I was not a happy camper this past week. I switched website and email hosting services about two months back but didn’t cancel the old service. Since there was a month left on the contract and I had pre-paid for a year, it wasn’t worth my while to cancel it. Wouldn’t you know it, the old guys went and charged my credit card for a monthly fee instead of letting the contract die. So I called them up and asked for the old arrangement to be cancelled as I had someone else handling the web and e-mail hosting. The problem was, though, that I was talking about cancelling the hosting arrangement and the person on the phone thought that I wanted to cancel everything – including my domain name registration which is paid up until 2009. Because of this assumption (and we all know what happens when we assume), what ensued was the knocking out of my domain name for 5 hours, the loss of all e-mails in that time period (thankfully they at least bounced back to the senders) and a lot of grief.
Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased. However, it did provide yet another example of how disputes often occur – through miscommunication or misunderstanding. Can these be fully prevented? Realistically, no. But you can protect your business by doing three things. The first is to ensure that you and your employees are listening to the customer. If you ask that extra question, the customer might think you are a little slow off the mark, but that’s better than having an irate customer later on. Second, if you are the customer and the matter is significant, whatever the arrangement, put it in writing – even through a simple e-mail. Third, ensure that you keep tabs on the arrangement. As the customer, make sure that the vendor / supplier / provider has done what it promised. As the vendor, etc., set a follow-up deadline to ensure that the item is taken care of. So, in my case I did not have the arrangement in writing, but I did keep relatively close tabs on the situation and the damage was minimized. In the end, could I sue the Internet company? Sure. Would it be a worthwhile endeavour? No. I was able to get my voice-mails and faxes the next day from my VOIP company. The e-mails bounced back, but anything important was re-sent by the senders – usually with a message saying “I tried to send this before, what happened?”. Anything that didn’t make it through was likely not worthwhile – or at least nobody complained.
But if the old website host had listened to what I wanted, the problem could have been avoided in the first place, it would have avoided a potential (although in this case not likely) lawsuit … and, more importantly for them, I wouldn’t have marked in my Outlook calendar to look for a new domain registration company next year for when my current registration runs out.