Ok so it not that often that I have a rant but my recent bad customer service experience with a cut price packaged website company has driven me to new heights of despair and frustration. They have a good product but totally destroy it with appalling service and a failure to communicate honestly with their clients.

I am on the board of a little not for profit organisation and the decision was made to give our website a facelift. Our existing website came from one of those packaged website companies that charge you five hundred bucks for a 6 page website and one contact form and our current website was way past its use by date.

It took me a long time to gain consensus from the group as to how to upgrade the website. In the end we decided to go back to the same packaged company and do a cheap makeover of our site in time to a significant event on our calendar. Phew I breathed a sigh of relief that at least the old, out dated and frankly embarrassing website would be gone.

The service offering

The website company had it’s processes outlined very clearly

  1. Review other websites they had done to see if we liked the look of any of those
  2. If not provide them with up to three websites that we liked the look of and specify what we liked out of each one
  3. Write down anything else we wanted from the new website
  4. Provide them with images we wanted to use
  5. A designer would then call us
  6. We would get one redesign and the opportunity to make two lots of changes to that design and that was it
  7. They would not touch the content
  8. The revisions would be done on the live website so it could be messy during the changes

Ok that was clear enough and I thought quite doable for us. The only downside was that they work on the site while it’s live so there might be a “brief” period when it was not looking it’s best. But I thought (in hindsight now quite wrongly) that as long as we were quick in turning around our comments it would be finished in no time.

The bad customer service experience

So I spoke with our team and got them to choose one of the existing website designs that we could just alter the colour and images on. I put together a two page brief and placed all our images in a Dropbox folder that I shared with them. It was a very simple design on a white background.

The designer called me to say they had never received such a comprehensive brief and it was all very straightforward. They would email me when the first redesign was available for our review. He had no questions of clarification.

Great start I thought. I expected to be able to finish the site with only one round of changes. Alas my nightmare had begun!

NINE days and several phone calls later I finally got what they considered to be the first re-design of the site which in fact I deemed to be design 0.5 because it was missing so much of what was on 2 page carefully crafted design brief.

Every time I phoned the support line I would speak with a very kind, articulate and soothing technician who would assure me that within two days everything would be resolved. However that was the same story I got EVERY TIME I CALLED. When I pointed out to them it had already been seven days in fact they would still say it would be resolved within two days.

And the tension mounts to unprecedented levels!

It was not until day 17 that I received what I would call version 1 and even that still did not comply with the original brief. Twice in writing and three times by phone I had requested a white background and they kept changing it but never to white.

In the end I phoned the support guy and asked them to tell me what the problem was with white. I begged him to tell me if there was an issue because I was sick of asking and could not understand why such a simple request went unanswered time and time and time and time again!

Are you catching the picture? My frustration levels were pretty high.

It is now day Day 22 and we are only up to version 2 – although I must say we are getting there now.

Will I ever use this website provider again – absolutely not! Will I ever recommend them – NEVER! They took what could have been a good experience and ruined it by not walking their talk and being clear in their communication. They kept promising what they hoped they could do and what they would like to do rather than what they actually could do.

The 3 customer service principles I wished they had understood

1. If you are selling a package be clear about all aspects of the package

There is nothing wrong with a low end cut price model. In fact there is absolutely a market for that. They had done a reasonable job of containing their service provision so they could still make a profit again this is fair enough!

What they hadn’t done was to add an extra line to say that clients were dealt with on a first in first served basis and there may be lengthy delays between each version of your website. Neither did tell me when I sent them our brief that there were a lot of people ahead of me and they would not be able to start for at least a week.

Give your customer the complete picture so there are no surprises.

2. Only promise what you can do not what you would like to do or what you think they want to hear

Clearly our website refresh request hit them at the same time as many other requests, or maybe they had a flu outbreak and half their staff were off or maybe an elephant ate their homework!

I don’t know what the issue was and to be perfectly honest I don’t care I just wanted them to do what they said they would do when they said they would do it!

All that would have been needed as an open and honest conversation with me rather than continuing to fob me off with their two-day mantra. They could have explained the reason for the delay and given me a realistic timeframe for them to achieve the next step. I would not have been happy but I would have a whole lot happier than I am now.

Instead I was just left to stew and stew and wonder and wonder and finally when my frustration levels were high to phone them. I am now at the stage where I don’t want to phone them at all because they have let me down at every point and I no longer have any confidence in what they say.

3. If you ask for your clients input you cannot ignore it without a conversation with them about why.

It was a simple thing I wanted a white background for the website. What did I get? A grey background with faint box outlines all over it. Then after two requests to change it to white – a plain grey background. Finally after a full blown psycho attack on the phone it became white. Never at any stage did anyone tell me why it couldn’t be white. They just ignored me.

Phew ok rant is over now. I feel much better!

Have you had really bad customer service experience? I’d love to hear what you learned from it.

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