I was out and about today, and got home to find email from a friend telling me my site was down (Thx Livia). Hmmm. Ok. Checked it out, and they’re right.

So I check the dreamhost status site, and there’s nothing for today. Ok, so I contact dreamhost directly. I hear back quickly.

I’m told they suspect there is a script running on my site that used too much memory, shutting down the entire site. I’m sent a reference for how to investigate this myself to figure out what might be the cause.

Meanwhile. My site is still down.

I say WTF. I can’t fix this if I can’t get to my site. And moreso, why not charge me $50 or whatever you want for going over my memory limit, a fee I’d gladly pay, instead of HAVING MY SITE DOWN AN ENTIRE DAY.

I ask them to temporarily bump my memory to get the site up, which they thankfully do, and fix the likely cause of the problem (a plugin I didn’t update when I upgraded to WordPress 2.7).

Lessons:

  1. Always inform customers if you are turning their service off, regardless of the reason. I should not need a friend to let me know, or be surprised on my own, even if I’m to blame for the reason the site is down. Always notify me when, and if possible before, you turn off what I’m paying for.
  2. It’s better customer service to charge extra for doing the right thing, and keeping *my customers* out of it by loaning me more memory. It’s done for bandwidth, for overdraft charges at the bank, why not for memory usage? Charge me whatever you want – just don’t ever let my site go down.
  3. Anyway, end of story is I’m sorry the site was down. And end of the line I’m to blame. Dreamhost has always been a mixed bag of good and bad. They suggested their PS service, which does allow for variable memory use at a price, which I’ll check out.

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10 Responses to “A lesson in customer service (why my site was down today)”

  1. Richard |

    Can’t say I agree with your second point. I don’t think anyone would think of claiming that Dreamhost is a premier hosting provider. If my options are either a) my site is down for a day or b) get charged half my yearly subscription, I’d rather take option a. Especially if it was my mistake in the first place.

    Reply
  2. Scott |

    Richard: either way, IMO any service, discount or premier, should notify you when they shut your service off for any reason.

    Reply
  3. Ryan Kohn |

    Scott,

    I think you’re missing something on your second point: you should have the option to allow them to make that decision without your confirmation (in addition to them notifying you, of course). I’m sure there are people who can’t afford or even have the need to have their bandwidth move into a higher tier.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Scott |

      Ryan: Totally agree. It should be optional. But part of notifying me when they turn off my service should be to give me a chance to give them more money. It’s good business and good customer service.

      Reply
  4. Brian VP |

    Even better customer service would be to just upgrade your customer for free for a short period of time. In the past 5 years I have had exactly one overdraft incident with my bank, which they charged me 80 dollars for the “benefit” of covering my check temporarily. Since I’ve been an excellent customer, why not just eat the 2-5 dollars it cost them to cover my funds? Why would a company risk losing a good customer over something like this?

    Reply
    • Scott |

      Brian: Yup. That’s what I think. The cost of a little script to send an automated email to me that a) warns me my site is down, and b) has a link to temporarily upgrade me for a week until I can sort out the problem (for $$$) or, as you suggest, for free, would only need to be built once, and in the former case, pay for itself. In the later case it might pay for itself too in the number of people who choose to extend the upgrade and pay for it.

      Reply
  5. Ryan J |

    Not being one to trust any hosting provider, no matter how good their track record has been, I monitor my site with an external monitoring service. Many of them are free if you are only monitoring a single site and can live with just a few checks per hour. For a small fee, most will check your site every 1-5, allow you to monitor multiple site, and send an SMS message to your phone when your site is down.

    I’ve had a good experience with: http://host-tracker.com/

    - Ryan

    Reply
  6. Walt Anders |

    Well, step one is to get on top of problems. We use http://monitive.com to get notified if such things happen. Better safe than sorry.

    –Walt

    Reply
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