How to get help from Associated Content or Any Where For That Matter


I’ve had a draft article about how to get good customer service lying around for months. I did write something similar back in Aug 2006 about calling 800 numbers, but I keep thinking I should rewrite it to include how to write an effective email.

You ask, “Why?” The easy answer is, I’m on the receiving end of many similar emails. Additionally, I see so many rants in the AC forum about Associated Content being unresponsive. I can honestly say, Associated Content has never been unresponsive when I emailed a concern. Does AC love me more than you? No. AC gives priority to clear, concise emails with enough details to address the problem. That’s the kind of email that gets a response.

You don’t have to take my word for it. The following block is straight from the man who handles all of AC’s incoming emails.

1. BE SPECIFIC. If there is one specific article you’re having trouble with, tell us the title. If it’s already published, having a URL of the live content will help IMMENSELY, and will let us fix the issue faster for you. It will also help EVERYONE on the site, as we will be able to move more quickly between issues.

2. Don’t just rant. You would be shocked at how many emails I get on a daily basis that are just rants, which really don’t give any information. “YOU NEED TO PAY ME FOR THIS ARTICLE” does not describe the problem you’re having. We want you to have a positive experience at AC, but if there is an issue that’s keeping you from getting paid, once again, we need specifics.

3. Be nice. Ultimately, we’re all on the same team here. Every day, I remind myself that what’s best for the CP’s is best for AC. We’re not on different teams, we’re not playing against each other. AC is really not trying to “pull one over” on you. Also, the people reviewing your content are educated, they are smart, and they are good at their jobs. Insulting them isn’t going to help anyone do anything. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

4. One email will do it. If you’re having an issue, you email, and you don’t hear back in 20 minutes, that’s normal. I get more than 200 emails per day, all of which need to be read and answered. Sending multiple emails about the same issue on the same content really slows the process for everyone.

I feel his pain, so let me expound on this just a bit.

5. Include Details. Dates, URLs, and article titles are very important. If needed, use dates to build a time-line of the events. In describing the problem, include the steps that you took which lead there. For example, “I was using the General template to submit an article on May 6th. I pressed buttons 1, 2, 3 and then got a blank page.”

6. Be Concise. Don’t address more than one concern in the email. Get to the point and stay on track. A bullet-point list is easier for the email recipient to scan than a 500-word ranting paragraph.

7. Use the Subject Field. In the subject field of your email, include something that gives a clue about the email’s contents. For example, are you reporting a technical bug with the web site? The subject line should read something like, “Technical Bug With Web Site. Broken URL.”

8. Include Your System Info. If your problem appears technical in any way, include you operating system (OS) and browser specifics. Don’t know what those are? It’s simple. For Microsoft Windows, right-click the My Computer icon and choose Properties. There’s your OS. “MS Windows” isn’t good enough. Include the version number. To get your browser information, select the Help > About menu.

9. Don’t assume things are FUBAR unless they are repeatable. Stuff happens. It doesn’t mean it’s AC’s problem 100% of the time. Try to replicate the problem before firing off an email. It may have just been a temporary network drop. It may have been something you did. Slow down, try it again, and make notes of what you’re doing. This will help if you do end up sending an email.

These are the things to which AC or any site responds. I’ll go out on a limb and say those forum posts about AC’s unresponsiveness are probably the result of failure to adhere to rule number 2 and 4. When you read those, between the lines is, “I fired off an mindless rant with no details and didn’t hear back so I fired off 5 more emails.” I guarantee you, those emails went straight to the trash folder.

These are the tips from the guys who get emails everyday about problems with web sites. You don’t have to take them to heart, but then you don’t have to have your problem resolved either.

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15 Comments

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  1. Great information, Randy. I found the same things when filing my claim last year with the BBB for our computer rebate that never materialized…the more details, the more information, the more specifics you can provide, and information about the attempts made to rectify the situation on your own first, are essential.

  2. Thank you. Should I ever want to contact AC, now I will know exactly how. I can’t imagine how many “rant” e-mails they get! Must be a lot from what I see on the forums. Regards,

  3. Sometimes AC just doesn’t answer, no matter how to the point and non ranting you are. That being said, this is really good advice.

