Make messages related to service more accessible

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  • Updated 9 years ago
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I've just read with interest some of the postings by the Yola staff in the Yola Blog, Service messages section. The last posting I can see was on Dec 14 2010, almost a year ago and was from Lisa Retief, Vp of Engineering. It was a very good, well-worded posting that could have been made today as it is so relevant; in fact, I thought it was at first!
However, I feel that a post similar to this would have helped alleviate some of the pain, and reduce the number of repeated complaints over the last week or two.
Maybe something similar could be done whenever required and placed in this forum so that it is seen by the majority of users. Things like planned down-time etc could then be worked around.
I know that several of these have been issued, and these are appreciated, but explanations of "un-planned downtime" and other problems, with an apology when warranted, would also be welcome.
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Philip Taylor

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Posted 9 years ago

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Photo of Brianna


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Hi Philip,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, we do appreciate it.

Anytime we have a planned downtime, we do make an announcement on our public forum as well as our Facebook page. Unfortunately not all of the errors we encounter are planned, and as a result all of our team members are busy replying to customer's queries or helping to locate the cause of the error and work on a prompt fix.

We do stay active on our blog page, however, not all of our announcements make it on that environment.

I will gladly share the idea of adding company announcements in relation to downtime on the blog environment.
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Philip Taylor

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Hi Brianna. Thanks for the response.

"Unfortunately not all of the errors we encounter are planned, and as a result all of our team members are busy replying to customer's queries or helping to locate the cause of the error and work on a prompt fix."

Touche !

Still, a bit of feedback on what went wrong would possibly soothe a few ruffled feathers.

Have a great day.
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Hear, hear Philip- the rather sotto voice "Newly purchased domains not set up" by the VP of Customer Service hardly covered what should have been a major status update. I read the forum regularly and I nearly missed it. What you suggest would have prevented a great deal of worry and aggravation.

Why did it not simply say in capital letters "This is the reason why your published website is not appearing - a message from the VP Of Customer Service"? Obvioulsy there had been a problem for some time and that message didn't come promptly enough to stop the veritable torrent of postings by worried people who had no idea what was going on and quite rightly asked the question.

When statement did come the explanation was over-complicated, overly-apologetic and the ownership of the problem was firmly pushed over to the partner.

Those of us who were not new purchasers of domains could see the trend of published websites not appearing and not all of them said they were newly purchased, so had no idea if it related to the whole of Yola and whether or not they should be worried about their own sites crashing. For the last two weeks my sitebuilder has been going very slowly, pictures have been behaving strangely and changes made in sitebuilder have not been saved. There are queries still about this on the forum.

Clearly a lot of the problems seemed to be sites. That issue was exacerbated by the fact that people in the UK querying the problem had to wait until the Yola team came on duty later in the day. It is plain that this is happening and the standard, incredibly irritating "clear the cache, what browser are you using, etc?" 'holding' response means that it can be 24 hours before any real answers are given. I have raised this with support@Yola and was assured that the message would get through but it doesn't appear that it has.

I'm sorry Yola, but there are too many scripted answers, too much fire fighting, too much off-loading of problems to someone else and not enough follow up. What are the statistics I wonder for how many queries remain unresolved and are just left handing in mid-air? Does anyone 'cleanse' your data base and close down topics more than say six months old?

Is the situation of the new sites not being published is resolved - if it is let's have a clear statement and an apology particularly to those people who were relying on the site to be their showcase for their thesis, never mind new business start ups. It was very important to them.
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Monique, VP of Customer Support

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Hi debbym

Thank you very much for your detailed feedback on how the communication around this issue was handled. I strongly agree with you that Yola in general and myself in particular could have done a whole lot better!

The cliche would be to say that hindsight is 20/20 and I don't want to resort to that, but it is somewhat applicable here. I don't want to post another overly complicated explanation but I do want to give people enough information to help them understand what is going on. To this end, I am going to ask one of our engineers to post on this thread with a technical explanation of the problem.

I also want to give your post the respect it deserves and respond specifically to the key points that you raised. I will do my best to be as brief as possible but this is probably going to be a lengthy post.

To answer your last question first: The problem is NOT resolved although at one time we believed it was. Our engineers are still working on it. We are still using a script to fix affected sites and manually fixing as many as we can. We cannot say enough about how sorry we are to those affected by this (hence my tendency to sound overly apologetic) and we will continue to communicate any updates as we receive them, both individually and in our public forum.

