How to give customers bad news


Regular readers will know that this site is now hosted by Dreamhost. They’ll also know that since I switched over the availability of the site hasn’t been great, with a number of short and long outages.

I was starting to worry that I’d done the wrong thing by moving to a new host. Despite being well recommended (Neville Hobson, Barry Parr, here and here to name but a few), their customer support being quick and helpful, and their superb web control panel, the availability had been very poor over the first few weeks.

Dreamhost use a dedicated external support site ( and associated RSS feeds to give news on outages and problems. There were regular posts about downtime on all servers, power outages and similar.

Things have improved over the last week, but I was left wondering if my experience was typical of how things are normally with Dreamhost. However yesterday this post showed up in my feeds, and in an email newsletter from Dreamhost.

It explains in detail what happened with the outages over the last month, what Dreamhost is doing to address the problems found, and apologises to customers for what happened.

This approach is great for keeping customers on-side, even when their experience hasn’t been up to the standards you’d expect. It’s upfront and completely transparent.

Judging by the tone of the 91 comments so far I think the majority of customers have accepted this bad news well, although there are a number of posts still critical of Dreamhost for not having enough redundancy etc to cope with the problems they experienced.

For me I’ll be sticking with them to see what the next few months bring. Save the outages, they’ve been the best host I’ve had in five years. Their communication when things go down is much better than any other host I’ve had, but let’s hope I don’t have reason to get much more of this kind of communication.