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Footprints in the snow of a warped mind

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When customer service goes mad

I rate good/great customer service very highly when it comes to retaining clients and obtaining new clients so it always make me laugh at how some companies value their customer service and more to the point wonder how they’re still in business!

The other day I had a couple of conversations with Fasthosts that I simply had to share. A little background though –we’ve been with Fasthosts for a couple of years now, I think we originally signed up in 1999 through 4as1 and I know we were one of their first customers. Since then we’ve registered around 300 domains with their sister company UKReg without a problem.

More recently however I’ve been feeling less easy about their service. Firstly they started charging for things left right and centre –ok, they’ve got a business to run, next they started to overload the servers (ok it’s a shared server, I can live with that), to combat the overloaded servers they started moving domains –I’m guessing higher demand sites onto their own boxes. That was ok, except they gave you no advanced warning and seeing as a fair few of the sites in question would reference MS Access databases elsewhere would cause us no-end of update fun.

Then their support went down hill to the extent that we often had to wait for ages until the phone was answered (listening to “you are 17th in the queue”). At this point we had just opened an account with Rackspace so had the view to slowly move the domains over. That was until I got an email saying they would now be charging for a number of services that were historically free which cut into our margins –making them negative. That annoyed me somewhat so moving the sites away from Fasthosts was moved up my priority list.

When we first signed up with Fasthosts they were the dogs, cheap hosting with all the bells and whistles –we had a Windows account which meant –unlike others at the time we had free use of ASP and all sorts but now all they seem interested in is the Yankee dollar rather than customer retention.

The other day was the straw that broke the camels back in regards my tolerance of Fasthosts. I had two fairly simple questions and it wasn’t easy to get a straight response to either. The first related to a domain I was adding for a client, they don’t use it but have access to a personal control panel which allows them to manage their emails etc. The control panel although a little outdated does the job. The catch however is recently you need to pay for use of Fasthosts’ control panel or you can build your own through the API. I didn’t need half the stuff included in the “Standard Bundle” and only wanted Fasthosts’ personal control panel so thought it would be best to ask which package I needed:

Conversation 1 – Fasthosts Personal Control Panels

Massively long delay before a response finally comes

Great! They’ve removed the control panels I highlighed (and only those ones!) but they were just the ones in the next month! In fairness, after a few more emails I did get the past invoices refunded as well as a fair few future ones taken off the account but it makes me very concerned as to who else is still paying this charge... I would never have questioned it as they did send a mailshot out saying they would now be charging for them etc. Most odd

Conversation 2 – SQL Server Express

As I’ve already mentioned, we’ve been with Fasthosts for around 8 years now (that’s at least £7k in the basic fees in case you’re interested) and for most of that we’ve had use of a shared SQL Server. When we signed up it was SQL Server 7 and although we’ve requested it nicely we’ve never been upgraded and so it resides on a very outdated machine to which we cannot connect using the new SQL Management studio.

This shared SQL Server costs us £35pm and as we’ve only got 3 active clients using it, bringing in a total of £300pa I felt that is a slight waste of money so my plan was to use SQL Server Express in place (they’re relatively low traffic sites and MS Access was out of the question as they made use of various stored procedures).

As you now have to pay extra for an ASP.Net account I thought I’d ask support to find out what the situation was...

I felt that was direct and straight to the point, not asking anything too complicated to which one may expect a yes/no answer? Right?...

Ok, I know sometimes I’m a little slow but “appropriate authentication method” that had me seriously confused, the only thing I could think was he was referring to Management Studio. Not only that I know for a fact that we’re on SQL Server 7…

Ok, so perhaps my question wasn't clear enough, I thought that's what I asked, I thought (clearly incorrectly) that SQL Server Express was now released as a standard update through Microsoft updates -so they've disabled that. Perhaps I should have been a little clear in pointing out the fact that I HAVE a shared SQL Server account with them and that it was unsatisfactory but hey I thought they'd check what services we already had with them.

Ok, so as this point you can tell I was slowly quickly loosing grip but this next one just finishes me off...

Feel like you’re on a roundabout? I gave up and spent the weekend fast-forwarding my server transfer schedule.

Ok, looking at those few emails perhaps it is a bit extreme to close down our account with them but this is a monthly occurrence, I would say all in all this set of emails took around 2 hours of my day which to me is time I could be billing a client so I think it’s justified.

As it happens they did me a favour, by forcing my hand (or annoying me to the extent I did something about it) we're now finally on Rackspace and our sites are a lot more speedy :) Happy Days!

Author: Tim on

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