I'm a designer who works with many clients a day. Often everything is a rush and it's often left to the designers on my team to translate quick decisions into designs.

To alleviate this, I've tried to apply a more structured approach. As my co-workers and I have found, clients poorly structure tickets and requests all the time. Often leaving details and assets completely missing, leaving typos and speaking informally with vague jargon. Thus, I've made it a habit to always request for the missing blanks, as anybody would. I don't think I'm being condescending with my language, correct me if it sounds that way but my usual schpeel is "Can you help me clarify X, I'm failing to understand the request. What asset are you referring to? Please share in this ticket." Etc..

Does this sound condescending and should I work on being more kind in my tone? I'm trying to be frank and to the point and my director constantly fights with me on this because I feel giving too much leeway and allowing clients and managers to be vague makes it harder for me to do the work. Has anybody else struggled with management or their superiors (directors) not implementing structure?

  • 1
    Yes, feel free to migrate. Didn't realize there was a different channel for this.
    – user3208676
    Aug 29 '19 at 20:30

In my experience, there are three general reasons people leave a textbox blank when entering a ticket.

  1. They don't know what the question is asking for.
  2. They think they've already given sufficient information with other entries
  3. They don't consider it their responsibility, and are putting the onus on you

In your example, you ask "What asset are you referring to?" I have known a lot of end users who would have no idea what you're looking for if you asked for an "asset". It might be clear for the users who repeatedly use your ticket system, but for the ones who use it infrequently, they would probably rather leave it blank than put in the wrong answer and feel embarrassed.

I try to combine reason 1 with reason 2, to make sure my end-user doesn't think I'm assuming they're stupid. So in my email, I try to ask for clarification while providing examples.

"I'm trying to find [Generic Request Name], and I'm unsure whether you're referring to one of the Web Site Tools available [here], one of the reports available [here], or one of the SQL Data Tables available [here]. Could you please provide me with the exact name of the tool you would like me to address, as well as a screenshot, so I can find it more easily?"

Note that this is generic enough that it can be copy-pasted and used for pretty much every time you have to ask the end-user for clarification, which saves you time -- but at the same time, it doesn't sound blunt. If you have some idea what they're looking for, you can tailor it accordingly -- this is a pro, because it may cause the users to believe that you're paying attention to them and doing your best to help.

As for people who are number 3 -- well, the ball's back in their court, and they will now be forced to acknowledge that they have to enter an answer if they want the ticket to keep moving.


Customers don't want frank and to the point. You want frank and to the point.

Customers want platitudes, kind tones, and social niceties. Throw in some rainbow sprinkles and they will be extra happy.

As someone with a very direct communication style, I understand your difficulties, but you are gonna have to learn to sugarcoat.

I'm sorry I just didn't understand your last request. I would really appreciate it if you could clarify which asset you are referring to in this ticket.

In the above quote, I made the same request while adding an apology that implicitly removes the blame from the customer and adding in how appreciative I'd be. (Always be appreciative.) If they apologize in their response respond with how common it is to miss and how everyone makes that mistake (in order to ease the pressure.)

You can request clarification in a kind tone that eliminates vagueness.

FWIW I wouldn't describe your initial approach as condescending. I would describe it as curt.

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