Friday, June 24, 2011

123-Reg - Problem resolved, but core issues remain

As of this morning, I now have 4 working websites, with 4 separate webhosting packages - effectively back to where I started over two weeks ago - except the packages I now have are better and allow the use of Wordpress.

So, overall I am better off, but I would have preferred not to have had the inconvenience and hassle of this whole experience.

In the end, 123-reg did the right thing, sorted it out and apologised.  However, looking at some of the comments I have received after writing this blog and describing my experiences on Twitter, I think 123-reg still have some significant issues with their products and services. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

123-reg - The end maybe in sight

10.15 this morning I get a phone call from the Senior Technical Consultant at 123-reg, he mentions specifically he is calling because of my email to Thomas Vollrath and the catalogue of errors over the past two weeks.

He apologised profusely for the experience I have had and has offered to give me 4 seperate hosting packages - one for each domain - at no cost, to resolve this experience.  It's clear that the Shared web hosting and domain sharing package at 123-reg has some significant issues, so I agreed with him that this was probably the most reliable solution.

He was also apologetic about the way the customer service and support teams have dealt with my issues and reassured me that this is not how they want to deal with customers.

So, top marks to 123-reg for a prompt response to my blog and email, but the fact remains that it should not have had to go that far.

What was also interesting, was that he had clearly read my blog in detail and tried to respond to some specific comments that I made, for example, using a customer complaint as an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

So, I hope the end is in sight, I've had this call - he has followed up with an email telling me what he will do, now let's wait and see if they actually follow through quickly

I hope 123-reg learn from this experience, rolling out new products and services is always difficult, but a core part of this process is not just testing that things work, but effectively preparing other parts of the business, namely technical support and customer service, to be able to deal with issues or avoid them completely.  The guy who called me freely admitted, that I should never have been offered the shared hosting package with the intended use I had outlined - if that is the case - why didn't Customer Services know this?

123-reg - Listening but will they answer?

After I posted my blog rant about 123-reg yesterday, I sent a link to the post to their MD, Thomas Vollrath by email, Linkedin and Twitter.  I also tweeted about it directly to their main account @123reg

So far no answer, but I did get a read receipt for my email at 23.45 last night

I did get a request from @123reghelp asking if they could help and could I DM them with the details of the problem.  Only issie is that they do not follow me on Twitter, so I can't DM them.  I commented back to them that it looks like their Social Media capabilities match their levels of Customer service

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

123-reg webhosting - Named and Shamed as providing poor customer service

It’s been quite a while since I have written on this blog – I really should get out of the habit of writing only when I am complaining about something – but I tend to use Twitter for my day to day comments.

So this post is about another example of poor customer service and my struggle to get a decent response from a big business when something goes wrong.

In every case when I have a complaint like this, I always try to go through the internal customer service and complaints process and only resort to this type of activity when my patience is exhausted.

So this time it’s about webhosting.

I’ve used for many years as both to purchase domains, manage my email domains and host my websites.

I have 4 separate domains hosted with

  • – a personal page really only bought for the email domain
  • – a corporate site for my consultancy business
  • – a corporate site for an Irish Dancing business
  • – a corporate site for my partner’s virtual PA business
For each domain I had purchased just the basic hosting package as none of the sites have high traffic.  The original package did not allow installation of any software such as Wordpress or Drupal, just basic HTML

I recently decided to move some of the sites over to use a CMS system and chose Wordpress for the broad range of Themes available as well as the ease of use.  I logged into the website to look at upgrading my webhosting to allow the installation and I noticed that all the packages had been updated to now offer Wordpress as a free app for all webhosting packages.  I also noticed that they were now offering shared hosting for multiple domains in just one webhosting package.

So instead of having 4 separate webhosting packages with 4 separate domains – it looked like I would be able to have just 1 hosting package with 4 domains hosted within it.

(Technically this was the first mistake made by 123-reg by not offering existing customers the benefits of their new packages, or being ready to offer them to old customers who notice the change – why do businesses alienate their best customers like this – customers who actually already paying good money for their services)

So I called 123-reg on Wednesday 8 June and talked to their customer service teams – I explained what I wanted to do and they told me that as an existing customer the new packages were not yet available for me – only to new customers, but it was suggested if I upgraded 1 of the hosting packages to the next level – business hosting – I would get all the new services and then I could cancel the other 3 hosting packages and get a pro-rata refund on the unused portions (they were annual packages)

This sounded good to me, so I agreed – I paid for a new annual package (about £75) and was told to copy my websites into the new webhosting, then use domain mapping to point my domains at the new versions.  I was also advised that the DNS change could take up to 48 hours  but should happen very quickly as it was all within the 123-reg shared hosting.

