Domainmonster.com Domain Editorials
Hosting: Customer Support
When it comes to customer support from your hosting company, you really need to expect the best and settle for nothing less. Whether you are a newcomer to web hosting, or well-versed in the process and running dozens of sites, if you have a problem, you want fast and knowledgeable responses to your questions and a rapid resolution. So many hosts claim to offer twenty-four hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year support, but when you call them at 3am on a Sunday morning, you get an answering machine or someone who has no idea what they’re talking about, and of course, you pay for the call.
Some hosts don’t even offer telephone support, but only an online or email service. This is, of course, completely useless if you’ve lost your internet connection. When you choose a host, make sure that there are people physically in its data centre around the clock, and always go for a host that offers telephone support. Keep a hard copy of their telephone numbers in case you can’t access them online when you need them. Browsing the host’s online resources is worth a try, to see if they’re easy to use and likely to answer your questions.
Before you put your site into the hands of any host, call their technical support first. Look for a friendly, professional and helpful manner, using language that you can understand. If they only speak in technicalities that are over your head, ask them to clarify; it is their responsibility to help you to understand. The smooth running of your server is the responsibility of your dedicated server host. They should deal with any problems without making you feel guilty or responsible for them. Give them a reasonable chance – they are only human, and things do sometimes go wrong without it being anyone’s fault – but don’t settle for discourteous or unhelpful staff. You can always change hosts, if the worst comes to the worst, or just ask to speak to someone else.
Good customer service seems so important from your end, but unfortunately many hosts, especially inexperienced ones, don’t see the value of it, or blow their budgets on marketing and PR. It’s up to you to find a company that offers the level of customer support you expect. You might find that there are indeed people in the support centre all day every day, but that they are not qualified to help you, or are merely relaying your questions to overworked support staff, which slows down the resolution of your problem. Some of the most unqualified people end up in support centres, because the high demand for IT professionals means that many companies simply can’t find staff who are properly trained. The best thing to do is to ring them and test them. Remember the following points when you make your call:
- Ask them to walk you through the basic processes needed to manage your site. Ask them about their working hours and whether there is always someone on duty to answer your questions. Also ask them what training they’ve had, and if they have an MCSC or Microsoft qualification if they will be dealing with Windows NT issues.
- Try to assess their technical knowledge, and listen to how speedily they answer, and with what degree of detail. It’s possible that they’re getting their answers from a better-trained member of staff, or looking them up in a database, especially if you are put on hold a lot.
- Find out where they are located and whether they are employed as freelancers or on a contractual basis. You have every right to know these things, so feel free to ask as many questions as you can think of that might help you to make a decision. It is your money and your website that is on the line, and you must not compromise on customer service.
- It might also be wise to regularly check how quickly they can pull your details from their database, and how much information they store. Also, try to find a specific technician and get to know their name, so that they will become familiar with your personal situation and you can build a rapport with them. It will make your transactions with your host much more enjoyable and efficient.
- See if they have a specific and relevant online support centre or knowledge base, and give it a test run.
If your prospective host passes all these tests with flying colours, they are probably worth a go. Good customer support often indicates a good overall service, and you will not regret having done your homework when you encounter a serious problem.
Author: Natalie Catchpole