TL;DR In situations where it's objectively user error, I encounter two types of technically un-savvy person:
- the "it doesn't seem to work for me, it's probably my fault, can you help" type, and
- the "it doesn't work, sort it out" type.
What is the most effective but polite way of responding to the latter type? I am looking for the best approach. As they are paying clients who I hope to see again, I need to present myself as competent (i.e. bluntly: it's definitely not a problem my end) but also politeness, and even professionally "caring".
I send my photography clients links in an email to a zip file they can download, containing all their edited photos. 95% of the time, they open the link with no issue. 2.5% of the time, someone tries the link and hastily sends an email saying "for some reason I cannot open, does it definitely work?" which I can deal with. And 2.5% of the time I get this: "the link doesn't work". After testing the link, I then spend ages agonising over how to present my response. In all cases there must be some genuine reason the link isn't working for them (e.g. you can't open a zip file from an iphone, the file downloaded but they didn't notice, whatever...), but I find that the phrase "it doesn't work" is almost a way for that person to say "don't show me how to make it work - fix it your end", and that's the problem I am trying to navigate.
Possible approaches - can you think of more?
Saying "it works for me". This says "I don't care if you can or can't open it" and isn't a good response.
Short response with open question e.g. "Hi, can you explain exactly what you are doing"? My concern here is that the person already believes the problem is NOT their end and they will send an equally useless response like "I am clicking on the link" with no further detail.
Respond with more detailed questions e.g. "Hello. I have tested the link my end, all is okay. Are you trying to open this on an iPhone, Windows PC, Mac? Can you explain what happens when you click the link? Do you know where files usually get downloaded to when you download them, and can you open that location etc." - the answer they will give will usually be "nothing happens" and that empowers them to think I am over-complicating the matter. This approach would work with me, as I like to read things in detail, also I am generally decent enough to admit that I missed some detail and it now works ok. But often the types of people this applies to are not the ones who read questions in detail and are not happy to admit they made a mistake, so it is often not the best means.
Send a new link and ask if that one works. Despite knowing it worked before, this is like a placebo that allows them to think I have done something different, giving them a way out of being shown up?
Send a video by Whatsapp to the client showing me doing the very basic steps of clicking on the link in the email in my sent items, and that link definitely working, using a polite tone of voice to narrate what I'm doing and therefore how they should do it. Maybe patronising, but also seems like a watertight way of showing them they are wrong.
Even if I manage to show them the link working, is there a clever, low-key way of helping them to get to the point in thinking that it may have always worked, instead of them thinking "well, obviously he just fixed it and didn't admit this".
Perhaps dear reader you may think I'm overly obsessed by the detail of how to deal with this; maybe that is true. But it's something that takes up a lot of my brain space in dealing with customers and I suspect the generalisation of this problem may apply to many other areas of life as well.