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Web Hosting Support Explained: Common Service Channels & How to Evaluate

Customer Support at web host companies can be a “make or break” deal. At some point, you'll need their assistance. Life can be hell when you face an unresponsive or unhelpful support team. 

Remember that customer support isn't only there to resolve technical issues. You may also need them for billing services or simply for advice as the professionals running their service.

Different web hosts approach customer support differently, from a ticketing system to live chats or even phone support. 

Customer Support Channels at Different Web Hosts

Getting Help from the Right Support Team

Most web hosts split their support teams into various groups. This split is usually because customer support agents might have different skill sets. Contacting the right team is essential to get prompt assistance.

The main groupings for support teams generally fall into these categories:

Example – Cloudways customer support comes in various forms, including live chat, email ticketing system, private Slack channel, and phone support (visit online).

Technical Support

Technical support teams take on the more practical aspect of customer support. If your website is having technical problems, or you simply need to know how to get something done, they are the ones who can help. Most web hosting companies offer 24/7 customer support since websites can break down anytime. Some things they do include;

  • Fix hardware-related problems with servers
  • Address server configuration issues
  • Advise customers on performance issues
  • Website migration

and more.

In some cases like Managed VPS Hosting, the technical support team is even more important. You’ll rely on them not only for assistance but also to provide ongoing maintenance and configuration for your server.

Billing Assistance

If you need more information on your service bills, need to process refunds, or do anything else related to money, the people in the billing department are the ones to approach. They sometimes even have the discretion to make extraordinary decisions on your billing, so be nice to them.

Sales Advisory

If you feel that you need a better web hosting plan or additional services, the salespeople are the ones to contact. Since they know all the company products, they will be in the best position to advise you on what's needed. Be cautious, though; not all will have your interests at heart.

I’ve encountered some truly insightful sales advisory staff, but also a fair number that simply tried their best to make more sales. The range of attitudes you’ll encounter is guaranteed to be impressive.

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Know the Customer Service Channels Available

In general, web hosting customers can access at least one or more support channels. Each of these serves a good purpose. For example, a good knowledge base is excellent for self-service and can reduce reliance on the customer support team in some cases.

Some support channels you may encounter include:

Phone Support

A2Hosting Phone Support
Example – A2 Hosting provides telephone supports for dozens of countries, including United States, Estonia, Spain, Finland, United Kingdom, Greece, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Germany, Indonesia, and more (visit online).

Phone support is beneficial if you're having trouble with a complex or urgent issue. The representatives can give you immediate feedback and direct assistance over the phone, regardless of the time of day or where you are in the world.

However, many web hosts today are cutting down on phone support due to the cost involved. In many cases, it's only made available to premium customers, such as those purchasing server co-location or dedicated server hosting.

Ticket System

Example – You can access Cloudways Support via ticketing system. Screenshot shows my activities with their ticketing support for the past 2 years (visit online).

The ticketing system is one you'll often encounter in web hosting. It's essentially a trackable query-response system. First, you submit a form containing the details of the problem. The ticket then moves to tech support, who works on it, then responds.

Sadly, while efficient, the quality of technical assistance via ticket systems depends on how the system is configured and the support staff servicing the tickets. I’ve seen some that make you repeat information over and again – simply because the support team is too lazy to read the information trail in the ticket.

Live Chat Support

tmdhosting live chat
Example – TMD Hosting provides customer service and sales advisory via 24×7 live chat system (visit online).

The first line of defense for all operational areas, live chat support is usually sales-oriented. In some cases, they may provide basic technical assistance. However, like phone support, live chat support is costly to operate. Today, many web hosts are replacing live chat agents with less helpful chatbots.

Knowledgebase / FAQ / Tutorials

Hostinger includes hundreds of articles in their Product Knowledgebase (visit online).

These are collections of information in an organized format. The web host will create as many as possible to allow customers to resolve problems independently. However, many customers prefer to contact customer service, which leads to web hosting companies sometimes neglecting these channels.

However, do note that some web hosting companies have truly outstanding self-help documentation. A2 Hosting and Bluehost, for example, offer extensive technical documentation for many of their hosting products. Hostinger takes this even further and includes YouTube Videos and webinars as part of their assistance.

Forums

Example – InMotion Hosting runs an active members forum on site (see here).

Very few web hosting companies offer support forums. The web host creates the few available, but most are community-driven. Unless the web host has a large and supportive community, most of the queries on these forums tend to go unanswered.

Final Thoughts on Web Hosting Customer Support

Customer Support is where the rubber meets the road. When choosing a web host, you should consider what types of support are available and the quality of that support. 

Look for reviews from other hosting customers to find out how responsive the provider is to issues that come up. If you have a complex problem, it's helpful to know that there's someone knowledgeable who can provide fast assistance.

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Article by Jerry Low