Douglas Thompson's Blog

15 September 2007
Fixing the Box

As I write this, our website has been down for nearly 36 hours. During that time we have not been able to receive or send email, which must make our customers wonder what the hell is going on. Our staff in neighboring countries have been SMSing me in panic and there were several calls from customers during the night.

This is all due to a malfunctioning internet server. A web server is just a fancy computer, just machinery in a box. And machines break down sooner or later, whether they be a cheap toaster, a Bentley or the Space Shuttle. We understand that.

What we do not understand, however, is the approach our internet hosting company has taken to solving this problem. The Purple Dragon and Club Sanook (and several other of our) websites live on a shared server named "Pulsar" at Lunar Pages, an internet hosting company in Southern California. They boast super-duper technical support and a nearly flawless up-time record. Until yesterday.

When Pulsar crashed and burned, Lunar Pages went about replacing the broken server. They estimated the process would take as long as twelve hours to complete, which was a major irritation, but one we thought we could to live with if we had to. Obviously the problem has gone well beyond what we originally expected to endure.

For this service interruption to continue this long is a disaster for us and unforgivable for Lunar Pages. Unfortunately, they missed a critical issue in customer service. They are busy fixing a broken box instead of fixing the problem the box has caused for their customers. The customer comes second, and that kind of attitude is lethal.

We encounter this kind of service deficiency often in our part of the world. Recently, for example, it took four days, several emails, several faxes and several phone calls to a hotel in Beijing to confirm a reservation request. While the phone was put on a desk and I was ignored,  their reservations staff argued about who was to blame for the problem rather than simply asking the customer "what can I do to help you?" This hotel is the very least we should have expected, even if we were not a fairly big customer for the hotel. A solution finally took a call to a horrified General Manager, which should not have been necessary.

When such things happen I try to turn these bad experiences into training opportunities for our staff.  I think they finally understand that solving the problem the customer faces comes before fixing the box. Developing a service mind takes a lot of time, but I hope you notice that our customer care people really stand out for their attitudes and dedication.

We hope that Lunar Pages learns a lesson from what the many bitterly angry customers they have had to suffer through these last 36 hours and turn this experience into a training opportunity of their own. But that is a lot to hope for and I am not optimistic about big companies ever giving one good goddam about what hurts a customer. After all, unlike a small company like ours, we need them much more than they need us.

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Many thanks to those of you who have expressed concern about Joe's health. He is out of the hospital and looking better. He is taking a lot of medication and is concentrating on getting his health back. It will be a long time before he will probably feel up to returning to work, if ever. He is talking about becoming a monk for a while when he stabilizes. We miss him and I am keeping my eye on him. Meanwhile, Bobby will return from a long sojourn in Sweden at the end of the month. I am hoping he will bring me a new Saab.

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Jerry Falwell is still dead. At least we have one thing to be happy about.

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September's Jab at Television: The Living Will

Gloria, my grandmotherly lesbian friend in San Francisco, has shared a conversation that she had recently with her boo as they were enjoying a glass of wine and watching How I Met Your Mother.

"Glo," she said, "I do not ever want to depend on a machine to live day in and day out or rely on bottles full of liquids to survive."

So Gloria unplugged the television and took away her wine.

I guess you had to be there.

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Still being written: Drunkenness, Desperation and Deceit (not to mention a psychotic, alcoholic,  pathological liar). It reads like a movie script. How do you like your popcorn?

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