5 steps to losing a customer

This may be news to you, but I’ve switched my hosting company, again.

It’s not because I have a fetish. My fetishes usually involve gas masks and framed pictures of vanilla ice-cream. Don’t ask.

It’s because my now-former hosting provider – how shall I put this both respectfully and eloquently – sucks monkey balls.

For the sake of confidentiality, I won’t mention the former host’s name, but let’s just say it rhymes with Hostgator. Oops, how clumsy of me, I accidentally used Hostgator’s real name. Awkward.

In all fairness, Hostgator’s only real fault is selling out to EIG (Endurance International Group) – a conglomerate known for buying up smaller hosts and making them suck monkey balls. That’s their actual mission statement, I think.

But I won’t waste this post on bitching about how monkey-ball-suckingly bad EIG/Hostgator is. Instead, I will turn my experience into a useful lesson for anyone intent on losing customers in the fastest way possible.

As they say: “When life gives you lemons, eat the fucking lemons and shut up! Back in my day we were thankful to even have lemons, you ungrateful brat!” I may have embellished that quote a bit.

So listen up, here are five easy steps to losing a customer.

1. Silently buy the customer’s hosting provider

Say you’re a shitty company, like EIG, with a history of fucking up otherwise well-functioning hosts. What do you do?

What’s that? “Try very hard to improve, then hope your reputation slowly recovers”?

Ha, ha, you silly goose-nugget. What nonsense!

No! You keep right on buying other companies, but you stay as quiet about it as possible.

Case in point: did you know that EIG bought Hostgator as far back as mid-2012? Neither did I, and I was Hostgator’s paying customer. I received no notification of this takeover. No email. No “Hi, we’re EIG. You may remember us from all those other hosting companies we’ve driven to the ground. Muahahahahaha!”

Nothing.

In fact, I would have still been clueless about it, if it weren’t for the fuck-ups that happened earlier this year. That brings me to my next point.

2. Disguise a cost-cutting initiative as an “upgrade”

In July this year I have received a cheerful email from Hostgator. The gist of it was: “Dear customer, we are moving you to new and improved servers. You will experience faster and more reliable service, more frequent erections, and you may also gain the ability to fly. We are so excited for you!”

Almost immediately after the move my blog’s response time slowed notably and I have started having periods of downtime, where the blog was completely inaccessible.

“Strange,” I thought, “it sure seems like this ‘upgrade’ sucks monkey balls!”

Then I did some research on the forums and found out that the “upgrade” was actually a consolidation initiative. EIG was moving all clients to one centralized location in Provo, Utah. Why have two locations when one location is easier to maintain?

The lesson here is: keep customers in the dark. If you tell them the truth you may actually run the risk of them respecting your honesty. That won’t help you drive away their business. No sir!

3. Have an epic breakdown

On August 2nd, a number of EIG hosts, including Hostgator, went completely down. It was an unprecedented outage. Customers had websites go offline for days.

I was one of those customers.

The issue? Server maintenance at the Provo data center. The same one they have “upgraded” us to in mid-July. Oops.

If you’re taking notes, you’re well on your way to becoming a true customer-repelling entrepreneur. You’re almost ready to go out and piss people off. But it’s not enough to simply have server issues. These things happen, after all. No, the key here is to:

4. Have absolutely useless customer service

One of the things I used to love about Hostgator was their near-flawless customer service. I could jump into a chat with them at any time and they’d stay online until they were 100% sure the issue was resolved. They stopped just short of coming over to brew me a cup of delicious coffee. It was almost too good to be true.

Then EIG came along and said “Yes, this is definitely too good to be true!”

That’s why their customer service was apparently re-trained to master new skills by reading books like:

  • The Do’s and Dont’s of Pre-Scripted Answers: Just kidding, there are only do’s
  • The “maybe you have fucked up” and other useful deflection techniques
  • Reading customer questions carefully? Fuck that noise!

I have spoken to at least three separate customer service representatives and not one of them started out by admitting that the issue was on their side. I had to go through the same routine of being asked whether I had made any recent changes to my site, had allowed myself to be hacked or was an unwitting victim of a gypsy curse. Not a single one of them responded to the actual content of my questions and instead gave me template answers that didn’t address my situation. Try talking to Siri about philosophy to achieve a similar effect.

