RLParker - This one's for you. Thanks for listening...
First, I'd like to say that I love the way DH is set up. If an account owner knows what s/he's doing and is aware of the fact that the environment is shared, and has patience, s/he'll probably never really need much in the way of support. Dreamhost tends to resolve most problems efficiently without users even knowing it.
However, if email support involves more than one email, there is no framework within the dreamhost support mechanism for institutional memory. If you reply back to an email referring to a url in previous correspondence, the support people have no idea what you're talking about. Some support people leave the thread of the support within their reply. Others don't. There is no guarantee that you'll be talking to the same support person from one email to another.
Apparently, each time I send an email - even a reply to the previous support email - it gets a new support query number. The support crew in question only have access to that support query email and are not able to refer back in the thread as to what ever I might have been talking about. Each email is a separate support posting, unaffiliated with parts of what to me should be considered the same thread.
One of my clients is set up as a separate user under my account. Because it is my personal account and he was needing to give several webworkers access to his user account, I thought it best to transfer him to his own account. That way if someone else needed to add an email address or database, I wouldn't have to give them my personal dreamhost account data.
I asked Dreamhost support for advice on how to proceed with this. I created a new account. Then I asked whether there was a way to transfer a user and all the user's content from one box to another box.
The first reply said I had to transfer the files manually. I got the files all zipped and transferrered to the new box. I asked a question about the best way to proceed and was given this wiki url:
I read everything about the wiki, only to find that it would be much easier to transfer the user from one box to another as outlined here at the bottom of the same page:
I asked about that. "Travis T" said, 'Sure, we can do that. Just make sure your databases are transferred, and we'll take care of the rest. It's just a user account database change.' I followed the directions to make the transfer as stated in the wiki and wrote back. I said, in essence, that I needed to know if there will be any downtime and that if there won't be, just do the transfer. Everything is ready.
Brian S wrote back that in fact, it could not be done and that I would have to transfer the files myself, rather than do a user transfer. Then he said their would be a one to two-hour DNS downtime. (Of course, there should be no DNS delay between boxes on the same host provider - just the time it takes to delete from one account and add to another, if your data is already set up on the new box. But Brian S didn't know that.) He also seemed to think I wanted to move an entire account - not a user within the account.
I tried deleting a website from the old user, old account and transferring it to the new user on the new account. I get this error:
I figured there must be a mistake. I purposefully used Dreamhost's front page to navigate to create the account so that I would not have any referrals or promotionals. I have no idea how the referral got on the system. I thought the problem was something else.
I asked why I couldn't do the user transfer as suggested in the wiki url (and included the url again, just to be sure they knew what I was talking about.)
Patrick M writes back to tell me there's a referral on my account stopping me from doing the domain transfer, and that I could remove the referral, but then the person wouldn't get the referral.
I write back, saying I have no idea who 'richardkershaw' is and that I purposefully used the DH front page to add the new account to stop any referrals from happening, and asked for the referral to be removed so I can just get the domains transferred.
Dastyni writes back, helpfully removing the referral, suggesting that I must have gotten it from a cookie on the page where I first signed up... I also got helpful directions on how to move a site, and that the transfer might cause a bit of downtime.
I tried transferring a domain again and was successful. As soon as I added the domain on the new box, it showed up. I transferred all the other domains with them similarly showing up almost immediately.
On a whim, I thought I'd ask in reply to my last email:
To which the reply from Patrick was:
Through all of this, the support people have been courteous and as helpful as possible within the limits of the single email in front of them. However, I'm just one of thousands of people who are all trying to get things resolved, and they have no memory of who I am or what my problems were.
Patrick, Travis, Brian, Dastyni,
You're all probably very nice people, but you don't know me, and either aren't made familiar with what's going on with my account through the support interface DH is using, or you simply won't take the time to review the previous thread to see what I'm talking about.
To that end, Dreamhost would do well to adopt an entirely different method for resolving issues.
