Nov 292011

Last week I had two online services fail, and I needed customer service fast. The experiences made me stop and think about how much I use free (or almost free )services daily, and if them being free changed my service expectations as a user.

On 11/17 this  WordPress blog, which I’ve published for four years, was suspended with a warning about a terms and conditions violation.  Murphy’s Law, it was the day after my first Wine and Dine column appeared in WashingtonExec, below which was my bio including this blog URL. Nice first impression for any first time visitors to this blog!

I was sure this was a mistake, and immediately emailed and tweeted WP for help. As I waited for a reply, I thought about the fact that is a free service. How long might I wait, and honestly, what was a fair expectation? I have invested a lot of time in this blog, developing content and promoting it. I felt like a WordPress customer, whether or not I paid anything for the platform.

I was worried about a negative precedent. Back in 2009, Google shut down a Blogger account Strategic managed for a client, and we never got an explanation. (And never used Blogger again, obviously).

Thankfully my WordPress experience was a very positive one. In about a half hour I got an email apologizing and reinstating my blog. There wasn’t any explanation, but with around 400K bloggers using the .com version, I think that’s a very good customer service experience:


Our apologies. The system should not have done that.

We have removed the warning in your dashboard and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.


Then last week I got a nasty surprise from Crowdspring. I’m finishing up the design component of a web redesign project for a client, with multiple designers bidding for the project via the Cloudspring platform. Last Wednesday night I logged on to check the account before shutting down for Thanksgiving, and it said I had picked the winning design. This was very surprising, since I had done no such thing!

I got a response in about an hour, putting my account on hold and promising an investigation the next morning. True to their word, long before any Thanksgiving guests arrived the account was res. Nice work and on a holiday:

Hi Chris,

Your project is again eligible to be awarded and open for you to access. I am sorry about the confusion and inconvenience.

We completed our investigation. Your account was not hacked – but you always can change your password if that would make you more comfortable.

I know you may want a more detailed explanation – so here it is: somehow, a creative, logging in to THEIR account, ended up seeing your project as you. They did not log in as you (we keep very detailed records of all activity and I have personally looked at all records). We’re not sure why this happened and will investigate to make sure it never happens again. Long story short – they decided to help themselves by awarding the project to themselves using multiple browsers.

So kudos to WordPress and Crowdspring. The last two weeks are proof that at least some online companies can scale operations and still offer responsive customer service. Even if they can’t really explain why the glitches happen.

  One Response to “Free Web Tools and the Customer Service Experience”

  1. great post….free web tools are very nice…i used these tools to my project …thanks for the post…

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