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Before you become a customer
Doing some research before you actually sign up for a web hosting plan can save you from a great deal of trouble down the road and lessen your reliance on customer support.
1. Find a web host with a good service reputation.
Your web hosting company is your partner in making your online project or business successful, so choose wisely. Fortunately you can easily find out about a potential web host’s reputation by searching online and reading the hosts' reviews. Do not immediately jump into conclusions though; make sure you listen only to reputable, balanced, and factual reviews or testimonials, even if they are negative about the company.
2. Take note of the company’s support channels and methods.
Support channels may include: phone, live chat, email, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), user forums, online, as well as 3rd-party helpdesk software or services. Some companiessay theyoffer 24/7 support, but only on certain channels. Assess what type of support you prefer or expect to be using most often. Smaller companies tend to provide more personalized, though limited support.
3. Take the trial offer.
Many web hosts provide free limited trials, so take advantage of this offer to get an inside look and assess whether the service is a good fit for you. Familiarize yourself with the tools, the user interface, the performance, etc. so you can better anticipate what problems you might encounter down the road once you sign up.
4. Browse through the web hosting company’s help pages and other documentation.
Most support issues, such as getting started and how to use a certain feature, are basic, repetitive, and can easily be addressed by a simple list of instructions. Help pages and documentation provide the first line of support for customers and help the company’s support staff to focus instead on advanced issues. As a potential user, browse through the web host’s online help section and see whether it is easy to navigate, easy to understand, comprehensive, and provides alternative options for support in case an issue does not get resolved.
5. Test their presales support.
Once you’re exploring or trialing the service, you’ll likely encounter things you’re unfamiliar with, even if you’ve been with another web hosting service before. It’s the best time to ask presales all sorts of questions to get an idea of the kind of support they offer. How quick is the response time? How do they answer your questions? How fast or well do they address the matter? Now bear in mind that presales is motivated to create a good impression and bring you in, so try to pitch difficult questions and resist the urge to sign up at the first instance.
6. Check out the company’s social media profiles.
Nowadays, companies are using social media to reach out to their customers and address their support questions. By reading through a company’s interactions with its customers, as well as the comments by the customers themselves, you’ll get a pretty good preview of how the company relates to its customers.
When you’re already a customer
Okay, so you’ve finally signed up with a web hosting provider. Good job! Keep informed and don’t hesitate to provide genuine feedback, even when there’s nothing wrong with your account.
1. Save important emails from your web host for reference. Keep emails with your account number and other account details, as well as support reference numbers – you’ll need these later on.You might want to create a special folder or tag/label in your email program for saving and easily retrieving these later on.
2. Save emails from related services, such as your domain registrar, your theme or plugin vendor, your web developer, etc. There will be times when you think something’s wrong with your web hosting, but it turns out there’s none, and you’d be referred instead to a related service for further assistance. For example, your site is not showing up, but it’s because you haven’t pointed your domain yet to your host’s nameservers (which you’d have to do within your domain registrar account).
3. Subscribe to their email newsletter and/or blog. Keep updated of important announcements, such as downtimes, maintenance schedules, not to mention deals and promos.
4. Follow the company on social media (if you haven’t already). Social media lets you interact with your hosting company on a spontaneous and personalized level not possible before. Many companies now use social media to get insight into their customers’ feelings and preferences, so take this opportunity to make your voice heard.
5. If you can afford it, get priority or premium support. Ideally all customers should receive 100 percent fast and quality support, but in reality even big hosting companies do not have unlimited support staff and resources to guarantee this. Paying extra helps bump you up in the support queue. Managed wordpress hosting plans also come with a more dedicated level of support.
When something goes wrong with your hosting
Something broke! It’s time to contact the experts. But wait a minute, don’t go rushing in just yet. Do these steps first to increase your chances of getting better support without spending too much time on it. Having a great customer experience means you’d be talking to support less, not more.
1. See if you can resolve things on your end first.
At the first sign of trouble, don’t panic. When things go wrong, it’s not always your web hosting company’s fault. Do a process of elimination to make sure it wasn’t an error on your part or that of a third party service. Backtrack and try to replicate what you were doing before the problem started.
A quick search through the web host’s help pages, documentation and user forums may point you in the right direction, if not to the solution itself. If you have advanced tech skills, you might identify the issue right away and troubleshoot step by step. Don’t contact support unless you’ve actually tried to resolve the issue on your own. Many issues can be resolved faster than it takes you to get through the call waiting queue or to write a support ticket (only to be referred back to the help pages in some cases!).
2. Take notes, screenshots.
Pay attention to details that may help the support staff visualize the issue and figure things out. Note down any error messages, list down the steps you took, take screenshots. You’d spend less time in support sessions and bouncing messages back and forth if you provide clear, detailed documentation.
3. Have things at hand before contacting support.
It’s standard procedure for the support agent to verify your details for your own protection, so have your account info and documentation ready. This isn’t much of an issue if you’re sending an email or filling out a support request, but if you have to search long for files or information while on the phone or in a chat session, you’d be wasting precious time for yourself and the agent, who could be helping more customers.
4. Be patient and courteous.
It’s normal to become upset or angry when your site has been down for hours, but that’s no reason to be rude to the support staff. Losing your cool will not only antagonize or demotivate the staff from helping you, you’ll also prolong the time it needs to solve your problem. Focus on finding a solution with the support staff. Explain your case calmly and clearly. If the staff misunderstands you the first time, be patient. As the American actress Lillian Gish said, “You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners.”
5. Pay attention and follow directions.
Cooperate. Do as asked. The support staff is trying to help you, so help make this easier for them. If you feel the person you’re talking to seems to be going on a wrong track, politely explain why you think this way and suggest alternatives.
6. Escalate when necessary.
If your case is complex and taking too long to resolve, upper-tier tech support or a supervisor/manager may have to look into it. However, there aren’t too many of these people and they aren’t easy to get a hold of, and you can only ask for them in extreme cases. Examples are if a previous staff has been shockingly rude to you, or if you need to be exempted from a rule. Note than in some small companies, you might find yourself already talking to high-level employees and even the founders who are doing support work.
7. Document, document.
Don’t forget to document everything, especially when you’re on a call. If legal in your area and you’ve asked permission, you can record your phone conversation. With chat, you can request a transcript emailed to you; if not, just copy and paste the whole session’s text onto a new file.
Help Your Web Host Give You Great Customer Support
When you sign up for a web hosting service, you are entering into a business relationship with a group of people. Just like in any relationship, you go through stages – from getting to know each other, to engagement, to wrapping up if you or the service provider has to end the engagement for whatever reason.
Ensure that you get great support by nurturing a good relationship with your web hosting provider throughout these stages. Start from before you become a customer, not just at the moment when you need help.