Monday, July 11, 2016

Customer Service Case Study: My Wacky Website Weekend!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 7/11/2016

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What a stressful weekend I had.  The Red Rocket website went down on Friday morning.  I didn't know if it was a temporary server outage from my hosting provider, or not.  I tried emailing and calling the emergency support team, with no response.  I said I would give it a day or two, before panicking.  But, with the site still down on Sunday morning, I assumed the worse, that my vendor Site2You may have gone out of business (which apparently they didn't), and I scrambled to get a new site up and running, which proved a daunting challenge on a last minute basis, to say the least.  I wanted to share some customer experience and customer service learnings with you, so you don't make the same mistakes with your business.

Site2You:  Grade F

I had been working with Site2You since I first launched our website in 2010.  Back then, they actually had a good selection of website templates, a good user experience with their content management system and a support team on call in case anything ever went wrong.  But, over time, it was clear they were not maintaining their systems (e.g., it only could be accessed through an outdated Firefox browser), and they even tried to get me to switch over to WordPress.  But, I was busy, the site was functioning fine for my needs, and I stuck with them.

But, when the site went down this weekend, with no warning or response from Site2You after three days of outage, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It didn't matter that I had been happily working with them for over six years.  What mattered was my site was down, despite their 99.9% uptime guarantee, and there was no way for inbound visitors to find my site, including the lost advertising spend with Google Adwords landing on a dead website.

So, the key lesson here: it is only the most recent experience that matters most with your customers, as you can lose them at any time with unexpected slip-ups.  And, it is important to keep your product improving over time, with open communications with your customers when stuff is going wrong. They actually got their service back up and running on Monday, but by then, the damage was already done.

Google:  Grade A

I never really felt the need to have to backup my website content, in case the site ever went down. That was Site2You's job, which they had been successfully backing up the site data every 24 hours, over time.  That was until Site2You itself goes down, and there is no way to track them down.  That's when the panic sets in.

The good news was, I knew Google indexes all websites.  And, even if the Red Rocket site is down, Google will have a cached copy of the indexed web pages on their servers.  So, I searched for Red Rocket in Google, found my links, and pulled up the cached copy from their search results.  Thank goodness, as it saved me a ton of time of having to rewrite all the website copy from scratch.  Thank you, Google!

GoDaddy:  Grade C

I use GoDaddy for my domain name registration service.  So, I figured I would go there to see what website development options they had.  They actually had two options: I could license WordPress through them, or they had their own competing system they wanted to sell you.  I was able to review sample templates of their system, which weren't all that great, but at least it was supported by a human support team in case I ran into any problems.  But, there was a reason 25% of the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, which is where I was leaning.  And, GoDaddy couldn't show me any of the premium WordPress templates, and the GoDaddy support team wouldn't support the WordPress platform if I had any customization needs.

So, the key lesson here:  make sure your product is competitive with other perceived leaders in the market, and if you are going to sell a product, you should support it, even if it is a competitor's product.  I got scared aware by no technical support on the system I really wanted.

WordPress:  Grade C

Well, if GoDaddy can't meet my WordPress needs, surely WordPress can.  WRONG!  WordPress only supports their couple hundred website templates they have built, which weren't all that fresh for this generation of web design.  And, if I wanted to purchase a custom template elsewhere, they would not host it on their servers, they pointed me in the direction of a third party website hosting company they had partnered with.  And, worse yet, there was zero human support offered for their templates, if I had any minor customization needed.  Which means, I would have to engage expensive WordPress developers to make the customization changes for me.

I am sort of scratching my head to how WordPress has built up a dominant market share position with this type of strategy.  They must be biasing web development agencies as their primary customers, as their consumer direct solutions were not all that great.  To me, it doesn't feel like allowing third party templates to be hosted on the WordPress servers and providing access to a support team for minor changes needed would be that hard of a thing to offer, even if I had to pay more for that solution.

Word Press Developer Agency:  Grade C

I had a WordPress development agency do good work for one of my clients in the past.  So, I outreached to them, to see if they could help.  He said it would cost a minimum of $2,500 to do the work, assuming I could find an off-the-shelf template I liked.  My website is so basic and simple with a few pages, that I thought there was only a few hours of work needed, and the quoted price felt too expensive, so I moved on.  So, make sure your prices are in line with what is reasonably to be expected for the work being provided.

Wix:  Grade A

Which brings me to Wix, the vendor I chose to build the new website platform.  They "had me at hello".  Their website just lured you right into the template creation process, without having to charge my credit card ahead of time (as both GoDaddy and WordPress required).  And, once I started working with their system, it was so unbelievably simple and easy to use.  It was closer to working with Word or Powerpoint, than it was a complicated web development platform, like WordPress.  So, any non-technical person can easily make the changes needed, without the need of expensive developer time, including a fool-proof step-by-step tutorial to revise my DNS settings with GoDaddy.  Which explains why over 80MM customers have chosen Wix as their website solution.  And, to top it off, the new website looks materially fresher and better than the old website did, so my stressful weekend turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  All for the price of $12.99 a month, plus a few hours of my personal time setting up the site.

So, the key lesson here is:  don't create friction between your customers and the sale.  Give them free access to your tools, so they can play with it first, and then ask for the sale after they are hooked.  And, user experience is everything, so the easier and better you make it, the higher your sales will go.

Hope you found this post useful, both for your customer service and experience strategies, and for your website development needs.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.


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