Things are usually very positive and upbeat here at MorganLinton.com but sometimes I see a situation that impacts me and so many other people that I just have to jump in and share my two cents. However, I want this post to be for good to help show how a situation could be improved rather than just slamming a startup that’s trying hard to get things right.
First I’ve left the name of the hosting company out of the title of this post and when I mention their name I will be using an image so that I don’t end-up in the Google search results for them. The reason here is simple, shit happens and when it does you find out who your real friends are and I consider the founder of this company to be a friend. Still, I’ve got some tough love to give, but hopefully in a way that can help rather than hurt.
The company I am talking about is this one:
I have been hosting MorganLinton.com with this company for I think close to five years now. I’ve seen them have their ups and downs and unfortunately this year the down was so bad that I had to change hosting providers, literally as quickly as possible after experience 48-hours of downtime followed by my blog going up and down on just about a daily basis for two weeks.
In 2015 it’s pretty hard to imagine this could happen but as a startup founder I know to expect the unexpected and that despite your best intentions, bad things can happen. What it comes down to is how you deal with the bad and this is where I think this particular company has a lot of room for improvement. It doesn’t look like I’m alone as people have been going pretty nuts on Twitter:
There’s two problems here, one that just about every startup faces, and another that not every startup faces. The first problem is software, hardware, and other related things just not working like they are supposed to. This particular WordPress hosting company has made it very clear that their software and servers haven’t help up very well this year and are continuing to experience issues.
While I’ve never heard of a hosting company letting sites go down for 48 hours or more (on and off for two weeks in this case) I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and honestly feel terrible for them since it has to be incredibly stressful and disappointing to be in their situation.
The second problem is a very preventable one and it really falls on the shoulders of the leadership in the company, this is where I see a pretty big, very preventable failure. Rather than sending out an email to customers after the first 24-hours of downtime there was nothing, only a few tweets and an update on the blog but all coming from the support department.
People were really upset and they needed the CEO, COO, someone from the founding team to send some kind of communication saying how incredibly sorry they were and letting them know that they would fix this. Unfortunately this email came three days too late when the CEO finally sent an email once customers had already experienced days of downtime.
Now, after two weeks of issues the hosting service is down once again, and unfortunately once again the customers aren’t feeling feeling the love:
So my point is hopefully a simple one but one that I think we can all learn from. Things go wrong, heck, something things going horribly wrong, your software breaks and that in turn impacts customers – ouch. The key is how you deal with it. Sure, you can have your support department write very technical things on your company blog that makes it clear that something is being done to fix it, that’s one approach. Another is to have a founder, someone who built the company from the ground up get up and apologize and let everyone know how much this sucks and how hard she/he is working to fix it, not three days after it happens but while it’s happening and customers all over the world are really feeling the pain.
My blog is now faster than it has ever been and I’m actually incredibly impressed with WPEngine (my new hosting provider), I just wished I moved over earlier. That being said I can’t say that I don’t feel a little sad, it’s tough to see something like this happen to a company you really care about.
I wish my previous hosting company all the best, they were there for me for years and it’s hard to see them struggle so much now when I thought they had come so far. I do hope this is just a bump in the road but I also hope this is a learning experience for the leadership team to improve and become more transparent and responsive to customers. People know things are going to break, but when they do it’s a good leader that can keep them from jumping ship and in this case that leadership came a bit too late to save the ship.