Finally, I’ve made the decision to move to another host. Incredibly wise decision, in retrospect, for Hostgator appear to be having issues to this very day.

There was a single positive outcome of my many complaints: I was granted a two-month credit for July and August (the months where Hostgator failed to deliver on their uptime guarantee).

This is where things get tricky if you’re trying to permanently lose a customer. If he gets a refund he may retain a positive impression of your services and, God forbid, decide to return at some later stage. How do you ensure that pesky customer stays away for good? Simple:

5. Refuse to compensate the customer

Upon closing my account with Hostgator I requested to have my credit paid out. This is what I got:

“Credits issued for downtime are not refundable. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Questions? What questions could one possibly have when you explained things so succinctly?

Nice policy, Hostgator: give customers credits for shitty service that they can use exclusively on getting more shitty service. It’s like Apple selling iPads that spit spider eggs in your face and then offering you in-store credit that you can only use to purchase a new spider-infested iPad.

EIG and Hostgator, you are true pioneers in the field of customer displacement. May you serve as shining examples for others aspiring to your levels of not giving a fuck.

***

There Is More

I am a self-taught expert on rants. Here are more:

Promotions? No thanks!

3 reasons I’m getting a new laptop

No Internet = No Virus!

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14 thoughts on “5 steps to losing a customer

  1. What you missed: “Accidental” double billing of your credit card. It happens every month, you have to fight about it, and it takes 2 months to correct.

    I was with different dickheads than you and made a switch several months ago. It’s pretty great to go back to blaming potential aneurysms on my own activities instead of the incompetence of a hosting company.

    Like

  2. Sadly, this sequence of incompetence seems all too familiar when it comes to anything to do with Information Technology. Maybe you could add another tip: keep the customers waiting for 2 hours on the help-line phone before one can speak to a human-being.

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  3. Oh, thank God you posted this. I was trying to figure out how to piss off all of my customers in 5 easy steps… I was totally going about it the wrong way, though! I kept doing GOOD business and being helpful. 😛

    Seriously, though, this post was awesome. Thank you.

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  4. Daniel, I just got home from work and have been laughing since reading this! Your rant does not suck monkey balls at all.
    You know, some folks have a knack for ranting that is hilarious, timely, and well played. You are one of those folks.
    I’ve seen Hostgator recommended by a lot of big web sites and even in some blogging books. I thought of jumping from mine on occasion- now I’m glad I didn’t.
    Now I have to wonder if my hosting company will be acquired by EIG as well. Hmm. I use Startlogic.
    Great post… again. Thank you for the laughs and sorry you’ve been through the ringer with it all.

    Like

    • I am happy that my misery is such a great source of entertainment to you!

      The sad part here is if you’d asked me at the beginning of this year, I’d have warmly recommended Hostgator. I haven’t had a single issue and they were insanely service-minded. That’s why it is so upsetting to see them go under the EIG umbrella.

      Yeah be scared…be very very scared. EIG is coming for us all!

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  5. So if I was thinking about using Hostgator I should think again? Having similar issues with my service provider, in the past never waited on hold more than a couple of minutes, unless the outage was system wide then a recorded message letting me know ‘they were aware of the problem and working on it, but if you wanted to stay on hold to discuss it… knock yourself out.’ My husband waited on hold to speak to customer service yesterday for 52 minutes before anyone answered the phone. He asked the tech who answered the phone if they were cutting back on customer service reps… oh no… problem is they are buying up more companies and can’t train and hire reps fast enough to deal with the volume… well DUH!!! What can we do? Our only other option is Comcast who made me wait on hold for more than 52 minutes to discuss becoming a NEW CUSTOMER… I stayed on hold just to let them know that if they treated NEW customers this poorly… I did NOT want to become a customer of theirs AT ALL. So is sucking monkey balls the wave of the future?

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    • “Sucking monkey balls is the wave of the future” – prophecy 2013. Has a ring to it!

      Well I switched to SiteGround to host my blog with. So far extremely happy. Online chat is answered within a minute and so far I haven’t had a single issue. I just pray they don’t get acquired by EIG as well!

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  6. Well, I hope during your website’s outage in August you were at least able to take advantage of their promised frequent erections…

    I know nothing of these host issues. Guess I’ll stay with WP.com for now and bask in my ignorance.

    Like

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