Standard response framework for technical problems

January 17, 2007

Something goes wrong and people in the business either reported it or found out. Fixing the problem is important, but not as important as keeping everyone informed and reassured that your team is on top of the situation.

Basic level emails always answer four key questions about the problem:

  1. What happened? (e.g. Sales calls have been underreported)
  2. How bad was it? (e.g. Minor, 150 calls lost out of 10,000 thousand - 1.5%)
  3. Why did it happen? (e.g. Calls are awaiting validation of customer details)
  4. What have we done to stop it happening again? (e.g. Validation status added to dashboard)

Good emails also include plenty of information and context to help reduce fear of the unknown. Working intimately with a system everyday it’s too easy to forget that even frequent users often don’t understand the language, acronyms or situations that you take for granted. Always try to answer the questions above but also take this opportunity to help learn more about their system.

Great emails recognise the fact that, as a service group, problem resolution is one of the limited opportunities we have to make a positive impression on the business. Good communication and fast resolution of problems usually increases customer perception and loyalty.

Within the framework of those questions, there are a number of common situations to address:


This email is sent early in the problem resolution process and the main intent is to let people know that your team is aware of the problem and taking steps to resolve it.

The key messages are:

This is your chance to make readers feel your team is communicating clearly and dealing with the problem with appropriate urgency. That is, you’re doing most of the worrying for them.


This approach is used in situations when you know what happened, but are unable to work out why.

The key messages are:

Rather than highlighting the fact that your team can’t understand why this problem occurred or guarantee that it won’t happen again, this email should highlight your understanding of the business issues, ability to fix problems and vigilance in ensuring ongoing good service. That is, you’re not bothering them with the technical details.


Use this approach when the problem is well understood and has been permanently resolved.

The key messages are:

This email should highlight the skill of your team in recognising and fixing the problem for minimal impact on the business. That is, the world is a better place because this happened (and was fixed).