I copied the files across and then tried to use the domain mapping to point the domains to the right place.

Mistake 1

Unfortunately the 123-reg control panel can be a bit temperamental – I could see exactly what I should be doing, choosing a domain, then choosing where to map it to – but every time I tried, in multiple browsers, the form never populated with data so I couldn’t actually do it.  So I raised the first support ticket on Thursday 9th June.

I got a very fast response to my ticket – within 6 minutes – telling me the domain mapping had been put in place but that I should wait up to 48 hours for the DNS change.

Content with this, I got on with installing Wordpress into the one domain that was already within the webhosting and started to build a new website.

48 hours passed and I could see no change to the hosting listed for my domains in the 123-reg control panel.  To see if anything had happened, I logged into my webhosting via FTP and made a small change to one of the site homepages and then refreshed the site – no change was reflected, so I could tell the domain was still loading the old version of the website.

I posted an update to the ticket stating that the domain mapping had not taken affect and it had been over 48 hours.

Mistake 2

This time it took 2 days to get answer (Saturday to Monday) – telling me that the Domain mapping wouldn’t work until the old webhosting had been deleted and could I call their Customer Services to resolve matter.  Why should I have to call them, costing me money, when what they had told me to do didn’t work?

Hoping to resolve this matter quickly, I did call and spoke to a customer service team member, who frankly, did not know what they were talking about.  First they claimed that the person I had spoken to the previous week had done the wrong thing, pointed the domains to the original webhosting and said what I actually needed to do was web forwarding and he transferred me to a technical helpline.

The second person I spoke to disagreed and said no it was definitely Domain Forwarding and said I needed to speak to another team – again I was transferred.  This time I sat on hold for 20 minutes until giving up in disgust.

I raised another ticket and asked for somebody to call me back.  Nobody did.

If it is clear that a customer has an unresolved problem and the company admits it was their fault, surely best practice would be for someone in the customer service team to take ownership of the problem and try to resolve it, not keep passing the customer from team to team?

12 hours go by and get an answer to my ticket saying, the three old webhosting packages need to be deleted before any Domain Mapping will work, only the Customer Relationship team can do this so please call them.

Mistake 3

I telephoned and tried to resolve the matter over the phone.  The person I spoke to again didn’t seem to know what was going on and what was the best thing to do or who was the best person to speak to.  I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told nobody was available.  I asked for a supervisor to call me and was told we don’t call customers.  I insisted that somebody call me back otherwise I would take the complaint further and I was reassured someone would call me.

Nobody called back and my original ticket with the history of the issue was closed as resolved.

Companies who do not have an effective complaint escalation procedure are missing an opportunity to turn a negative experience in to a positive experience through good service. 

I recently had occasion to use an Apple Genius Bar repair service in an Apple store in London and the end result far exceeded my expectations, leaving me with a very positive feeling about the business – one which I proceeded to share to my professional network via Social Media

Mistakes 4 & 5

On 15 June, I opened a new ticket, referenced the old ticket and asked for a call back

Within three hours I had a reply asking me for more information – obviously the agent replying had not bothered to read the original ticket.

I did however then receive a call back from a supervisor.  I explained all the problems I had been having. She was quite brusque with me and stated:

  • I should not have been told I would get a refund on the old packages, they don’t do that
  • I really need to talk to a technical person who could resolve this for m
  • As a gesture of goodwill, she would extend my new webhosting package by 1 year 
I accepted the year extension and asked her to put it in an email to confirm what she had done.

I was then put through to the person the supervisor said could solve all the problems and was immediately told, actually no, I still need to speak to the webhosting team and she was about to transfer me. 

I told her that I had no confidence in that team and had been assured she could help.  So in the end, she proceeded to delete the original hosting and set up the domain mapping I originally had tried to do a week ago – it took less than 5 minutes.

I was told (again) it might take 48 hours to resolve the DNS changes and in that time all three of my other domains would be unavailable.

Unhappy with this, but content that I seemed to have found someone who actually knew what they were talking about, I resolved to wait for the domains to reappear.  I also reminded her that I had not received any email from her colleague about the extension to my webhosting.

