How poor communication strategy can lose you customers

Grumpy Cat says NoI’m afraid to say that only 5 days after moving my mail and web hosting from Fasthosts to Dataflame (and my blog from WordPress to Dataflame) I am cancelling my service, and requesting a refund.

The fiasco of the last few hours is a very good example of how poor communication strategy can alienate customers and lose you money.

  • 09:10 – I realise the mail and web hosting for rgbartlett.co.uk is down
  • 09:15 – I find the Dataflame website is down as well, now how do I contact them?
  • 09:25 – I find that none of the three options available on Dataflame’s automated answering service actually connect me to a person, 3/3 options suggest I use their live online chat (available via their website which is down), or email them (which if they’re offline won’t work).
  • 09:28 – I check the Dataflame Twitter feed, no mention of the outage, so I tweet them, and receive no reply
  • 09:53 – The Dataflame website comes back online, still no mention of the outage, so I connect to their live chat, and join a queue of 114 other disgruntled users
  • 10:15 I give up waiting as the queue has gone down to 67 and hasn’t moved for several minutes

At this point I started looking at the options available for cancelling, and I’ve now emailed the provider to advise I’m cancelling my service with them and requesting a refund under the distance selling regulations.

All it took was one outage, one poor communication strategy, and one hour of fruitless effort trying to communicate with my provider before I quit.

Some people might say “Outages happen, get over it”, which is fair enough, I work in a team who provide a service and sometimes we have to deal with outages, but the key difference is communication.

  • If Dataflame had bothered to update their twitter feed (as O2 did throughout their outage yesterday) then I’d know they were on top of it, and I’d be satisfied with that.
  • If I’d been able to phone them and talk to someone about the outage, it’s extent, and the ETA for a return of service, I would have been satisfied.
  • If they’d offered any communication channels AT ALL which didn’t depend on their own (obviously less than perfect) service, then I would have been satisfied.

As it is, I expect more, even from a provider which charges less than £50 p/year for basic web and email hosting.  It wouldn’t cost them much, just a process to say “If it all goes down update the Twitter feed, update the Facebook page, and keep people informed”.  That gives customers two things;

  1. A feeling that someone has thought about the customer, and cared enough to keep them informed
  2. Realistic expectations of when the service is likely to be back, so they can plan accordingly and make other arrangements

It’s not rocket science people, it’s fundamentals!

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