Support Rant


#1

Irk, irk, irk.

While I have to give DH props for making at least some of its support processes transparent, and for giving generally helpful and polite support…

I’ve got one major gripe.

In all too many instances, I’ve filed a support ticket that received a fairly quick “it’s working for me” response, only to find that the problem noted WASN’T working…

Which necesitated ANOTHER message, or followup message, and (generally) a longer lag in response time.

Me: Hi, it’s broken. Can you fix it?"
Support: It’s working fine.
Me: Nope. Still broken. (provides additional proof)
Support: It’s working fine. Must be something else, somewhere else.
Me: Nope. Still broken. Somebody else thinks you’re broken, too.
Support: Ooops. You’re right. Something’s broken. We’ll get right on it.
(long delay)
(no notification of repair)
(no enumeration of what went wrong)
(no statement about how to avoid repeat performance in future)
(at an indeterminate time in the future, the problem is mostly fixed)

As you can imagine, with up to 24 hours between exchanges, this can drag on WAAY longer than you’d like it too…

I realize that hosting is a complex business, and shared hosting can be a devilish foo to troubleshoot. But I’m really irked that it’s so hard to get admission of problems or updates on what’s being done about it.

While I admit that the time to first response is down from previous experiences, it doesn’t help much when the first response time is just a placeholder for a bunch of avoidance games until the problem is finally identified, acknowledged, and repaired…

And no, these are not cases of “how do I do this?”. These are cases of, I have followed directions to install, implement, activate, and results are not as expected and admin interaction is required…

And what’s interesting is that this is happening on a server that was:
relatively recently divvied up and moved to another host
had some recent downtime & problems, but supposedly fixed

I’m in the service industry myself, and my usual rule is to stamp out current fires before running off to new ones (unless lives are in danger ), and my customers generally understand and expect this… Once they get my attention, they expect a reasonable continuation of effort and some resolution before I abandon them to the next crisis…

Irk, Irk, Irk…


#2

It’s a tough situation to stay calm in, so I feel for you.

I’ll go against my instincts here and provide advice as well as sympathy…

Whenever our teams at work get support tickets, we’ve found that the most difficult thing is to reproduce the user observed behavior. You can’t imagine the number of tickets we get that say: “feature XYZ doesn’t work”. Of course, when we try to reproduce the problem, it works fine because we’re actually using feature XYZ in with different input. In these situations, we walk over to our users and sit with them while they go through the specific actions needed to reproduce the problem.

So my two pieces of advice are:

  1. If you’re submitting a ticket, try to make sure that you’ve submitted enough information to reliably reproduce the problem.
  2. For DreamHost support, when you’re in the unfortunate position of telling a user they couldn’t reproduce the problem, do them the same courtesy and give them the detailed steps you took to reproduce the working feature. This serves the dual purpose of making them feel better because they know the work you did to help them and also will show the contrast between what the user did and what the support person did. If you add a note that you’re aware that this is only one way among thousands of trying to reproduce their problem and that if they did something different and are still experiencing the problem they should try to submit a detailed description of what they are doing that causes the problem.

BTW, I am sympathetic because I’m on my 4th truck roll to fix an intermittent glitch with my cable internet service. The service goes out between 5 and 50 times a day but the technicians they just keep slowly replacing more and more of the wiring between the modem and the pole with no effect on the problem.

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#3

Well, thanks for the sympathy, and the advice…

But as it turns out, it doesn’t look like this was such a subtle problem, and the clues that I provided support meshed about as well as possible with what was actually wrong…

They DID fix it, as they usually do, but there wasn’t any explanation of how we went from support saying, “it’s working”, to support saying, “oh yeah, it was WAAAY broken, in more than one place and instance, but we finally tracked it down and it’s okay now…”

And that’s kind of my point…

More often than not, the first response I get from first level support is not very helpful, and it doesn’t appear that they investigated very thoroughly until I kept pushing…

And I didn’t hear anything from anyone until it was resolved…

Seems like it would have been a bit better to have sent out a “you’re right, sorry we missed it the first two times, we’re working on it, we’ll send you an email when it is fixed” email…

But since I rarely get those, perhaps my expectation is too high…

It’s just irritating…

DH isn’t the only company doing this, and there are worse offenders out there…

But it doesn’t seem to me like it would take that much extra effort to make this run a bit smoother… That one little message earlier in the process would have been nice…


#4

I hope the venting makes you feel better.

I’ll bet 90% of support requests are due to things wrong outside Dreamhost and beyond Dreamhost or customer control, or at the customer’s end. So, they play the odds and hope it fixes itself or the customer figures it out with some effort.

They can’t spend much extra back and forth with so many customers. The goal is to have as little real people interaction as possible, and as much automation as possible. Also, it’s natural to avoid admitting your “woopses” or pointing out the customers’ woopses. So they’re happy when things work and the customer quits pinging them.


#5

I’ve been with DH for 5 years (for better and worse). The support situation is basically the same now as it was then.

Years ago, I wrote essentially the same post as the one here. Long delays, initial denials, no explanations. Same, same, same.

I’m afraid that it’s gotten to the point that the uncertainties around DH service (uptime and support) are about to overwhelm my inherent laziness. I can’t in good faith recommend to a client to host here. It’s a damn shame, too, because the features are good.


#6

Highly suggest you change hosting to IPower.com they give you 200gb of storage for the same charge (7.95) as this hosting and are never down like this. at least they do not screw up every bodies website. Also have a much better CP (vdeck) that you can actually understand and navigate.