First: Give me a thread in the support history over which I have control. The thread should have several states over which I have control, including but not limited to:
* Problem Alarm Level
* casual question
* not time sensitive
* need help asap
* things are broken
* people are dying
* Keep this with one support person/Change support person
* A Support Person Grade, so I can give feedback as to how
helpful a particular support person is. Don't make me go
somewhere else to give feedback about support. I'm more
likely to give feed back right there if it's available.
* The thread should remain unresolved until I say it's
resolved or perhaps after a week of non-response from me.
* Compel account owners to close resolved threads.
* The time it takes (in hours and minutes) for each support
response to my inquiries should be included with each support response.
* Support should be measured not by response time per
post, but rather support time per un-resolved thread.
* Give DH support panel users the grade DH is achieving
currently for fully resolved threads based on DH resolved thread time.
* I should be able to change the level of concern about the
support item for the thread as things get more or less 'broken'.
* I should be able to ask that whoever first gets the
support question remain with the question until it's
resolved so I can get someone who will at least be likely
to remember the problem.
* If that support person doesn't think they can solve the
issue, they should tell me they're passing it to someone
who is at another tier of support who will be able to help
me. This person should stay with my support concern until
* If I like working with a particular support person and am
willing to wait for a response, I'd like that option too.
* Emails should refer to the same support thread until I
create a new support thread.
* I want to be able to respond to the support thread from
within the panel and not just by email. BBCode might be
helpful too. That way, I could update the thread
immediately if I find out I've made a mountain out of a
molehill, or if things are getting worse.
* I want to be able to view unresolved vs. resolved issues
so I can look back at the ones that were resolved to see
what we did to resolve an issue if it comes up again.
* Support personnel should be trained to at least scan the
thread of the unresolved issue if there are several posts in
the thread in order to get a sense of what's going on -
giving at least a semblance of institutional memory.
* Pay support personnel better when they have better
average grades given by customers. I'm not talking about
a little bonus incentive for each 'five star' grade they get.
I'm suggesting that if they average five stars, they should
be paid better than an average one-star support person. It
will give them the incentive to actually read the wiki and
better understand their jobs.
* Behind the scenes, if DH wanted to, support personnel
could rate each client as to how much of a PITA they are,
how skilled they are, and whether the hosting situation is
* Notes could be kept about the client that
are separate from the support threads so that the support
personnel can be kept apprised as to possible future concerns.
Through all of this, I still haven't found out whether or not DH really could have just transferred a user and its associated content from one account to another, even though the wiki says it's possible.
While I was able to use the support system to get my issues addressed in a round-about way, it took me several days over the course of a couple weeks to get a problem resolved that could probably have been resolved in a lot less time with a simple user transfer.
Also, unless the main DH signup page refers all new sign-ups with 'richardkershaw', support personnel are giving their friend(s) free referrals. Maybe that's not a big deal, but it certainly hampers a box-to-box transfer of domains from one existing account to another existing account. That might have been apparent to whoever did the account setup if there had been a threaded conversation to which the support person who set up the account could have referred.
To sum: The DH support system needs a major overhaul to increase effectiveness through a pseudo-institutional memory by creating better support measures.
I like to think I'm a pretty patient guy, and my concern was not nuclear critical. Nobody's site was down because I could leave stuff on my personal account until support could help me wade through the issues. It was a bit like talking with someone who has Alzheimers. Sometimes the response clear, and sometimes it's not. You don't know what you'll get in the way of a response because nobody's really 'home' all the time.
What if it had been more critical? There are always instances in which an account owner has no control over why they can't do something. This was just one. And I'm not talking about system or box-wide problems that we all just have to be patient with, or special configurations that aren't covered by support anyway. I'm just talking about little screw-ups like an un-asked for 'referral' that probably hindered me for a couple weeks until someone in support actually noticed it might hinder my progress. What if this had been more mission critical? You can imagine I'd have been really steamed.
I'll write about this in the suggestion panel and point it to this post. It's awesome that DH has a suggestion panel. I've seen some of my own suggestions actually get implemented, so I know the system works. I suspect a lot of people would be happy - both users and support personnel - if DH would follow up on this one.