Bad Customer Service Examples

How to Lose a Customer Fast (or, Why Hostway Sucks)

Web hosting company Hostway lost our business by allowing our site to be down for more than 24 hours, rather than taking 5 minutes to get our site live again.

For years this site was hosted with Hostway.

We are now in the process of leaving Hostway as fast as we can. Hostway is a horrible web hosting company.

Hostway kept me as a web hosting customer for ten years, but finally their customer service and server reliability became so pathetically bad that I had to leave them.

The lesson for business owners is that you cannot take anything for granted, assuming that you can treat customers poorly and that they will not leave you to go to the competition.

In my case, Hostway took down our site because they said it was overloading their servers. We were running a site crawl program on the site which may have spiked traffic up from the usual 30,000 visitors per day.

OK, I don't have a problem with them taking down the site. However, once the site went down, we called them immediately. The customer service rep explained why they had taken the site down. We explained that the site crawler had been running, but that we had stopped it and that it was now OK to turn our website back on.

"That may take as long as 24 hours," they told me.

I explained that site uptime was very important to us. I asked them to escalate the request. They told me there was no way to accelerate the process because "there are many other customers in front of you."

If you are not familiar with web hosting, let me just say that this is the equivalent of ordering dinner at a fancy restaurant and getting served a meal this is infested with cockroaches. Letting a customer web site be down for 24 hours and not doing anything about it automatically gets you on the list of worst web hosting companies in the world, to my mind.

I would feel different if Hostway were a cheap web hosting provider, but they position themselves as a top tier web hosting company. We are on their WebSuccess Platinum Plus Windows web hosting plan, which costs $865 a year. That's expensive web hosting prices compared to many ISPs and hosting companies, so one would expect premium service. Unfortunately, Hostway believes it can collect $865 from you and then can treat you like crap.

To be fair, they weren't bad for a while. Our site would go down fairly frequently, but a quick call to support would get it back up. You might have 30 minutes of server downtime a few times every quarter, but you never had Hostway allow your site to be down for 24 hours, simply because there was supposedly a queue of customers in front of you who were also likely experiencing web site outages and worse.

So, Hostway as a web hosting company seems to be going down the toilet. If you are looking for a good web hosting provider, do not put Hostway on your short list.

Again, just to make sure the point is clear, Hostway is not a reliable web hosting provider, despite all their sales and marketing hype that might suggest otherwise.

If you see any third-party Hostway statistics on uptime, you need to realize that those server uptime statistics are for the website, not for Hostway client websites. They can keep their own site up 99.x% but customer server downtime is in fact very high, based on our recent experience with Hostway.

So, for us, it's on to Verio or Rackspace. In fact, while Hostway had our site down, we hustled to get a new Verio hosting account up and running, copied over the files, and then flipped the DNS record to point to Verio's server. In this way, we were only down for site visitors for 16 hours, whereas we were actually down at Hostway for over 24 hours. This was a temporary fix that saved us from losing even more in lost revenue.

Surely there must be a good web hosting company out there that cares about its customers, doesn't have stupid internal procedures, and knows how to keep a server running.

Goodbye Hostway, and good riddance. Once we get off of Hostway, I will be setting up a Google alert for "Hostway bankruptcy" -- the way you treat customers, it's only a matter of time before you have to close your doors.

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