Customer Shutdown: What Happens When You Don’t Pay Your Email Bill?
The vast majority of our customers pay their bills either on receipt or within 30 days. We rarely have an issue with any customer. This year, however, we’ve seen more customers in difficult times than in many prior years. Retail, recreation, restaurants, even printing industries have seen major downturns. Regardless of how well Wall Street is doing, Main Street is hurting badly.
Like every other company, we rely on our revenue to pay our employees and vendors. We’re a healthy company, though, and we do make reasonable accommodations for our customers who need a break during a massive economic downturn. That isn’t the tact all everyone in the IT industry is taking, though.
For those of you who always pay your bills on time, let me describe to you what a service termination usually looks like in the IT industry. Whether it is a website, and email address, or a whole server cluster being paid for, the pattern is largely the same. After you miss a payment, you usually get a billing cycle to correct the error. Depending on the provider and the service, you could get as long as 90 days before your service is suspended. For some customers, this is the first time they realize something is wrong. Many customers have recurring credit card billing, especially for relatively low-dollar services. If a credit card expires and they forget to update it, warning notifications can get lost in the shuffle.
Suspension is distinct from termination in that the data for the customer’s account is still retained — their emails stay in their inbox, the website is still there (although hidden), and the servers are either inaccessible or shutdown, but still only a boot away from being back online.
Transitioning from Suspension to Termination varies most widely between providers. Termination means the vendor is actually deleting the delinquent customer’s data in order to make room for future customers. Sometimes after being suspended, a customer will call and say they don’t want the service anymore, and that quickly triggers termination. If the customer isn’t reachable, though, how long will a provider keep their system on standby? Some providers will only keep the data 1 billing cycle, some will keep it for a year or more. Generally speaking, smaller accounts like email or static websites get more grace than, say, a virtual machine cluster. After some length of time without hearing from the customer, the provider terminates the account.
It’s worth pointing out that it is in the provider’s interest to provide this grace period. A delinquent customer might return, but a customer who you terminate, irrevocably destroying all their data, is almost certain to find a new company to work with. Because of that, I was shocked to learn this week that some of our customers had service providers who had a terminate-on-suspend policies. One customer in particular had a non-critical but important server they were renting deleted without backup only 30 days after getting notice that their credit card had expired. Subsequent investigation showed that the one warning email they received had gone to their Promotions folder in Gmail.
At Deep Core our business model isn’t about volume; it’s about building relationships with customers who come to us time and time again and send their friends and colleagues to work with us. Most importantly, it’s about maintaining the highest level of trust that we’re going do right by our customers, come rain, sleet, or global pandemic. If you’re feeling like you’re just another account number to your technology providers, give us a call.