how to lose a customer forever

A friend was exploring the world of web hosting. He says he knows nothing about it, and it's true. One of his colleagues recommended a company, and that he gave them a call. So he did, and had a long chat with a rep, who assured Stu that he would talk to the software engineers about offering a software service to do something that can't be done via a website. But, no matter, right? If you're a lowly sales rep, get the account and forget about the promises you know are BS.

Stu isn't an idiot, so asked the guy if, before he commits his credit card to AplusNet for eternity, he could get some more answers by having someone who knows a bit more about web hosting give them a call and get some answers. Namely, me. The Rep agreed, and set up an inactive account without requiring a credit card. So far, so good.

An aside: This place doesn't offer anything Stu can't get elsewhere, whether it's any one of a thousand webhosting companies or through us ( Hosting isn't our main business, but we do offer it and it's a pretty good deal. But I would call AplusNet on the off-chance that there was something more to their service that would easily solve a problem for Stu ... you know, standard customer service stuff. Besides which, he's been a good friend for 20 years and I just want to make sure he's getting the best value for his money, whether we host his site or some other company does.

Then, I get a message from Stu. He's royally pissed off at AplusNet:

First up, a standard "Welcome to Acme Hosting" message.
From: "AplusNet Web Hosting" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Stu Jones" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:59 PM
Subject: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

Dear Stu Jones,
Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting!

Please save this email as it contains important information regarding your account.

Here is your administrative information:

Registration Number: XXX459967549
Username: xxxtnt

Your personal Aplus.Net Web Control Panel provides you with powerful multi-plan administration utilities to maintain and update your account. It is located at

To find more resources on how to start using your hosting account, please refer to our detailed guide available at Shared_Hosting/ Getting_Started%2002.htm

Our online Knowledge Base is available to you at
It contains the answers to questions asked by customers like you. The knowledge base is updated by our engineers on a daily basis.

You can also contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with questions related to your account. Phone support is available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 888-301-2516. If you have billing-related questions, please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

To add more services to your account, please call our Sales Department at 877-APLUS-NET (877-275-8763).

Thank you for choosing Aplus.Net!

Younes Aatif
Customer Care Manager

Reasonable, right? However:
From: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "AplusNet Web Hosting" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

The name is:

Stu Johnston

Please either correct your records, or cease communication immediately and permanently.

Thank you.

Simple enough, right? Correct his name and move on -- would take maybe five minutes, demostrate how quickly you can correct a screw-up. Read on ...

From: "Support" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 5:28 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

I'm sorry but I cannot make any changes or divulge any information unless you can verify that you are the account holder by providing the account password or last 4 digits of the credit card on file. You can view or update any of your account information (billing statement,email address, credit card number, billing address, etc...) at Log in using your registration number and account password and then click on the "my account" tab at the top of the page.

Thank you,
John Salome
Aplus.Net Tech Support
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

To assist us in tracking your problem, please include all previous correspondence in your emails.

Hmmm, they can't fix one field on an account that hasn't even been activated yet? Password? Is there a password even? Doesn't seem like a lot to ask in order to make someone willing to send you $35 a month for years happy, does it? You know, that little thing called customer service.

Stu's response:
From: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Support" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Cc: ; "Lee Fleming" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 11:47 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

Well, ''support''....

This is very unfortunate.

I spoke just this day with one of your people, Dan Beauchamp (apols for any misspelling). He will confirm this statement; indeed, he provided his direct phone, specifically, 858 320 6639, in aid of my acquiring further information about your company's services. Very helpful chap, very enjoyable conversation.

The account, inactive at present, has the id 'xxxtnt'; a password was not assigned Because I require more information than Mr. Beauchamp was able to provide immediately, we agreed that the account would be activated in some 30-60-90 day timeframe, hence, no credit card # was preferred.

Please understand this, right now -- I don't deal with bureaucrats or morons, save under threat of penalty at law. If you, sir or madam, are too bloody stupid to A) check with your fellow employee and ascertain the accuracy of this message AND the previous one, B) acquire sufficient information as to be able to understand what transpired in our discussion, particularly regarding my acquiring further information, and C) have the simple common courtesy to spell my name correctly after a direct request to do so (never mind the level of incompetence demonstrated by NOT having the name spelled correctly AFTER I expressly spelled it for Mr. Beauchamp), then you're too dumb to breathe unaided, and you may go merrily to hell.

Your next communication with me WILL contain an apology for your being a general ass and dumbshit, else there will be no further communication between us under any circumstance, and, in such case. you are hereby assured on the very best of authority that not only will I not become a client of your company, but I shall spread this communication thread far and wide. This is not a threat; this is a guarantee.

In any event, I daresay your services can be had elsewhere, but it's a VERY strange company indeed that would toss out a (presumable) long-term client by simply and arrogantly refusing to spell his name correctly. I trust you've at least the wit to understand this small point.

If your response to my previous request is your firm's concept of ''support'', I rather suspect you'd be better off manufacturing brassieres for 6-year-old girls.

Johnston out.

Now, I won't even get into how vacant a sales rep has to be to screw up the last name so badly -- this wasn't transposing two letters. But the response to the request for a change was so totally stupid it stuns me. Gone, at least one customer. Gone, probably a lot of potential customers -- Stu does not make idle promises. It would've taken up maybe $20 of employee time to secure at least $420 for a year's worth of hosting -- not to mention all the add-ons for an ecommerce site. So much for the C|Net seal of approval -- now I know how much that is worth to a customer.

Was Stu's response over the top? Maybe. (At least it was witty!) But just think about all those other nervous newbie netrepreneurs out there who just go away after going through the trouble of contacting your business, all because you screwed something up during the initial contact. Or made it impossible to correct a mistake you made. You'll never know about them, or how well your business could be doing with just a little more training in customer support. But maybe is just so big they don't care.
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/10/04 at 11:28 AM
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