dealing with.

  2. Context: A high level description of the data & context in which the workbook is intended to operate.

  3. Objective: The end goal, what I'm trying to accomplish.

    These above two sections I include because, often, the Tableau Support Engineers can offer an alternative approach that I've not yet considered.

  4. Problem Definition: The specific definition of the precise issue for which this support request has been opened.

    This section is always present & laser focused. If I cannot define the problem, then I cannot expect an answer.

  5. Steps to reproduce the issue: Sequentially numbered steps, with supporting screenshots & detail, to articulate exactly how to reproduce the issue.

  6. Supporting Detail: Any additional information, as required.

  7. Questions for Tableau Support: Based on all of the above, these are my numerated questions that I would request to be answered.

    These questions often go beyond the scope of the problem to make inquiries that are further afield. It never hurts to ask.

    Since I've gone to such effort to save everyone valuable time, the Support Engineers will almost always go the extra mile to help me with answers to all of my questions when they're able.

  8. Version Details: The version of Tableau Server that I'm publishing to. Screenshots of the version info from both my Operating System and Tableau Desktop.

    So easy to include! So easy to save two days of wasted time by not forcing them to ask.

  9. Thank You! and my phone number.

    I make absolutely certain the human on the other end of the line, with human feelings, knows they are appreciated. And that they can pick up the phone to call me if they want to.

Show Me the Money

So what's in it for me? The benefits of taking this organized & consistent approach are numerous:

  1. Just producing the PDF will very frequently lead me to answer my own question.

  2. First tier support can almost always escalate or resolve immediately. No back & forth required.

    Here I've saved at least two days!

  3. The 2nd tier support person can immediately reproduce the issue.

    Here I've saved another day!

  4. Reciprocity. By now I'm a customer who the Support Engineers want to help.

    They recognize my standard for quality. They see I've done my homework. And they respond by going the extra mile to reciprocate & add extra value to their own reply.

Miscellaneous Tid-Bits

On My Hard Drive

In a single location I keep a separate folder for each new support request.

Each folder is named <ticket number> - <short description>. It contains the PDF, the packaged workbook, and any other attachments (like zipped up log files).

Naming folders with the ticket number ensures they will sort in chronological order. And it helps in the future when I need to refer back to an earlier request by name & number.

To Produce the PDFs

My personal approach is to compose them in Evernote, with tags so I can find them later. And then I print to a PDF file.

For the screenshots, I'm a lifetime user of SnagIt. I can easily capture the portion of the screen I'm interested in, and mark-up the capture with arrows & callouts.

As a Result

I frequently solve my own problem. This is the fastest answer possible.

If I don't solve my problem, then I very well define it.

Doing so consistently gets me an answer that is more valuable, with a turn-around that is ~three days faster than it would have been otherwise.

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