Awesome customer support continues

A lot of people say a lot of nice things about the exceptional customer service at 123Host.au (you can read them there).

It all comes down to the philosophy to give the level of customer service we wish we received from others, because we all know that in general, customer service sucks.

I am always really proud of the 123Host.au support ticket response times and whenever I think it probably can’t be improved…guess what.

March 2022 – over 68% of tickets replied within 1 hour and almost 97% replied within 4 hours!

“Within 1 hour” sounds good, but there were 68 support tickets opened in March and

I might give myself a pay rise.

Why “feature request” sites suck

I use some software that mostly does the job but has some really clunky flaws. In an effort to contribute something and also help others, I often make suggestions and invariably I am referred to a feature request site where you list your request and other users vote on it to determine the popularity of an idea. The company claims this is used to determine whether or not to implement the feature.

Any company that uses a features request site and regards popularity as a measure of whether to implement a feature has a flawed business model using a flawed process.

For a start, this site is likely used by a tiny number of users of the software, so any “popularity” is based on those who likely already want a feature (why else would you visit?), care enough to request it and even know that you can.

Further, since when has popularity had any bearing on whether or not a feature is worth implementing? This is a trap for developers where they are stuck in their thinking and won’t consider a novel idea that might be a game-changer. I am not suggesting that my ideas are.

Let’s look at an example from a company that I will call WHMCS, the worst offender, in my experience. There is no surprise that there is exactly the same issue at cPanel, who just happens to have a financial stake in WHMCS…go ahead, tell me this isn’t organisational culture gone bad.

WHMCS revamped their request site. It must have been a bit embarrassing to have 7 year old ideas not being acted on despite a large number of up-votes. Someone came up with a political style solution; they hid the date :o)

Also, if they decline an idea (despite it being popular) they then hide all the comments and shut down any further comments. It is the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “ummm ummm ummm”.

So, two of the top 3 highly requested features have been declined i.e. popularity doesn’t really have anything to do with it at all.

[UPDATE]

Three years later (July 2023) and they still refer me to the feature request site and I still respond with a link here.  But out of curiosity I wondered if anything had changed (LOL)
Short answer?  No.  And it has actually gotten worse. Four of those items (including the most popular, which is still being investigated) are 10 years old and the fifth is 5 years old.  They also close them when declined, so there is no interest at all, no matter how popular and item is.

[/UPDATE]

[ANOTHER UPDATE]

Look how well things have progressed in February 2024

[/ANOTHER UPDATE]

The entire process is disrespectful to the very people who have kept your business alive. If your tech support people aren’t switched on enough to say “Hey, thanks for the idea, I will forward it to our developers” instead of “Add this to the feature request site and let’s see how popular it is” your tech support sucks along with your company’s culture.

The process is inherently flawed and I won’t participate.

The purpose of this post is so I have a link instead of having to type out a rant every time I want to explain how I feel about their suggestion

May 2021 newsy thing

Thanks for your ongoing support for 123host by being a customer. 123host is your classic “small business”, which means I can give personalised support and be agile, not necessarily having rigid policies. I get the opportunity to watch projects progress from an idea to fruition…you aren’t an anonymous username to me.

Why you should invest in a .com.au domain name - eBranding.com.au

Keep in mind that pretty soon plain .au domains are going to become available.  For example I will most definitely register 123host.au.  If you have a .au domain (.com.au, .org.au etc) already, you will be given first option to grab your domain in plain .au.  You don’t have to do this, but I don’t think it will be expensive.  I will update everyone when I hear more.

While we are on domains, some of you are going to receive an email from the domain registry, emailing on behalf of 123host.  It seems they have done an audit of ABNs and Business Numbers used to register .au domains and have identified those that have expired or are invalid for some reason. There are about 30 people with domains that won’t be able to be renewed if their details aren’t updated.  This is completely out of my hands and I am happy to give you some ideas if you do receive one of these emails.  The first thing to do is not panic, in most cases it will be easy to resolve if you want to keep the domain – contact me.

I learned something recently, but first some background. If you have a multi-word domain, especially if it has the same letter at the end of one word and the start of the next, it can be hard to read when written e.g. beattheearthheart.com.au (I just made that up). Many of you would have had me suggest Camel Case, so the domain would read BeatTheEarthHeart.com.au – this is perfectly legitimate and doesn’t need any settings or anything…just get in the habit of writing your domain like that. It is much easier to read and more memorable.

