Bluehost’s Bad Attitude: Customer Service 101


Bluehost‘s director of customer service? Maybe.

More than a year ago, after significant frustrations with Westhost, I switched Contentious.com to Bluehost — and went through the hassle of moving the complex mass of files that this 10-year-old blog has become.

I’m really starting to regret that decision.

When I pay someone for service, at the very least I expect to be treated with respect. Today, Bluehost failed miserably on that front.

One of the main reasons I chose Bluehost was that they offer add-on domains, and I knew I’d need to host a separate domain for another project I’m working on (it wasn’t huge and wouldn’t take up much space or bandwidth, so I saw no point in paying for a separate hosting account for it).

Things were generally going OK with hosting both sites on my Bluehost account, until last November, when Contentious got hacked — someone sniffed my password when I logged on over open wifi and inserted spam into my blog. From that, I learned the importance of using secure login (SSL) for my WordPress blogs.

After much help from Tom Vilot, I was able to get the Admin-SSL WordPress plugin working for Contentious.com. (Bluehost tried hard at the time to upsell me on their $45/year SSL certificate and $30/year dedicated IP address, which I thought was ridiculous just to get secure login for a WordPress blog. All I need for that is access to their shared SSL.)

Since my other Bluehost-hosted site on the add-on domain includes a WordPress blog, and since I travel a lot and thus must sometimes rely on open wifi, I wanted to implement Admin-SSL for WordPress on my add-on domain. Tom was trying hard to make that happen, but the secure login kept redirecting to Contentious.com, not the other blog.

On Jan 22 I contacted Bluehost to ask for help with this problem. I finally received a response this morning, Feb. 2, a full 11 days (!!!) after I submitted the request. Here’s what they said, in full:

No SSL on add-on or sub domains. The way our system is set up is to make the main domain the SSL domain, we can not and will not create an SSL for an add-on or sub domain. The only option you have if you need multiple SSL then you must create a new account with us.

Thanks
Tr

Level 1 Support Engineer
Bluehost.com

Well, that simply sucks, in so many ways…

  1. Time warp. This bears repeating — It took Bluehost 11 days (!!!) to respond to a paying customer’s question. That is absolutely unconscionable under any circumstances.
  2. Dictatorial tone. Did you catch the dismissive, condescending way “TR” addressed me? No “We’re sorry, but…” The very first word is a flat “No.” Then: “we can not and will not…” as if I’ve been pestering them relentlessly with an unreasonable request — and as if I’m not paying them for their service! And then: “The only option you have…” Well, thank you, Mussolini!
  3. Greedy, greedy. They close that bitch-slap of a customer service message with a lame attempt to get me to purchase a second account!!! Well, Bluehost may not have manners, but they sure have nerve.

Customer service 101, Bluehost:

  • Respond promptly. Paying customers should hear back from you within 24 hours — even if it’s just to say, “We’re working on this and will get back to you with an answer within X days.”
  • Be polite. Don’t talk down to your customers if you want to keep them. Remember, people talk. (They blog, too.)
  • At least ACT like you understand the problem and are trying to be helpful.
  • Keep an open mind. What I presented Bluehost with was not a problem, but an opportunity. Since they don’t currently offer secure login for the WordPress blogs they host, and since WordPress is such a popular blogging tool, it might be worth setting up a solution for this problem and selling it at a reasonable price.

UPDATE FEB 2:

I just got another note from Bluehost:

Amy,

Thanks for contacting us.

We apologize for the trouble you’ve been having setting up the WordPress plug-in. At this time we don’t offer main SSL ability on add-on domains. Unfortunately, this means that the WordPress plug-in won’t work on the add-on domain but only on the main domain.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Pierre

My reply:

Thanks for your note, Pierre. I do have a few more questions:

1) Why did it take 11 days for me to get a response from Bluehost on this?

2) Why was the first response I got so rude?

3) Why did you bother sending a second response if you weren’t going to be any more helpful than the first?

4) It seems ridiculous that Bluehost would not offer access to its shared SSL for add-on domains. I’m not talking about SSL for an e-commerce site, simply secure login to WordPress. I find it impossible to believe there’s nothing you can do for me here.

5) Given all of the above, and before I call on Monday to speak to a customer service manager there to complain about the extremely poor service I’ve received from you and “TR”, what can you *really* do to try to help?

– Amy Gahran

UPDATE FEB 3: At last! A useful answer, and an apology, delivered politely…

15 thoughts on Bluehost’s Bad Attitude: Customer Service 101

  1. So true.

    So many businesses do commerce on the internet and yet there is a widespread lack of polite (even short form letter) responses to what must be common requests/problems. I have found this to be especially true in the web hosting industry, where you have basically have only geeks running customer and tech support.