    I guess I was taught that something coated in honey, is more palatable. That doesn’t mean you have to be sicky sweet, just more diplomatic. If you attack, people get their defences up. If you approach them factually and more calmly, you may get more benefit from it. In fact you both might benefit.

    I know when I have written complaint letters to companies about products, with one exception, they all responded.(I have never bought that one product again. I did notice, however, that not long after I sent
    that letter, they changed their packaging to prevent the same problem from happening. Whether my complaint had anything to do with it or not, I don’t know. They may have received the same complaint from others too.)

    Many responses have come with apologies and little gifts, or I have been reimbursed. No matter how angry I am, or disgusted with the product or service, I try to lay out the facts precisely.They may even see you as being on their side. No business wants bad publicity about their product or service. They don’t want to lose a loyal customer either. Sometimes it is all in how you word it.

    A couple examples were, some canned goods that I opened and found sharp burs, in when I took a bite. I sent them one of the burs with my letter. It made the point.(Pheeeew, no law suit guys.) Another one a product was completely crushed and inedible. I figured it provides them a service too, knowing what problems may get past them.

    Some places are grateful that you took the time to write to them and give them a chance to rectify the problem, BEFORE you decide to rant and spread bad publicity. If they don’t respond, they are just inept morons.*chuckles*

    On the positive side, I have a friend who really loved a certain product. They used large amounts of it. They wrote to the company to praise their product, and the company decided to hire them to be in a commercial.

  4. I also get responses from AC. I don’t rant, I am concise and I write them in a professional manner. People also seem to forget there are real people at AC. Some people just like to rant. Great post, Randy!

  5. I agree with a previous comment that sometimes AC ignores emails no matter how concise and nice. However, that is generally not the case, and all these points are of course, very valid.

    I’d like to expand point #8 to include forum postings, on AC or any other forum where members ask for assistance. I know lots of helpful people who will ignore messages with topics like “need help URGENTLY” if the nature of the problem isn’t at least touched upon in the subject. If you give us a hint about the problem, AND it is a subject about which we’re knowledgeable, then we will be more likely to take the time to read and possibly answer your question.

  6. Randy –

    One question: when emails were bouncing back last week, should a private message or question on the form have been sent instead? I did that and it seemed to work. Also, who is the “go to” person (Sam?) when there is an issue with content and emails do bounce? Is the current email as listed on the Bugs section of AC the one we should use? If I’ve missed an update, it is because of juggling the usual multiple tasks of life, more than usual. Actually, I don’t know what “usual” means. But there must be a norm out there somewhere.

  7. Jcorn: A PM to Sam would suffice in that situation.

  8. Um….and I followed all your instructions and the most popular or “most commented” content is now online schools and I believe most (if not all) of the comments are by bots. Huh? Any insight? It can’t be just coincidence that they SAME topic is getting all these bot hits…or can it? P.S. I know the answer to your question about that Ketchups place. But you don’t want to know the answer. It is a sordid story.

  9. Plus, all the articles are eons old and written by different authors.

  10. Anyway, here are the “most commented” articles, ones that might actually be worth reading but no one wants to comment, due to those bots:
    Power of Words
    The working aspects of words
    46 Comments
    Free Tuition for College?
    Some colleges offer free tuition to all students i…
    38 Comments
    Jumpstart Your Career with an Online College Degre…
    Online college degrees are the future of education…
    37 Comments
    The Bookstores of Middlebury, Vermont

  11. The internet feeds itself. ‘Tis a sad thing. What about this Ketchup thing?

  12. I’ve only had to email AC four times about a problem and three times they replied so I must be doing something right. LOL

  13. Thanks for this info Barefoot. I have never had a problem getting my emails answered by AC. Every time I have had an issue and I emailed AC, I have received an answer. It might take a day or two but I receive an answer. I personally think that AC is doing the best that they can.

  14. I’ve noticed that they like short, to the point e mails with facts and figures. And I always get a response, if the situation asks for it. MJ

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