DreamHost overbilled their customers to the tune of $7.5 million today. Then, they joked about it.
Today, in what is surely the most readable and contentious blog posting so far in 2009 — er, I mean 2008 — DreamHost took a lighthearted approach to an undeniably serious customer service snafu.
When running a billing script to clear out their charges for the remainder of 2007 (a script which determines when and how customers of the Internet hosting company get charged) they accidentally entered a date of December 31, 2008. This resulted in nearly every account they service being charged for the rest of 2008.
Thatâ€™s a mistake of colossal, perhaps company-ending proportions. Itâ€™s every PR personâ€™s worst nightmare and every vice president of customer relationsâ€™ death knell: the complete and utter screw up that canâ€™t possibly be explained away.
Time to call in the PR army.
Only, DreamHost doesnâ€™t have an army of PR flaks. Theyâ€™re a small company with a lot of goodwill in their community, a decent track record, and a whole lot of lighthearted attitude. So, they relied on their strength: the funny.
With their usual tongue-in-cheek attitude, they posted an amusing blog post (â€œUm, Whoopsâ€) that explained the situation, what they are doing to fix the problem, and what they have learned from the experience.
Not everyone found it laugh-out-loud funny. I did, but Iâ€™m not a DreamHost customer. I have nothing to lose from this mistake. The responses to the blog posting are riveting, hilarious, and deadly frightening from a customer service point-of-view.
If youâ€™re in any way involved in customer service, you should spend at least ten minutes reading DreamHostâ€™s blog post and the responses that follow.
At the time of this writing, according to an informal poll set up by one of the blogâ€™s commenters, the answer to the question, â€œWill you stay with DreamHost after their billing screw-up,â€ is 53% yes, 31% no, and 17% undecided.
Did DreamHost do the right thing by being dead-set on openness and transparency? Did they simply shore up their base of dedicated customers who like to laugh, at the expense of more serious-minded customers? What about that swing vote?
DreamHost is on Get Satisfaction, and you can join the conversation about them here.