But I learned there are other lettering cases too.

camelCase, PascalCase, snake_case, kebab-case - notacje w kodzie - YouTube

As I mentioned, my favourite, Camel Case; “TheQuickBrownFoxJumpsOverTheLazyDog”. But did you know that there is also Snake Case? “the_quick_brown_fox_jumps_over_the_lazy_dog”? I didn’t. So I did a bit of research and discovered the delightfully named Kebab Case “the-quick-brown-fox-jumps-over-the-lazy-dog”. I suggest you drop this bit of trivia into a conversation one day to appear very smart and geeky.

I know I waffle on about awesome customer service and truly try to live up to the 123host slogan of “giving the level of customer service I wish I received elsewhere“. I shake my head when I send an email somewhere and they auto respond “you should receive a reply in 48 – 72 hours“. I reckon I am living up to the 123host promise; during May, 58% of support tickets were answered within 1 hour and 73% were answered within 4 hours. I am pretty happy with that. To open a support ticket you can either log into the client area at https://123host.com.au (this verifies you) or send an email to support@123host.com.au – if it is an email, I may ask you to verify yourself if I need to make any critical changes.

CleverReach® Official Newsletter Plugin for WordPress

WordPress continues to dominate as the software of choice. Please make sure your are keeping your plugins and the WordPress core up to date (Currently 5.7.1) or you may suffer the same fate as a new 123host customer whose site had been shut down elsewhere because out of date plugins had allowed malware to be inserted into his site. Keeping things up to date is relatively easy. Log into your WP dashboard and you should be notified of anything out of date. Updating is a couple of clicks.

If you want it to be even easier, subscribe to the 123host WordPress management service. I keep everything up to date for you and help with other administrative and security related tasks. You receive a monthly report on all the activity carried out. It is only $55 per year and includes some bonuses like a Divi license and any other perks I spot for subscribers. More information at https://blog.123host.net.au/wordpress-management/

Change the sort order of domains in WHMCS

WHMCS is popular software used to manage a web hosting business. It works, but it can be clunky and the company frustrates me with what appears to be a culture of denial about problems. I am posting this so that hopefully other WHMCS users can find a solution to a hair-tearing problem that the company hasn’t fixed despite it being brought to their attention.

The problem:

Now that there is about 500 domains available managing them and keeping them in any sort of meaningful order is close to impossible. Wholesale prices are regularly changing and maintaining just that can be tricky. The issue is that the domains are in some sort of random order, it seems to be based on the order in which they are added to the system. That is fair enough, there has to be some sort of default, but then re-ordering them should be easy, but it is a nightmare.

See the circled handle below? The way they have it set is that you have to grab that, one at a time, and drag it to the position you want the domain.

Imagine trying to do that for 500 domains that are not in alphabetical order but you want them to be. It would be hard enough if it was simply a long list, but in a browser where you have to drag and scroll at the same time…forget it.

A solution:

This solution is a bit complex and not for the faint of heart, but if you are running a server you should have the skills to be able to follow quite easily.

Firstly, and do I even need to say this, back up your data. We are going to do that anyway, but is it possible to have too many backups?

Jump into PHPmyAdmin open the table tbldomainpricing and export it as a CSV file. This is a backup, but we are also going to manipulate it, so make a copy if you want.

Open the table in a spreadsheet, I used Google Sheets because it is so easy. Once opened you will see that column A is the domain ID, Column B is the domain name and column H is the sort order.

The first thing I did was to order the sheet by Column B, A->Z as that is what I am after, an alphabetical list.

We can immediately see the scale of the problem, ideally, Column H should be sequential numbers, it is way off.

Fortunately with spreadsheets, filling a column with sequential values is trivially easy. Firstly put the number 1 in row 1 and 2 in row 2 like this. (They yellow is just highlighting).

Next select both row 1 and row 2. The easiest way is to hold the shift key and click H1 then H2 it will look like this

The important thing to note is the handle on the bottom right of the blue square. Grab it and drag it down, all the way to the bottom of the column…yeah it is tedious, but it is easy.

If you want to test, you can always drag it a little way and let it go to see the outcome.

Once you have dragged all the way to the bottom and released the handle your domains will be have the database order column (Column H) in sequential order, assuming the domain name column (Column A) was ordered alphabetically as well.

