Whatever else you look for in a web hosting provider, you should always be on the lookout for good customer support. All web hosts will say they provide it, just as all heavyweight boxers will say they are going to win their next fight by a knockout. Just because someone is saying something, it doesn’t mean it is true. There are several things you will need to ensure your web host has before deciding that it will provide you with the right level of customer support.
A toll-free customer support line is a sure sign that the company really is confident that it can give you the help you need without any messing around. Someone has to pay for a phone call and if it isn’t you, it’ll be them. If they’re paying for the call, they want it to be short and final, so they will move mountains to get you back up and running if there’s unscheduled downtime. Still, it is helpful to have a record of every query, so if they offer an additional email support service, you should double up by sending them email.
Many of the better web hosting providers also have customer forums. If they’re any good they will be patrolled and moderated by techies, and placing a post on the forum is a good idea if you have an unresolved problem. They don’t want to see a lot of posts on there saying their service sucks, because that’s liable to turn people off them – expect someone to reply to your query fast and have you up and running again. Finally, look out for hosts who have frequently updated documentation of potential downtime and other issues on their site. If you’re going to have downtime, it’s nice to know in advance.
There are many web hosting companies that nowadays subscribe to the idea of a “trouble ticket” system for resolving customer issues. The idea of the system is simple – a customer who is having problems with their web hosting fills in a ticket on the error page that is showing, or on the web host’s own site, informing the host of the problem. This is then sent to the web host’s call center who prioritize the issue and assign an engineer to resolve the issue.
The benefit of the system is that it does allow companies to prioritize issues, ensuring that engineers can be assigned to the particularly problematic cases first. It also means that when you do speak to someone from the company, they should be up to speed on what is wrong with your service.
Equally, however, the system has its flaws. Not least of these is the fact that it is simply impossible to know when you will get a call from an engineer. The system is designed in such a way that your first contact will come when they have got around to assigning someone to your case. This leaves you at a bit of a loose end if your problem is stopping you working. How the cases are prioritized is also a gray area.
Research has proven that customers feel far more reassured with a company that has a dedicated tech support phone number that allows them to make direct contact rather than sending off a “ticket”. It is worth holding out for a company that does this, but does it particularly well.
Customer service has become a real buzzword in the recent past, with companies the world over queueing up to offer it. However, as anyone who has experienced a battle with a customer support department will know, offering it is one thing, delivery is often another entirely. This is sadly often true of the technical support departments of web hosting companies, and of online service in general.
You may be familiar with the sinking feeling of being on hold to a company and hearing the recorded message telling you “Your call is important to us, thank you for holding” repeatedly. It cannot be underestimated how annoying this is, and how entirely counter-productive. The message may be designed to reassure the customer that their problem will be dealt with soon, and dealt with well – but to many of us it signals the company protesting too much.
Before you sign up for a web hosting company, it is essential that you research their record on tech support. Some companies do not have a tech support phone line, advising that you send them an email – hardly reassuring when they seem to have such problems with Internet downtime. Others offer a “live chat” service on the Internet, and this can be a worthwhile option, but only when it is adequately staffed.