I have a confession to make. I’m technically challenged. When it comes to blogging I can handle the writing end and maybe even a little widget and plugin installation, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, I haven’t a clue. I generally hire people to design my blogs and to handle the issues I can’t.
In November, I was thrilled to be able to announce I was revamping my popular Freelance Writing Jobs blog from a single blog into a network of six blogs. Imagine how it feels watching a small blog grow into the number one online community for freelance writers? This was a thrilling and scary time for me. At the recommendation of my trusted tech guys, I moved over to a more reliable hosting company. It was a company that came highly recommended, received good reviews and they patiently answered all my questions when I called.
A tale of two servers
A couple of weeks after the move and upgrade, I received a notice from the host. My site is too busy, processes are running and it’s affecting the other websites on the server. Could we look into it? Indeed we could. My tech guys looked into it and fixed the problem. Or so we thought. In mid- December the host sent another notice. My blog network is too busy for the chosen plan, I had to move to a dedicated server. This must be done within 24 hours or my service would be yanked. Feeling I had no choice, I paid hundreds of dollars (that I couldn’t spare during the holidays) to get this done. Some of that money, by the way, had been earmarked so I could give my bloggers an end of the year bonus. Sorry, guys.
Life went along swimmingly until the other day. I woke up to find my blog network gone. A note from the host informed me my site was still too busy and since this has been going on since November they had no choice but to remove my site. If I wanted to remain on their service, I had to pay hundreds more dollars to get upgraded to another server.
What the eff?
Now. I did everything this hosting company asked of me. I had my guys look into and fix any issues and I upgraded when asked to upgrade. Since, after the upgrade I didn’t hear anything for almost two months, I assumed all was well. Don’t I at least get 24 hours to make a decision?
I consulted my tech guys once again. Not only did they pinpoint the issue, the assessed there was no need for my blog network to even be on a dedicated server because it’s not that big. The traffic is good, yes, but I’m not Darren Rowse or CopyBlogger. Still, my guys said they found the problem and if they installed a caching system the issue would be resolved. Brilliant. Life could return back to normal.
Not so fast…
I sent a note back to the person who sent me the bad news and asked if he could put my site back up so I can fix the issue. “No” he wrote back. “We’ve been dealing with this since November.” He said the systems admin team would review the situation but it didn’t look good.
So I called the hosting company and spoke to a man name Les who could have used a lesson or two in good customer service. I explained the situation to Les who was less than helpful.
Les: There’s nothing I can do.
Me: We pinpointed the problem. I just need a few hours (or less) for my guys to install a plugin.
Les: There’s nothing I can do.
Me: May I talk to Justin who has been sending me emails.
Les: No. Justin isn’t available.
Me: He sent an email five minutes ago.
Les: He’s not available.
Me: May I speak to someone else then?
Les: No one is available.
Me: Les, surely there is someone else who is available besides you. A manager, a supervisor, a systems administrator? I need to tell someone we know what the problem is and it’s a quick fix. There has to be someone with the ability to make decisions available.
Les: No one is available.
Me: I paid a lot of money to upgrade, I did everything you asked. Surely there is someone I can talk to.
Les: No one is available for you.
I hung up in frustration. No one would talk to me, no one would help me, and no one would respond to my emails anymore. I had a few hissy fits and went outside and played ball with the dog for a while to calm down. The I went inside to start my day job.
I called the host again during my lunch hour and got someone a little more pleasant and helpful, but couldn’t do anything for me. He told me I had no choice but to upgrade and they wouldn’t be putting my site back up because it was too busy, they were afraid I would crash the server. Thus: my tech guys couldn’t install the plugin. “How come, ” I asked him, “that it wasn’t so busy it would crash the server when I went to bed last night, and now it is?” My new BFF at the hosting company couldn’t answer this, nor could he tell me why I was pulled without at least 24 hours notice. He did, however, help me get my files back.
My tech guys did have the backup from the upgrade and put the old blog up at the old server and that will do for now. Now, I’m not claiming ignorance. Indeed we had issues since November, but I was under the impression these issues were fixed. Since upgrading to the new server I never heard from the hosting company again. No one told me there were still issues and no one told me my small blog network, receiving up to 4,000 visitors a day was too big for the VPS server. I have been working with this company all along and doing everything they asked, so why not work with me in return?
Surely after spending hundreds of dollars in two months, at least a supervisor or the Systems Admin guy who contacted me in the first place could talk to me on the phone? And why did Justin in Systems Administration refuse to respond to my emails after I told him we could fix the problem. Why did the hosting company refuse to respond to my emails until I wrote to them asking to have access to my files?
As a customer, I don’t want to be frustrated. As someone who has no clue about the technical side of things, I was in tears. What was happening? How come these problems aren’t getting resolved? How do I know all parties involved aren’t yanking me around trying to get more money from me? I had no answers. I felt clueless and helpless and no one from the hosting company did anything to help me feel better. In my 44 years I’ve had to deal with utility companies, schools, township bureaucracies, and even the DMV, but no one has ever made me feel as small and useless as this hosting company.
I like to use situations like this as a model for my own behavior. Every day I deal with many terrific people, but also a few who are difficult. It would be so easy to blow them off or act as if they’re the problem, but what if they’re feeling as helpless as me? People reach out for help because they truly need it. For any kind of a business to succeed, they have to be helpful, attentive and needed. I wasn’t made to feel like an important customer yesterday, and I hope I will never let anyone leave a customer service situation feeling the same way.