    Just thinking off the top of my head, why not email something like this within 24 hours:

    Amy,

    Thanks for contacting us.

    We apologize for the trouble you’ve been having setting up the WordPress plug-in. At this time we don’t offer SSL ability on add-on domains. Unfortunately, this means that the WordPress plug-in won’t work on the add-on domain.

    To facilitate secure connections to your blog on the add-on domain here are a couple options: [insert free trial offer or some upsell]

    If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    [Name]
    Level 1 Support Engineer
    Bluehost.com

    As a business you would have a system in place that would then kick this support request into a queue of feature requests that (1) gets reviewed when additional features are considered, and (2) if enough similar requests get made then a polite form response is written and specific plan offerings (free trial, upsell, etc) are put together.

    But, who knows, maybe Bluehost has such a system in place, and what you got was the first response from a customer unfriendly geek, and they will address future questions better…

  2. I don’t know who is managing Bluehost’s customer service, but I agree with you that this is truly outrageous, and it sounds like the response I’m used to getting from IT guys who think users have no brains or knowledge.

    Doug’s suggestion above is a great one and exactly what someone in their customer service department should be setting up.

    I’ve been in a service industry for more than 30 years, and that sort of reply is a manager’s nightmare. I’d suggest calling their support number and getting a manager on the line. They may not be able to do what you request, but they should surely be able to find an adequate and fair compromise that satisfies you far more than this lame reply.

  3. I liked bluehost at first, not least because they have emacs pre-installed 🙂

    But this is ridiculous. The tone of the reply was just plain rude.

    I completely, 100% agree with Doug with regard to the ‘form letter’ email that should have been sent. Sure, it sounds like a form letter. I have received those before, and I have actually appreciated them. It lets me know that at *LEAST* they have received what I sent.

    But I particularly like his suggestion that they provide some free trial-offer solutions.

  4. This is actually very common. The person actually responding is probably the same guy that developed the site and the same guy that keeps the servers running etc. They only have a few people and none of them are about the customer. They are about the back end inner workings. They never speak to humans and they rarely see daylight. They have lost any skills they may have had to begin with. Now when an issue like this comes up they are not focused on the front end or user. I see many companies like this and it really pays to have a trained person. They should really Hire Doug. Good response.

  5. Pingback: contentious.com - Finally, a Constructive Response from Bluehost

  6. Interesting.
    You wrote that

    After much help from Tom Vilot, I was able to get the Admin-SSL WordPress plugin working for Contentious.com.

    Could you please write a few lines to describe how you got it? It may be quite useful. Thanks!

  7. Just curious, but couldn’t you simply add a second blog to the primary domain and (frame redirect) forward the new domain to the second blog? That way you’re logging in via SSL to both blogs, I think…?

  8. Just had it out with Bluehost yesterday morning. I know put them in the same category as ipowerweb and startlogic, they have bad customer service, bad attitude, the service has degraded.
    I have had a couple instances where I had trouble with my site and the did help me, but the problem was due to upgrades or actions they took on their side, not my doing.
    Bluehost, wake up! I have already moved two accounts from your hosting. More on the way! Trying Lunar Pages now, and already on media temple.
    http://victorcaballero.com/bluehost-customer-service-review/

  9. Hi all,
    I just ended a “conversation” with one of the online support guys from BlueHost. Actually he ended with:
    “Do you understand? You are having packet loss [..] Speak to you ISP. Have a good day!”

    WTF? I can’t belive my eyes. So rude, who the f#&% are those people?

    Can anyone suggest a decent hosting company? I was reading about MediaTemple but it’s very expensive and they have some negativ reviews as well.

    Thank you,
    Alex

  10. Bluehost continues to have problems. I hear MediaTemple is great on their dedicated services. It’s the shared grid service that gets nailed when you get on a server that has some people doing stupid things.

    I haven’t found a consistently reliable host. They all start to go downhill after a while.

  11. HORRIBLE. E-mail down all day – called to request a credit and the stoner that answered the sales extension said he’d be happy to cancel my account – NO manager to talk to. They have literally cost me thousands of dollars today and no one seems to care!!!!

  12. Tom, that truly stinks. Unfortunately, if your business depends on your web site and has the potential to be high traffic, there is no reason to host with a place like Bluehost. 🙁

    In other words, if your site is bringing in thousands of dollars, save yourself the headache of hosting with a shared hosting provider like Bluehost, 1&1, etc. Get a dedicated, fully managed server from a place like Rackspace or Liquid Web.

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