A Terrible Customer Service Story (Avoid SiteGround)

A church that uses my church management software has web and email hosting through SiteGround (no link for them, I’m not helping their PageRank).  Church users have not been receiving emails from the system (e.g., password reset emails).  I had users check their spam folders but the message was not showing up at all.  I was, however, able to send an email directly with a temporary password.  I thought that was odd and put a note on my to-do list.

Today when I tried to reply to a message from someone at the church, I got back this:

SMTP error from remote server after RCPT command:
host thespecificchurchdomainhere.com [ip addy]:
550-Verification failed for <derek@ardentdev.com> 550-unrouteable mail domain “ardentdev.com”
550 SITEGROUND sender verify FAILED

So now I cannot send mail to this church from ardentdev.com (which goes through 1&1) or from the churchradius.com server (though it seems to work from Gmail / Google Apps for churchradius.com).  [For the technically minded, I used to have an SPF record for churchradius.com and mail was still not getting through to this church.  I temporarily removed the SPF record to ensure that wasn’t causing a problem itself.]

Considering how many other places I send mail, I’m making the fair assumption that there is something weird going on at SiteGround.  So I try to call them so I can work it out.  When you call you can talk to pre-sales or report abuse.  Those are your choices.  If you need tech support, you’re directed to their web site where you have to be a customer to login to their help desk / ticketing system.  There is no email address to contact.  So I tried talking to a pre-sales person.  He says I have to use the ticketing system.  He suggested I ask the church for their user name and password so I can log a ticket on their behalf!!!

So I try the report abuse option and got a “nobody is available right now” message.  (Hopefully the abuse is not too serious.)

I tried the live chat on the web site but it too is pre-sales and I was directed to the web site where you need to login to access the help desk.  The live chat rep also suggested I ask the church for their username and password and submit a ticket on their behalf.  He says there is absolutely no other way.

Wow, what an awful system.  I love good process, but when something falls outside of the normal process, your company still has to react.  There were no channels for me to deal with.  There was no “business-to-business” number to call.  There was no email address to try.  And frankly I am appalled that they would suggest that a software vendor ask a customer for the username and password to their system.

If you are going to host email for somebody, you have a responsibility not only to protect customers from spam but to ensure they receive legitimate emails.  I know the spammers make this harder everyday, but that’s a challenge you take on when you agree to host email for somebody.  SiteGround’s procedures and the demeanour of its frontline staff shows that it does not put sufficient value on the second part of that responsibility.

If you are looking for web and email hosting, I would avoid SiteGround.

  12 comments for “A Terrible Customer Service Story (Avoid SiteGround)

  1. June 27, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Dear Derek,

    I was notified about your post by Google alerts and I believe that the issue you raise is particularly interesting. The SiteGround policy for access to our technical support services really excludes the option for a non-SiteGround customer to post a ticket. However, we have established partnerships with some of the service providers that our customers use with their hosting and we have achieved very good results in cooperation for problem resolution and better customer experience.

    It seems to me that the Sales representative you have talked to was not able to identify you as such a person and to direct you to the right communication channel. I will take care personally that your case is analyzed by our Sales team and they are prepared to react in a more efficient way the next time someone like you contact them with a similar request.

    Now to the email problem you mentioned:

    SMTP error from remote server after RCPT command:
    host thespecificchurchdomainhere.com [ip addy]:
    550-Verification failed for 550-unrouteable mail domain “ardentdev.com”
    550 SITEGROUND sender verify FAILED

    Yesterday we had to perform an urgent upgrade the CPanel of our host servers in order to apply a critical security patch released by the CPanel developers. As a consequence of the upgrade some people has experience short-term email problems like the one you describe. Our technical team has been fixing manually any known issue and I believe that your customers should no longer experience such problems.

    If you contact me and provide me the domain name of your customers, I would be happy to ask our support team to check if everything is ok with their account now.

    You can also contact me personally by email if you have similar cases in the future.

    I hope that this will help us both provide better service for our mutual customers!

    Regards,

    Lilyana Yakimova
    Marketing Manager
    SiteGround.com

  2. Diane Wells
    June 28, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    I work at a church that uses Siteground and my computer has suddenly developed the inability to send out our weekly e-ministry message. (Actually, this problem started when we acquired new Vista-based computers about a month ago.) So, after hunting for a solution to this problem, I ended up breaking up my 400 plus email address list into a zillion lists with 20 or less names on each list. Of course, I can only mail to one list at a time or I receive that 550 Siteground error message. And, once I reach the lists numbered over 400 (ie: 401-420, 421-440) the entire list is returned with the 550 error message. My experience with earlier problems, even as a customer of Siteground, was exactly the same as Derek’s. No way to contact support except through the website, and no way to explain problems that did not fit within the format of their system. And, though I would love to contact Lilyana Yakimova myself to find out how to solve my problem, I see that her email address is not for public consumption. Any suggestions?

    Frustrated,
    Diane Wells
    St. Johns Episcopal Church

  3. Derek Hatchard
    June 28, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Lilyana, I appreciate you commenting. I will follow up with you by email.

