What to Do When Your Hosting Company’s Tech Support is Clueless

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As a website owner it might be one of your biggest fears — clueless tech support reps through your hosting company. After all, there’s plenty that can go wrong with your Web host. You need to feel confident that their tech support can answer your questions and address any problems that come up.

Sometimes they can’t. Every once in a while you’ll come across tech support reps who either don’t understand the problem or simply don’t know what they’re doing. I want to share a recent experience with a tech support rep in the latter group, and then discuss some tips on what you can do if you get one of these nightmare tech support reps handling your problem.

A Recent Experience With a Clueless Support Tech

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I recently left one Web hosting company for two others due to growing tech support problems. One of the new companies (which shall remain nameless) almost immediately started giving me grief. The account seemed to be getting limited. I called to enquire about the problem and was simply told that my database was too big. Now I’m not completely new to Web hosting. I’ve used shared and dedicated options alike. And I know enough to know that this particular database was actually quite small compared to sites I’ve run with bigger databases and fewer resources allocated.

So I asked the rep specifically what the issue was. He couldn’t tell me. He couldn’t find anything terribly abnormal when he looked at the stats. So he just threw a bunch of general ideas at me. I humored him. This was for a blog. So I disabled the majority of plugins. I optimized and repaired the database at his suggestion (it was already optimized, but that’s beside the point). I even eliminated a core function that I don’t consider optional and cut the database size by a whopping 60%. And as I expected, it didn’t fix the problem of the account being limited regularly. Actually, it was being limited more often after the optimization.

Still, tech support was clueless. The best they could suggest was to upgrade (of course) because the modest blog is apparently above their ability to host on a shared server. (Like I mentioned, I use both dedicated and shared hosting options for different projects, and this one is nowhere near ready for dedicated.) So frankly, I give up. I decided that if I continue to see this problem presenting itself after another few weeks have gone by, I’m going to switch hosting companies again. If you want to tell me I’m overusing resources, you have to be able to tell me A) what those resources are and B) how they’re being overused. When you cannot verify it when you check it yourself, and you can’t offer any explanation beyond “upgrade,” you’re an incompetent fool who shouldn’t be working in tech support.

Fortunately this kind of thing isn’t the norm in my experience, even if support hassles seem to be more frequent lately (among multiple companies).

What You Can Do If You Get a Clueless Hosting Company Support Rep

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation where it’s clear the support rep just doesn’t know what they’re talking about or they seem completely incapable of answering your questions or addressing your issue, here are some things you can do:

  1. Call back at another time. Preferably call back during a different working shift to increase the chances that you’ll get a different support person. Oftentimes this is enough and the other support rep will be fully capable of helping you out.
  2. Ask for a supervisor. You’ll get sent to a level 2 tech support rep, maybe someone higher up the chain, and maybe even the support manager if the problem is serious enough. If the level 1 rep can’t help you, someone else up the chain probably can.
  3. Turn to social media. I’ve had a lot of luck getting better support from companies like Web hosts via Twitter. Like most companies they don’t want people sharing their horror stories with the masses. I’ve found they’re pretty quick to see the issue, contact you, and fix it when you take it to Twitter. Other social media outlets might be equally effective. Of course you should try to work it out by calling or emailing support before you rant about the issue publicly — just my $.02.
  4. change web hosts

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    Switch hosts. Yeah, switching Web hosting companies can suck and be a royal pain in the ass. But sometimes the last resort really is your best option. Not all hosting companies have a customer-oriented culture where good support is a priority. Hopefully you’ll know this in the beginning, but even highly recommended hosts can sometimes have issues. The new host I mentioned earlier for example was recommended by several colleagues. They had no problems with the host. I almost immediately did. Even with an otherwise decent company, there will always be some unhappy customers, and sometimes that unlucky person will be you. If it is, it’s a good idea in the long run to leave and find a host you’re happy with.

What about you? Have you ever had to deal with a downright incompetent tech support rep with your hosting company? How did you deal with it? Did you go above their head? Was it an isolated incident that another rep was able to fix? If you’ve been lucky and haven’t had any issues like this yet, how do you think you’d deal with it if you did?

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