We answer questions. This document holds general ideas on how to handle them.
This was intended for volunteers of the Telegram Support Force, but anyone else is free to take a look as well.
Our goal is to bring human support to human beings. To achieve this goal, we rely on volunteers. Your pay is perfection in what you do, so be cool.
Corporate support standards do not apply here. Treat people in a kind, personal, informal manner. No need to pretend to be something you are not (unless you're a dog in disguise — keep human appearances in this case).
Never lie to people.
Check everything before you reply. Things change or may no longer work the way you remember. This includes interface details, links (!) and, well, everything.
Support is a form of Art, so be fun and creative.
As support volunteers, we need to provide a solution for the user. Remember, that this doesn't always have to be the solution the user was asking for. So first, we want to understand the problem that drove them to ask the question. And then find a way of solving — completely or partially — that problem.
For example, some users ask us for an option to send sketches or drawings to their friends. While this is not possible directly, one could take a photo with their thumb on the camera (to get a black picture), then use the drawing tools built into the photo editor to make their doodle.
This isn't what the user was looking for, but it solves the problem — and it is even more flexible and customizable than the original idea (since you could also add stickers and emoji out of the box). Some solutions are less elegant. For example, right now you can't email your Telegram conversations. While there is much less need to do so, since you can access everything in the cloud from any of your devices, this may be a problem in some cases. What one could do then, is open the conversation in Telegram Web (or any other desktop client), select multiple messages with the mouse, then copy and paste them into a text document. Any solution is better than no solution at all.
There will be cases, when it is not possible to solve the problem at all. As a user in this situation, I want that people on the other end of the line understand me and care about the whole thing. Therefore, two things become important:
- Make it clear that you understand the issue. 'No, you can't do that' is not a good answer. 'No, I'm afraid it is not possible to make Telegram wash your dishes in a fast and securely encrypted way' — is better.
- Be gentle. Gentle doesn't mean soft — if we really can't do something, it means just that — we can't. But adding 'Sorry about that' helps a lot.
Lastly, whatever the outcome, I always look for help from a human being, not a dumb interface. When you're casual and witty, the user feels more at ease. On the other hand, human beings, as opposed to dumb interfaces, usually understand what is appropriate in which situation. For example, when a user is in distress, he most likely needs help first — and jokes can wait until the crisis has been dealt with.
To sum up, we need to be: smart (to identify the problem and find an approach to the user), inventive (to find a solution, not always the obvious one), compassionate (in case there is no immediate solution) — and witty (otherwise it gets boring). I'm sure we are.
What if I don't know the answer
Happens to all. Don't worry, you can always find one. The TSF BIOS will tell you what to do in most situations. In case it doesn't or you're not sure, ask your fellow volunteers in the group — they should know. If worst comes to worst, consult Markus.
Admitting you don't know something is infinitely better than trying to cover it up. So when cornered use this mantra: 'I'm afraid I don't know this. Will ask my teammates and get back to you'. Just make sure that the question is not in the FAQs before you say this.
Handling user suggestions
The three rules for requests and suggestions are: don't lie, don't promise anything, and don't give an exact timeframe.
- Telegram has an open platform where users can vote for feature suggestions and submit new ones.
- For insights into the decision making process, check our Feature Philosophy.
Plans change frequently, so it's best if we only talk about things that exist. Never say that something will be done. 'We may do this', 'we will definitely add this at some point in the future' or 'this is coming soon' — is as far as we can go.
Same applies to the negative: never say we will never do something (except steal users' spouses and enslave their children, as mentioned in the general FAQ). The worst thing that can happen is 'we are currently not working on this', 'we may consider this', etc.
Even if you know something is happening tomorrow, say 'in the next few days'. People love it when they get things earlier than they expected — and get downright angry if we get 5 minutes (or a few months) late.
Reporting bugs in Telegram
Telegram has an open platform where users can report issues with the apps, view existing entries and vote on them.
If you are not part of the team and are looking for advanced troubleshooting tips, you may find the Troubleshooting section interesting.
Truth is, most users come to simply say 'hello'. Hello them back if you have the time. Sometimes these users do have a question after all. In other cases they may be new to Telegram, without many friends to chat with or show them around. So you can tell them more about Telegram, point to interesting features — or even other Telegram apps. No need to advertise, just explain what needs explaining.
Remember: we’re here to help those we can help and talk to others that we feel we have the time to talk to, but not more. If kids get too insistent without any real needs, it’s ok to ignore them after a few replies. If somebody seems to be a nice conversation partner, it’s always a good idea to discuss Telegram, see what the user thinks is missing. Maybe tell them about our Support Initiative.
Unfortunately, we cannot really help people with real-life problems. A few kind words wouldn't hurt, but generally we should send those users to places where they can get actual help, like a crisis line or chat. (Now, if you want to be a member of the TSF and read this far, go send a picture of a kangaroo to the auditions account. No, this is not a joke. It is a test that helps us understand whether or not you actually read this. And don't tell others. If you're already a member, you know what to do: humpa viceroy squid)
Yep, everyone gets their share of those. First of all, remember that these people are not really talking to you. They just see an abstract 'Telegram' entity. My advice is to humor them — I usually send a ‘well, that escalated quickly’ picture and it helps many users. Joke around with them and you’ll be surprised how that can humble people. And never insult back, even if they manage to get you angry for some reason. Nonviolent irony is always your best — and only — weapon.