Customer service DreamHost style

fatfinger Last week’s billing mistake by server hosting company DreamHost caused a lot of grief to a lot of people.

Every customer, it seems.

I’m one of those customers and I was hit for the double billing which saw $340 unexpectedly charged to my credit card. The wrong amount and at the wrong time.

Emails and blog posts followed from DreamHost explaining that the incorrect billing was rapidly spotted and refunds quickly processed.

It took five days including a weekend for that refund to hit my account.

I’m philosophical about it. Mistakes do happen especially of the human kind as was the case with DreamHost. I liked the way in which they quickly addressed the issue and their responsiveness to email I sent in.

Yet I can well understand that many people were extremely unhappy and were asking questions on things like who would reimburse people for additional interest costs or if they had penalties for going over their credit limits because of DreamHost’s error.

Try asking those questions of almost any company I can think of who makes such a mistake and see how far you get. Not far, basically.

DreamHost, though, accepts their responsibility in such a situation:

[…] If this/these erroneous charge(s) by us resulted in you having any sort of overdraft/bounced check/nsf fee from your financial institution, please contact our support team from the web panel. We’d just like to request that you include a copy of your statement with the necessary info showing the fees. It can be either a paper statement or a print out of your online statement, or even a screenshot of your online statement and it can be scanned and attached to your support message via our support form or faxed to us at 714-990-2600. If you fax it, please be sure to write your domain name or DreamHost account number on the fax. When we get this, we will put money on your credit card equal to the amount your bank charged you, as well as give you a DreamHost account credit for the same amount on top of that.

Now that is customer service.

It’s one reason why I will remain a DreamHost customer and continue to recommend their excellent hosting services to everyone I know.

Finally, a word about communication.

The irreverent style of DreamHost’s initial apology post did not sit well with a large number of customers as indicated by many of the comments to that post (over 650 comments in total).

It was followed up by a post with more subdued and conservative wording which many think looks far more appropriate in the circumstances.

I think it’s a good example of where informality in communication might not be the best approach in certain circumstances even when informality is always your communication style.

Do you agree? Shel and I discussed this in FIR #311 on Jan 17.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Rob Safuto

    I too am a Dreamhost customer. I received an invoice billing me for the entire year. I was a little disturbed at the first sight of the invoice I’ll have to admit.

    Shortly thereafter I received the aforementioned irreverent email. All that matter to me was the fact that they acknowledged the problem quickly and promised to fix it. In fact, I don’t think that my credit card was ever actually charged for the extra service.

    The tone of the apology was typical of Dreamhost and one that I certainly don’t mind. Every service provider I deal with makes a mistake at some point or another. All I expect is that mistakes are quickly acknowledged and corrected. Dreamhost did both so I will happily remain one of their customers as well.

  2. neville

    I agree, Rob, I think they handled it all pretty well. I very much like their informal style of communication yet can see that some would be seriously unhappy in light of the scale of the issue.

    I’m sticking with them although I will pay close attention to my billing when my service renews on the correct date next month!

  3. informalality is only for DH

    If you as a DH customer use the same informal style that DH adopts in “conversation” back to THEM on then DH will flag you and not permit you to post any further.

    Web 2.0 and real conversations as per Scoble are a good thing. Bogus PR posturing and refusal to listen to customers are bad.

  4. Chris Iafolla

    While I personally don’t mind the light style of the response, I do think it would have served them better to be a tad more formal. In one sense, they need to be true to who they are as a company. But in another, they need to realize the seriousness of this situation. Being light is fine when you are dealing with something like Web hosting–when you are dealing with people’s money, that is a whole different ballgame. Despite that, I think the overall response here was commendable. The problem was addressed in a relatively short period of time. Many companies would do well to adopt this strategy.

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