Now is your opportunity to bump any popular or featured domains to the top of the WHMCS list. Simply change the value in Column H to 0. You can have multiple identical valued domains, they will be kept in numerical order then ordered alphabetically. I am not going to elaborate on the logic here…if you aren’t following, you really shouldn’t be messing with databases.

We are ready to save the sheet or if you are in Google Sheets, you need to download it as a CSV – click file > download and in your browser you may have to click save file.

Now we are going back to PHPmyAdmin and the database. Most importantly, make sure you have that original CSV file as a backup or another way to restore your database.

Empty the tbldomainpricing table and import your CSV file, that should get your WHMCS domains in alphabetical order on your site.

Of course, it would be easier if WHMCS came up with a way to do this painlessly, and they might, but I won’t hold my breath when despite conceding the current process is difficult, their attitude is “If we receive feedback from other users in this vein then it will only help informing our prioritisation of such work.”

Because I forget

It isn’t important until I remember to post the support ticket stats.

This is November…

63% heard back from me in under an hour and 93% received their first reply in less than 4 hours.

Happy customers :o)

You. Are. The. Actual. Best. Nelle G.

Thanks Steve! You are too good 🙂 Emma D.

I just wanted to say…. you are an outstanding human being! Michael G.

Thank you! What an amazing job you’ve done, I’m so grateful! Missy R.

The great customer service continues

The 123host mantra is “to give the level of customer service we wish we received elsewhere” because, let’s face it, most internet customer service sucks. It takes days to get a response to your inquiries…if you do get a reply.

Not at 123host. Pretty happy with these stats for September 2020.

Over half of tickets received their first answer within 1 hour. An incredible 82% were answered within 4 hours and 93% were answered within 8 hours. During September the average first response was 2.2 hours.

And it is all done with Australian staff…

Divi theme…I’m getting interested

If you use WordPress you need to have a theme. There are thousands and thousands of them ranging from the free default theme through to expensive premium themes.

One popular theme is Divi and the associated Divi builder. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t know a lot about it apart from having tweaked a few Divi sites, so I can find my way around it.

But I do own a lifetime multi-site Divi license that I purchased for 123host.com.au customers who subscribe to the WordPress management service I offer.

As part of that I was also added to the Divi mailing list. As a rule as soon as I get the first email from something like this I unsubscribe, but in this case I have actually found them to be a bit useful, so I pick the eyes out of the content.

I keep adding their freebies to the Divi pack customers have access to and today I found out they have a YouTube channel with a load of tutorials which look like a great resource for getting your Divi on.

I might check it out…

Don’t push gmail

If you can get past the fact that Google has overtaken Microsoft as the symbol of internet evil, gmail is pretty good. Especially the spam filtering.

In the past when people want their @domain emails in their gmail account I have simply forwarded it i.e. pushed the emails to gmail. But this has a down-side.

Imagine your account receives a whole lot of spam. You then forward it to your gmail account. Gmail doesn’t see it as coming from someone else to you, they see it as coming from you to gmail. Google responds by blocking your IP address (since you are seen as a spammer) which also happens to be the IP address of every other account on the 123host server. i.e. everyone gets blocked by Google.

I have a new strategy now, I am getting gmail to pull the emails from 123host. I won’t get into the details here on how to do it, it isn’t hard but it is a little complex.

From now on all new 123host -> gmail will be set up as gmail pulling and I will slowly switch over you pushers.

WordPress management

While doing some research for a recent email to all customers about a severe WordPress bug, I came across a solution where I can manage the administration side of your WordPress site without having to log in to it.

The task I look after on your behalf include

    • Updating WordPress
    • Update plugins
    • Update themes  (on request. I am reluctant to update themes in case it over-writes your customisation)
    • Broken link checker
    • Ensure https compliance
    • Monthly report to you
    • other things…

123host is pretty much all inclusive.  I have always disliked the way some hosting businesses start with a cheap base price and then charge extra for every little thing.

However subscribing to this service is quite expensive for me and I pay based on the number of sites connected, so if you would like to have me manage the trickier part of your WordPress dashboard the cost is $55 inc GST per year* for your first site and $33* for additional sites.  This about $1 per week for peace of mind!

* yeah, the fine print - these prices were correct when I wrote this, it might have changed.