Six Apart + CRM = Crisis Management

Once again, after a poor display of customer relations practice, Six Apart’s Typepad service has shown weaknesses in its infrastructure and practices. The truly sad part of this is that the company should have learned. They didn’t learn enough.

So, yesterday – Six Apart found their bread and butter revenue cow being exposed as unreliable at Forbes.com.

…”Snowball”
says the outage and the way it was handled
are causing her to think about switching hosts…

In the previous outages, Six Apart did not deal well with informing their users about service outages. They did – eventually – offer a selection of remunerations to try and settle their customers. But, they did not learn from their mistakes. And, with the recent news of their Yahoo!/MT agreement, the company becomes even more open to scrutiny.

This time they are doing a little bit better job of posting announcements to their support blog, Everything Typepad. But, I find no mention of emails to customers. How hard would that be, really? I wonder how long it will take them to offer remuneration to their customers, this time.

In the Six Apart listserv for developers, a thread developed where consultants/developers were asking if the problems of late were going to be solved. One attempt to quash the discussion was stopped by someone from Six Apart. A good move. Trying to hide problems is never a good solution. That thread also revealed some touchy subjects as to (a) recent code changes in Typepad that angered some developers and (b) a claim that inquiries about the change were “matter of fact, done deal, deal with it” kinds of responses. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t start hacking off the hackers/developers while also hacking off your customers. That cannot be a good move.

So, now Six Apart is in crisis management mode, or they should be. I’m wondering if they realize they should be. This is kind of frightening because if they can’t deal with everyday service issues, how in the world will they react to unforeseen calamities. Given their recent deal with Yahoo!, this outage and the way they are handling it has to be something that Yahoo! is at least watching closely. If you owned Yahoo! stock (YHOO), wouldn’t you at least be curious about the value of the deal?

Can Six Apart handle a crisis? Well, if Mena Trott is any indication – not too well. Her behaviour at Les Blogs ended in name-calling. Her speech there was probably destined to fail. It was a, after all, a pollyanna attempt at “Can’t we all just get along” in blog world. The irony, of course, is that she ends her “be sweet” message with calling someone an ass.

“All day yesterday you’ve been an arsehole,” said Trott, spluttering and stumbling her way to “why the f#@%?” (Quote)

Here is the key, Six Apart. You were already in the spotlight. You chose to promote your new ties to Yahoo! You have performed poorly in your customer relationship management and marketing in recent history. Your president had a meltdown that further calls your company into question. So, stick to business for awhile and get that right. Then continue the self-promotion. You have proven to the world that you cannot do both – at present.

I am continually puzzled as to why someone would choose Typepad over WordPress, for example. You do not have to have your own server to have a WordPress blog. Some providers will actually install and launch the blog for you. Sometimes it is as easy as clicking one button.

Several hosted offerings of WordPress are comparable to, or less expensive than, the cost of a Typepad account. In fact, it is less expensive than the recently announced Yahoo!/MT deal. And, the real plus to going with WordPress, you get a CMS platform that is as powerful as (if not more powerful than) Movable Type, the big boy of the Six Apart platforms.

WordPress offers you many more plugin options, more themes, and user interface that is as easy (if not easier) to use than Typepad and/or Movable Type, and the quite helpful support forums of WordPress. There is more, but those – alone – should give potential customers reasons to pause and consider their choices. And, with your own hosting service, you get their service and support. Choose a good provider and you will not have to worry about down time to the degree Typepad has been experiencing lately.

Jeremy Pepper has post about this, too. He has many good points and references to other posts.

Maybe 6A should be less worried about civility and European conferences, and spend time and money on scalability. Om has a good post on Web 2.0 outages … and I doubt this is going to be the last outage for such companies. Shoestringing begats shoestrings.

David Parmet also has a good post asking the big question these days, “I still have access to my blog. Do you?”.

Dennis Howlett has bolted for another platform.

And, this blogger has taken an apologist theme while alerting the world that he is “one of their more prominent bloggers.” Yes, he actually wrote that. See for yourself.

Other related posts:

Niall Kennedy | Om Malik | Abivablog

Now the interesting questions will begin. I’d be interested in knowing the cost of the refunds they gave in the first instance of down time. Then, add to it any costs they may eat with refunds this time. Finally, determine the costs to have purchased redundant servers so they didn’t have to go through this (one on hand, rather than re-ordering/preparing) for the upgrade that cost all of that refund money. I’ll bet that planning and upfront purchases will be less … not to mention the uncalculated damage to their brand. And the final question. Will Six Apart / Typepad learn this time?

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0 thoughts on “Six Apart + CRM = Crisis Management

  1. Dennis Howlett

    TP is not for business but consumer. I’m so glad I had advised my readers to play with it behind the firewall by all means but don’t use it for business purposes. I’m so stupid, I didn’t take my own advice. That’s what I’ve learned.

    6A appears to have learned little. The interview with Niall Kennedy was as close to a sanitized BJ I’ve ever heard. Steve Rubel’s apology was classic PR BS. You simply casn’t compare eBay ’98/99 and 6A 2005. Expectations are very different today, fuelled by a ra-ra frenzy so in one sense they’re bringing this upon themselves.

    The worst sin though is a failure to recognize that scale, reliability and security are critical in the commercial world. That’s why IBM, Accenture, EDS, TIBCO and others earn billions of $$$ doing the heavy lifting required to deliver scale. But then I’ve only just learned that despite the pleas of many – behind closed VC doors – so-called Web 2.0 companies are sacrificing scale for whizz and pizzazz. Now where have I seen that before?

    90 days and counting.

  2. Robert

    Agreed, Dennis. As I’ve added above, now the interesting questions come about. With VC and possibly hoped for buyout deals for 6A, what will potential suitors be looking for re: business savvy and technical planning ability at 6A.

    “Now the interesting questions will begin. I’d be interested in knowing the cost of the refunds they gave in the first instance of down time. Then, add to it any costs they may eat with refunds this time. Finally, determine the costs to have purchased redundant servers so they didn’t have to go through this (one on hand, rather than re-ordering/preparing) for the upgrade that cost all of that refund money. I’ll bet that planning and upfront purchases will be less … not to mention the uncalculated damage to their brand. And the final question. Will Six Apart / Typepad learn this time?”