I don't want to make excuses but I do want to honestly confess that I find it a challenge to know what to communicate how and when regarding an issue that is intermittent, difficult to replicate and only affects a subset of users. Especially during the period when our engineers are still trying to troubleshoot and the information available to me is sketchy or even non-existent. What I try to do is tell people what I know as soon as I know it. Sometimes I get it right and very often I get it badly wrong.

Other key points from your post:

1) Once I had something concrete to post, I did so as a "company update" (the topic type indicated by the megaphone icon that doesn't drop off the front page and is also pulled onto the Yola support page) My choice of title could have been better - I went for accuracy as opposed to getting people's attention, which was a mistake.

2) We absolutely do not want to avoid responsibility on this or any other issue that affects our customers. However the fact of the matter is that the problem definitely exists between ourselves and our partner (technical explanation to follow). My words were: "This is due to a problem with our servers' ability to communicate with the service that manages the DNS for our domains (UltraDNS). " What I tried and failed to communicate effectively is that while this is not wholly under our control it is something that has our undivided attention and we will continue to work on it until it is resolved.

3) Any other bugs related to pictures, slow sitebuilder etc are not related to this problem. We are continuing to troubleshoot those as separate issues.

4) The large number of domains affected is because we register a large number of these domains. It is not because something is specifically wrong with them as opposed to any other domains. Most of our support team is in Cape Town and therefore in the same timezone as our UK customers. However, UltraDNS is in the US, so we wait on them for feedback before we are able to provide feedback. However, the main cause of delays was a perfect storm between high volume, honest confusion on our part and a number of staff being sick or on leave. Not an excuse - just something to learn from and improve on for the future.

5) We do ask people to clear their cache a lot, because unfortunately a lot of problems with website performance or availability are related to caching or browser issues. We are painfully aware of how repetitive this sounds, but it is an important step in figuring out where the problem lies and you will probably here us repeat it many more times.

I really hope this and the explanation which will be posted by my colleague makes things better and not worse but above all I hope we can fix the problem, very soon and once and for all!
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Hi everyone.

I just want to explain what's been happening this past week with regards to the DNS problems you were experiencing. We discovered a bug that was laying dormant in our code for almost a year now, which never triggered. Last week, due to some intermittent connection problems, this bug started to retry all failed DNS updates and was doing it at a very rapid rate. This made all the new updates fail as well, as they did not get a change to push through their requests.

So this is what happened next. We first identified the bug and wrote a quick test to confirm if this will solve the problem. This test needed some time to run, to collect some stats for us to word with. Basically we repeat the same call to our partner over and over again and log the results of each call. The changes looked promising and was implemented. Next up was to write a script to check all the domains registered during the previous week, up until the bug fix. This script tool around 16 hours from implementation to completion, as it was checking all the domains and if it found a problem, tried to fix it as well. After this, we decided to let this script run every 10 minutes to catch and DNS setup failures and try to fix it, instead of you finding a problem and reporting it to us.

At the moment there is still a few issues left. We are busy running a regression test to check if all the requests to our partner will work. The problem with applications as big a Yola, is that sometimes the changes that we make are very small, but the testing for it takes a long time, as we need to check if anything else breaks along the way. Be sure that we are actively looking into this and monitoring the DNS issue closely.
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Thanks for the detailed response Monique and also Deon's update. What get's me is that I basically have to do a 'flame post' - and this is not the first time - to get a straight forward, yes or no, transparent answer with regards to a problem which is obviously more than a little local difficulty caused by caches and browsers.

I cannot understand why it is that you haven't put a new "company update" on the forum because patently there is something new and concrete to report - the issue is not resolved and therefore the situation is different because your have been telling people it was resolved when it is not.

Unbelievably, what is on the "company update" is you old post "Latest Update, Newly Purchased Domains Not Set Up, Monique 3 days ago". Deon has appended his explanation to it but there is no indication that there is an additional update. So why should people read it - as far as they are aware, everything is hunky dory and nothing has changed.

As you point out Yola is a big application - and has a big community - but when it comes to customer service you are really not doing yourselves justice. A lot of the people who use Yola are small traders and rely on their websites for a living. If their customer service was as flaky as yours is, then they wouldn't be in business. They deserve to be told the truth if there is a problem.

Sadly, this is the second time in two weeks that I have been told by a Yola employee that Yola has failed in its duty of care to its customers and that the comments I made about the breakdown in communications and the scripted responses, the queries left in mid air or not responded too and the lack of transparency about problems, would be passed up to the highest levels of management. I was left feeling really happy and hopeful that things would improve. Unfortunately, that was then.

Basic rules of customer service - under-promise, over-achieve. Keep people informed, even if it is bad news. They will respect you for it and "work with you".