How Not To Treat Your Website Clients

Table of Contents

I heard a story from one of our new clients recently that really pissed me off and wanted to share.

It’s a story of shocking customer service that I think we can all learn a lesson from.

So a few weeks ago we got asked to fix a website for someone. The homepage loaded but when you clicked to the other pages, you get the following error.

Internal Server Error

We hadn’t built the site so asked for logins and site access to try and find the problem.

The original company had ignored his emails and calls for months asking them to help fix the site they’d built and that had broken on their watch.

Funnily enough, the company did respond to us asking for access, but they refused because they didn’t trust that we were skilled enough to not break the site – The site that was already broken!

Without access, there was nothing we could do.

The client had come to the end of his tether and decided that it was just time to cut his losses and create a new site with us.

They then emailed him two days later with  the following message:

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Hi Name

Sorry for the delayed response. I can see the issues on the site but sadly these things happen with websites. We could fix this for you but you have not paid for any support time, so this leaves us no room to find and fix the issues.

Over the last two years since we developed the website for you, we have now grown as a business and now service much larger clients than yourself. This means we do not have the time or resources to fix your site.

We suggest that you find another smaller scale web team to help you fix your website.

If you would like to transfer the website to a new company we are happy for you to do so but there is a £800 release fee to give them access to the site files. We would require this paid in full before we can release the files and the domain.

Thanks Owner

WTF – How Fing rude, arrogant and ridiculously shitty is that email.

This is a website that cost a lot of money (in the thousands), and most pages don’t even load and show a ‘server not found’ error. That’s the web companies duty to fix.

Also a £800 release fee, for what? It takes 3.47 minutes to backup a website and the database and zip it up ready to share.

A domain costs max £20 a year!

So a release fee of £50 – £100, yeah but come on £800 for a website that doesn’t even work. Daylight robbery.

This company needs a serious lesson in business and customer service.

Your customers are the lifeblood of any business – without them, you don’t have a business.

Holding people to ransom like this is shocking and just blatant extortion. This way of treating people is what gives my industry a bad name.

We’re not all cowboys though.

Recently we had a client that broke their website and then didn’t want to pay the two hours support charge we invoiced them to fix what they had done. They also felt our hosting was too expensive – and decided that they wanted to use their own.

We happily helped them on their way and were as helpful as we could be.

I even wrote off the two hours support invoice worth £150 for work we’d done and the hosting fees.

Sure I could have dug my heals in and made sure we got the £150, and I could have charged a release fee for their websites.

But I didn’t. Why? Because I don’t want to give them any opportunity to bad mouth us or give them a bad feeling about myself or my company.

I also don’t want the hassle of dealing with their complaints about a small fee distracting us as we try to build the business.

We had already given this company lots of free support time answering questions via emails and random phone calls – sometimes six a day.

They were annoying my team and causing stress with strongly toned emails and demanding phone calls and yet they still didn’t want to pay.

The time saved from helping them and replying to their emails for the sake of losing £150 seemed like a bargain to me.

They helped us grow

I also had an appreciation for the fact that when I first set up Melt. They were one of my first clients. I respect that they helped me get on my way, and I still value the relationship I have with the business owner. He’s a lovely guy.

As you grow, you go in different directions, and you naturally outgrow each other.

I always try to remember where I came from and thankful to the people who helped me get to the bigger company we are now.

Charging £800 just to release their website is morally wrong. The owner of this web company must be a lot richer than me – I’d rather go to sleep at night knowing that I’m giving an awesome service at great value than ripping people off.

People’s businesses grow

The other thing this company is overlooking is that this company has the potential to be bigger clients than the ones you want now.

As a website service it’s your job to help them to grow with the website you produce.

Every client has the potential to be massive! And if you maintain and treat clients with respect and do the best possible work you can for them.

The bigger they get, the more work they will need and the more referrals you will receive.

We have a few clients that started with a flyer or a simple website and have gone on to spend well over 10,000 with us.

They grew – we gave them a great service, and they had no need to go elsewhere.

To wrap up

The web design industry is packed with stories like this. Like every industry, there are cowboys that will try to rob you blind. It’s your job not to let them – you don’t have to pay these release fees. If you have to sign a contract make sure you look for fees like this in the small print.

We all have clients that we outgrow, or the client outgrows us. We also all have or at some point had clients that really piss us off. This is a natural part of business.

The way we treat our customers determines how successful we will be. Just because someone wants to leave you doesn’t mean we have milk the last bits of money from them then we can.

Go over and above for your clients and you will be rewarded.

You wouldn’t want to get ripped off so why rip others off.

Thanks for reading,


PS. I’d love to hear similar stories – if you’ve been ripped off or feel that you are being held to ransom.

PPS. If you’re looking for a web team that won’t hold you to ransom and treat you with respect and give you great value then tell us how we can help – We’d be delighted to.

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