The Never-Ending Service Contract
The Never-Ending Service Contract
Why is it that contracting for web services is easy on the front-end and impossible on the back-end? Each fall I get together with to do battle with their billing department. Three years ago I setup a Reseller Hosting account to determine if their service and support would meet my needs. I determined their control panel interface required more effort to learn and use on a daily basis. I decided to discontinue my evaluation and close the account. It wasn't that they had a bad product, just one that didn't meet my needs. That's when I learned there are two types of web services businesses, those who define the Internet as a business tool, and those who believe the Internet should be used as a business weapon. There appears to be a trend in Web Services to create as many obstacles as possible to closing an account. Requiring users to visit multiple pages and submit detailed requests via email or in writing.  Some operations even require a phone debriefing before they will close your account. If your business model includes contracting for web services, consider adding these items to your vendor checklist:
  • Digital Pre-Nup - Require the vendor to outline what happens if the relationship doesn't work (like, who gets to keep the wedding gifts).
  • Attempt to document their exit policy (just how many hoops do you have to jump through).
  • Read their Terms of Service and other notices to determine cancellation policies and content ownership. The big print giveth and the small print taketh away. I copy/paste the agreement into a text editor, then print it out to make it easier to read and comprehend.
  • Consider using their termination policy as part of your vendor selection critiera. Business ethics are systemic, you either have them or you don't.
If you must say goodbye, I recommend documenting each step. Print web pages forms you submit. Document the date, time and details of phone calls, faxes and letters. You'll need to give this info to your bank if you get billed after you close the account. Companies who use predatory business practices still believe the web is vaporware. Their mindset seems to be "I got mine, screw you!". What do you think? If you're a vendor, I invite you to share your point of view. If you are a web professional or business owner, share with us the tips and policies you use to find and work with quality web services companies. I believe there are plenty of responsible, ethical organizations that understand the Internet is a tool to help you connect with people and build better business relationships. If you like, I can start a Hall of Fame or a Hall of Shame. Let me know your thoughts.

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