    I was hoping this post would get a response. At least SiteGround is paying attention.

  4. Derek Hatchard
    June 28, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Diane,

    You may want to use a mailing list provider like Constant Contact. What\’s nice about a mailing list service is they provide extra tools and reports so you can find out how many people are reading your emails and automatically remove bad addresses from your list. They usually will screen your emails as well to warn you if you have used terms likely to get your message caught by a spam filter.

    And because sending mass email is their business, they are proactive in dealing with all the potential problems.

    Constant Contact is the only one that I can think of off the top of my head but I know there are many reputable companies out there.

  5. Colin
    January 16, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I have used siteground for about 5 years now and I love it. Derek, you should have had the church contact the hosting service…not the other way around. If you are not the account holder why would they help? In today’s day and age of digital security problems, they followed proper protocol.

    Siteground simply cannot be beat for what they offer as a host, their support (when you own an account) is phenomenal. I had had them help me get complicated PHP scripts working that they didn’t design or make themselves, when I was having even code design problems they helped me and every time I submitted a ticket I had a response in 5 minutes or less.

  6. jason
    January 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I have used siteground for about two years and in terms of other online services they are unparralleled. I mean where can you find such good deals anywhere else? I have found that anytime i have a problem that a solution was found within 15 minutes. No other service i have found that matches their pricing system gives such great value and great customer service. Your experience, while frustrating is not fair. I am sorry but your church has a service through siteground and you should have gone through them as they are the customer. So when someone does a search on siteground vouchers (like i just did) they see your (“a terrible customer service” headline) Now siteground went out of their way to fix the problem which they really wern’t responsible for and still you have not changed your title leaving not only bad press but unhonest press. I am sorry but you are not a customer.

    Siteground can only offer so much service for $5 a month. I mean they are a business and have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users and like anything on the net there are going to be problems. They have designed their system for value which helps churches like yours save money and the poor and needy having access. Their system for what it is worth is remarkable and you have been quick to judge and your judgements are taking affect. I think the least you can do is make amends.

  7. Mike
    May 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    The problem on June 2007 was that their cPanel got “infected” by attackers, who managed to insert malicious code into ALL the pages of SiteGround’s costumers. This is something that can happen to the best, but the fact that they took over 24 hours to remove the malicious code is NOT tolerable. I thought I was alone in my experiences with them, but apparently not.

  8. anil
    June 16, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Site ground is faster host for opensourse sw. But the only thing is you can chat with sales people only, not with the troubleshooters

  9. Ajay
    October 9, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    I am an ex-customer of Siteground (ShiteGround) and have had nothing but shocking support and service from them.
    They even attempted to blame me for their mistakes.
    They have lost over 1 month’s worth of my data and NEVER backed up our production server.

    They’re truely a scary hosting company that should be avoided at all costs.
    They are not contactable when there is a problem and their support team only provide half answers and in some cases lie about the true status of issues.

    BUYER BEWARE!

  10. April 1, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I’m not sure which Siteground Colin and Jason (above) use, but the one encountered was terrible. I found your site today when I was trying to find a contact email address because they listed my domain name as expiring Feb, 2010, then pulled it today (April 1-yes, I get the irony!) and are making me pay $199 to get it back.

    How do you go from Feb 2010 expiration to “it expired today” in 24 hours without even an email or renew notice on their site.

    I don’t think they are only incapable of having a good service, but I question their integrity.

  11. June 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I have used sitegeound for about 5 years. 5 years ago I can say their support was much better. U had deleted a file on a content management system an they were tabletop bring it back for a small fee. But recently I have had some issues with automat billing. Online after 2 hours of trying to find the correct place to Ger help I was directed to live chat. Surprisingly I was greater and after explaining my situation and argued my point fir another hour the Rep said to contact another support line at. And then he logged off! He didn’t give me the number before he logged out. Then there’s a reconnect bottom but it doesn’t work. I have several accounts that I will be closing. If siteground reads thus and wants to fix my issue they can contact me via Paul@mynexuspc.com

  12. August 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I have been a SG customer for seven years. I have over 20 domains there.
    Over the past few years, I have been lied to by so-called tech reps on several occasions.
    They reply to tickets without even bothering to read the tickets.
    Do they get paid by the number of times they reply to a ticket?

    They blame the problem on us and/or lie about the issues.
    I know more than there reps and have had to tell them how to resolve issues, and I really am not an expert.
    I have to request a manager be contacted with every problem or it is never solved.
    We still currently have unresolved issues even after contacting a manger.

    We have had enough of the big box or wall mart approach to web hosting.
    We are moving all of our accounts to a different, reliable hosting company.

    I completely agree with the other replies :
    I’m not sure which Siteground Colin and Jason (above) use, but the one encountered was terrible.
    They’re truely a scary hosting company that should be avoided at all costs.
    They are not contactable when there is a problem and their support team only provide half answers and in some cases lie about the true status of issues.

    BUYER BEWARE!

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