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Free Services Cost Small Business Reputation

September 3, 2009

Free Web Services can Lead to Downtime for Your Online Business

by Mike Banks Valentine

I want to yell at someone or give ‘em a good poke in the nose for this! How could they do this to me? What gives them the right to blow off my best customers, to rob me of potential business and make my clients angry at me? How dare they do this!! I’m just fuming and ready to explode! Don’t get too close to me right now!

Why I oughtta . . . what? Complain because a free service isn’t available? Threaten to sue them for having troubles of their own? Why don’t they have backup servers? Well, I guess it’s possible that *I* could at least provide a secondary free service to cover my assets. Those clients that planned to spend an hour of their valuable time to chat with me in the first place. Maybe I should have prepared for the worst so I don’t have to go apologize to everyone when the free chat services suddenly became unavailable.

OK, so maybe I ought to upgrade that chat room to the premium version, the one that costs a few bucks a month, the one without the advertising banners, the one with the customer service and support. The one that WORKS when I’ve invited over 3,000 people to come to a Grassroots Internet Marketing Forum and chat!

Maybe this will teach me that you can’t rely on free services. What does it cost me to fail to deliver on my promises?

The web has got us all relying on free services to run businesses and expecting those freebies to be trouble free and convenient at all times. I upgraded from the free internet access when I tired of their glaring ads across my web pages. I upgraded from the free autoresponders when they stopped working during a major promotion launched via press releases and direct mail campaigns. *That* cost the good-will of my clients that didn’t get responses from me as promised.

I will now upgrade to the paid version of the chat room with all the additional benefits of a paying customer, including the right to complain and lay blame and threaten the provider because they cost me potential new business and lost me those existing clients.

Take a look at the free services you use online and analyze them to see how a failure to perform would affect your bottom line.

How important are those free services you rely on? Are they risks to your business future? Note that ‘Terms of Service’ on the vast majority of free services online tell you outright that providers have no obligation to serve your needs if there are problems and that you have no recourse should your business fail because the FREE service has it’s costs after all.

We all have a budget to work within to operate a site profitably but would it cost you more if that free web host went down than it would cost to pay for your web hosting? If your email doesn’t get delivered because your free email account suffers from a system failure, would it hurt your sales or customer relations? If that online fax service stopped working when you were waiting for a big contract from a new client, would you be better off upgrading to the paid version of the service with more benefits?

We’ll reschedule that chat, now that we’ve paid for it — DOUBLE! Whatcha want fer free?

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