If a company chooses to offer a service such as multiple domain hosting in a shared web hosting environment, then they have a duty of care to existing customers to deliver a high quality service that minimises disruption to a customer’s business.  In addition, if a customer service rep promises to do something, they must follow through.

Mistakes 6

17 June came around and none of my domains had reappeared – in fact, if anybody tried to access any one of the three domains, they were immediately redirected to the 4th domain that was sitting in the root of the web hosting – a totally unconnected brand – very confusing for the visitor.

I called the helpful customer service agent back asking for help and she said I needed to now speak to webhosting team – but she promised to talk to them first and explain the situation.  I waited on hold and then she came back and told me that the failure of the Domain Mapping was a “known issue” and had been escalated in their engineering team – but no idea when it would be resolved, so I just had to wait.

If a company experiences a major technical issue that requires escalation, surely they should notify affected customers ASAP, especially customers who have already raised this issue independently?

Mistake 7

I added a comment to the ticket on Saturday 18 June, complaining about the lack of contact, the outstanding issue and the fact that as it was the weekend, no doubt nobody would respond to me before Monday

If a company delivers a service in a 24/7 environment such as webhosting, then a 24/7 customer response should also be available

Mistakes 8 & 9

Monday 20 June, still no response (as expected) and now I notice no email being received on one of my domains.  I update the original ticket and add a new one for the email issue

I receive an answer within 10 minutes, stating that it looks like what I want to do and have always wanted to do – namely, have multiple domains in one webhosting all using Wordpress is actually not possible.  It actually says:

“However, this is an oversight I believe in the way 123-Apps and the new "mapping" features work together and will need to be properly investigated and debugged by our development team"

The reply then goes on to suggest a possible temporary solution and asks if I want to proceed.

I give my permission to proceed and immediately my three other websites are suddenly available, but now the 4th - Wordpress site – is now not loading correctly.

When a company discovers that one of its services is flawed and is not delivering what has been promised, they have an obligation to resolve the issue ASAP and discuss the resolution with affected customers – I would suggest this should not be done by technical staff but should have been raised to a more senior level

Mistakes 10 & 11

Over the next two days, I have regular dialogue with the technical support agent trying to resolve this issue and get all 4 sites available.  The agent tells me at one point:

“So basically, by trying to fix things with workarounds, we are clouding the original issue and making things worse for”

So he freely admits this is a workaround and the core underlying system IS FLAWED.  I try several times to talk on the phone with him, but repeatedly told “we don’t do call-backs” so we continue using the ticketing system.

Finally by re-installing the 4th website from a back-up earlier in the week, we manage to get the site back up and all 4 of my sites are available.

I ask if there is any reason why I should NOT install Wordpress into any of the other domains and I am told:

"No, I can think of no reason why you would not be able to install Wordpress as either a 123-App or directly from Wordpress for any of those mapped domains"

So I attempt to install Wordpress into one of my other domains but although it says it installed, when I try to access the Wordpress Admin control panel, I get a failed page.  So I uninstall, thinking I will try again.

I don’t know why, but I decided to check on the status of my other domains and discover, that my 1st Wordpress site has disappeared – I login to the webhosting by FTP and I can see the whole site has been deleted and I realise what has happened.  My attempted installation in one of the mapped domains resulted in Wordpress being re-installed into the root of the webhosting and it overwrote my other site – when I deleted it – the website was deleted too.

I update the ticket and call the entire webhosting system from 123-reg a pile of shit – obviously a personal opinion.

I state my disgust as the level of service, poor quality of the product and the catalogue of errors over the past two weeks – I ask for a call back by a supervisor.

The immediate response is sorry we don’t do call backs, but here is our address if you want to write to us.

Enough is enough – I put my blogging hat on and tweet about the crap service.

I used to work in a business that had a simple strategy for dealing with problems – if you discovered a problem, you own it until you can pass it on to somebody who can resolve it.

How can a company like 123-reg owned by Web Fusion Ltd., claim on its own website to deliver outstanding customer care when its customer service agents openly admit their own products are flawed, fail to resolve the core problem and then hide behind a customer service doctrine of not actually calling customers when they have made a complaint.

I have sent a link to this blog via LinkedIn to Thomas Vollrath, MD of Web Fusion – I have also tweeted him, but I will not be able to read what he might say as he has protected his Twitter profile and I can’t follow him, without his permission.

 I’ll let you know his response (if I get one)