The cp of this hosting looks like a 5 year old built it. Very unorganized and not user friendly. also the vdeck at Ipower will let you edit your files on line. no ftp if you don’t wish.

Been watching hosting sites since 2001 and this hosting company has grown and become one of the most economic and user friendly hosting on the web.

No I am not staff or connected with this company… Just a consumer that researches thoroughly before buying.

forgot to mention IPower has FREE PHONE tech support… and at an 800 #… much better than trying to rely on an e-mail support system…

Lay odds that the jerks that run the company will delete this post.


#7

I’m not so sure, although I think it’s entirely within their right to do so… seeing as how your post is basically an unsolicited advertisement. The only thing you’re missing is an affiliate code.


A Happy DreamHost “Code Monster”


#8

My bet would be on the post staying up. I thought it was the case that DreamHost is loathe to selectively delete posts unless they were actually objectionable to the readership or against the ToS of the forums.

There are lots of web hosts out there. You should do as much of your own comparison shopping as you feel like doing in order to be comfortable with your choice.

Some things I want to note that might be important to people before jumping in based on a single testimonial by “IP persons”:

  1. I like the DreamHost panel. In fact, I suspect that given several non-standard features at DreamHost, that they have to custom code their panel rather than using a “standard” panel otherwise it would be something of a Frankenstein.
  2. Compare feature sets carefully. There are features that DreamHost offers that the aforementioned host doesn’t have - the ability to host unlimited domains, for example.
  3. I’ve heard that phone support is handled by an undertrained overseas call center. I’m not saying that everyone at DreamHost is a highly trained genius, but I’d take slower correct help than someone on the phone who knows less than I do. If I need that I can just head down to CompUSA.

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#9

DreamHost support is horrible.

There is no way to communicate with DreamHost as a customer apart from the Better Business Bureau.

The comments on the DH status blog range from sounding like an abuse support group of helpless customers to a cult group of people who flip out illogically if anyone questions the cult.

I went to DH because my favorite videoblog used to use them (RocketBoom). I have no idea if they still do.

I really like many things about DH and I particularly like the one click Wordpress installer. That rocks.

However - when you are paying close to $60 a month and you experience a svc failure and you have to deal with nonsense, incompetence, or neglect from the company you’re paying - it gets old rather quick.

I am still with DH, but I don’t feel confident that I will be for long.

The hardest thing to believe is that DH does not allow its customers to communicate with them by phone. The DH cultists will rail against the evils of support costs - but has anyone heard of skype?

It’s 2007. Customers expect a voice conversation at minimum.


#10

It’s strange you should say that; I’ve been as DreamHost customer for almost 9 years, and I have great support from DreamHost during that time.

It’s strange you should say that; I’ve been as DreamHost customer for almost 9 years, and I have never had any trouble communicating with them at all.

Now that I agree with!

RocketBoom must have a different experience with DreamHost then you have, because it looks like they are still using DreamHost:

http://dnstools.com/?lookup=on&wwwhois=on&portNum=80&target=RocketBoom.com&submit=Get Info
http://dnstools.com/?target=64.111.96.76

I imagine that would get old, though I’ve been a DreamHost customer for almost 9 years, and I have never had “nonsense, incompetence, or neglect from the company” during that time.

It’s always nice to have choices; life is too short to remain unhappy with any service provider.

Actually, they do allow their customers “to communicate with them by phone”. If they have a level 3 plan, or above, callbacks are available.

Cultists of all persuasions scare me, so I rarely listen to anything they say. Isn’t skype that voip thing? Such a thing might save a few dollars on phone bills, but that is not the significant part of the costs for phone support (most of the time, the customer calls them anyway, unless a toll-free number is provided). What is expensive about phone support is the people it takes to staff a call center.

Some might; others might like like the email version better (avoids a lot of the “he said, she said” stuff, and generally encourages efficiency over histrionics). I think, on the whole, email is a far better way to handle support for a low-cost shared hosting service provider. The fact is that YMMV, which only means that you prefer a voice conversation and others may feel differently about it.

Was there anything you were having problems with that anyone here might could help you with?

–rlparker


#11

DHcustomer says he’s paying “close to $60 a month” so I can’t imagine how he doesn’t have phone support… OTOH, I can’t find a current plan that’s close to $60 a month. The closest is the “Strictly Business” plan at $63.95. I suppose given the length of hosting, it could be an old plan.

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#12

I used ipower(web) previously. My uptime was excellent but the rest of the experience was poor. I had their old cpanel, which they neglected. Some of the links were broken, images were missing, and their installs (e.g., phpbb) were not kept up to date. They recommended I changed to vdeck once they had that available, but they said I would have to switch machines and they would not transfer my files for me or give me an exact time as to when I could be moved (so essentially I would have significant downtime). Their communication was essentially non-existent.

My DH experience has been almost entirely the opposite. Uptime hasn’t been exceptional, but the panel (which I much prefer over cpanel) is very good and the one-click-installs are often updated within a day of a new version coming out. Unfortunately, I’ve had to email support quite a bit but the replies are typically fast. DH actually has a forum, newsletter, blog, etc. so there is at least a sense of PEOPLE somewhere out there.

Personally, I’ll probably be moving on to another host when my contract expires. I would rather trade some of the bajillion gigs of my alloted space for more uptime and faster database access.

If you’re looking for a cheap host with a LOT of features, DH is a good answer. If reliability is a priority, another host might be a better option.


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