Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Verio Review: A case study in how to kill a good company

In 2002 I became a customer of Verio, a web hosting company, for a Virtual Private Server (VPS). At the time, they were top-notch. The best. Their support people were experts who had the distinction of almost always resolving an issue, no matter how complicated or originally mystifying, with a single contact. That's why I stayed with them for just over ten years: I was in good hands.

Why I left is a sad study of how to kill a great company, a case that I would not be surprised presages the demise of this company.

At some time in the Fall of 2011, Verio got rid of their expert support personnel and outsourced their support to a third party. Support is now routed to people with poor English language abilities and with even worse technical knowledge.

I don't care where a support person is from or where they are located if we can collaborate to successfully resolve an issue—competence is the bottom line—but when we have difficulties understanding each other and when issues drag on for days requiring multiple contacts, often leaving issues unresolved or fixed only by my own research elsewhere, that's unacceptable.

I have some pretty good knowledge and experience maintaining a web server. I don't know it all. I'm not an expert, but I know a lot, so when I need tech support, it is likely either for an advanced issue or because something has gone awry at the host that they need to fix. In the year that I stayed with Verio after they outsourced their support, I found dealing with them to be maddening in its futility.

Experiences included:
  • Getting replies that appeared to be robotic attempts to divine a keyword or phrase in my support request without comprehending the context in which I might have mentioned "domain name," "reboot" or "user."
  • Getting instructions that were about the keyword or phrase they had identified in general instead of addressing the particulars of my specific situation. This lead to things like receiving instructions to repeat the very steps I had just taken that lead to an error.
  • Advice that was ineffective or irrelevant. 
  • Emails that advised, "Reply to this email if you have more questions," that, when replied to, were returned with a message that "This is not a valid support email address."
  • Joyful emails announcing that my issue had been resolved and the ticket closed even though the issue had not been resolved.
  • Refusal to provide contact with management.
  • When I found a phone number for U.S. corporate headquarters (in corporate filings, not on any Verio websites), it was never answered by a live person and messages left where not returned. Not one. Not even the ones that said, "I'm a ten-year customer and you're about to lose me."
It's a remarkable shame that Verio could fall so far. Remarkable because they were so superior at one time, a shame because their degradation wasn't from circumstances beyond their control—they didn't suffer a natural disaster or hostile takeover—people in positions of authority and responsibility made decisions—conscious and intentional decisions—that may have netted a couple years of executive bonuses, but that likely have mortally wounded this company. (No wonder they don't want to answer the phone.)

If you've stumbled upon this post as someone considering Verio as a hosting company, my advice is unequivocal: Don't do it, you'll be sorry.


Lex Alexander said...

I'm sure the CEO who signed off on outsourcing the support got a nice bonus for that, too.

Roch Smith, Jr said...

They are owned by Japan's NTT Docamo. The CEO probably hasn't a clue. The dude he sent here to take care of business is probably laughing it up on the slopes.


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