Web Hosting & Customer Support - Don't Underestimate The Value of Good Service!
When looking for a Web Hosting provider it's always tempting to focus on the obvious criteria such as the monthly costs, additional software provided and performance (how many visitors your website can support and how fast it will run). All too often, customer support isn't seen as an especially important consideration.
However there are many good reasons to switch this around and place customer service up near the top of the list of criteria for evaluating web hosting companies. Which prompts the question, what actually is the point of customer support anyway? Surely it's only for non-technical folk who are setting up their first website and after that, well web hosting is a pretty passive activity.
The reality is that it's not quite that simple. For a start, the level of customer support on offer is a reasonable indicator of the overall quality of service you are likely to get. Also, it's not just for novices; even experienced and technically savvy website owners run into problems and it is almost certain that at some point you will need some help to sort out an issue.
Even relatively trivial things such as not being familiar with the web host’s control panel interface (every company seems to have its own quirky way of configuring things) can derail you and interfere with the business of simply setting up your website.
But the main reason to pay attention to web hosting support is that it serves much the same purpose as insurance. For many people it’s something they pay for but never have to actually use; but finding out that you’re not properly covered when something does go wrong is not a pleasant experience.
And trust me - things do go wrong.
Websites can get hacked, accidentally damaged by their owners, suffer data loss due to server failures, develop mysterious bugs and a whole host of other things beyond the control of the webmaster. These are moments when you appreciate prompt and effective support.
Experiencing "down time" on one of your websites is time consuming, frustrating and potentially very costly since a loss of web traffic often translates into lost revenue and/or harm to your online reputation. When this happens you need someone who can fix your problems and you need them fast.
So how can you determine a prospective Web Hosting provider’s commitment to customer support?
The first thing to check out is the means by which you can contact the company. If their phone number is all but hidden, the email address suspiciously generic and there is no hint of a live chat facility, you can reasonably assume that they are not going to be keen on sorting out any issues any time soon.
Conversely, a company that makes a point of providing good customer service will do just that - make a point of it. You should be able to very easily find numerous ways to obtain answers to queries and get in touch with support staff. This immediately tells you that this is an organization that is proud of the service it offers and is prepared to stand behind its reputation.
In particular, look out for live chat support and guaranteed response times. You will often find that there isn't actually that big a difference in cost between providers who make a big deal about service and those who scarcely mention it. But take it from someone who has been there - getting a response to your distraught email two days later will have you seriously regretting the day you underestimated the value of good service!