How to Earn Your Clients’ Trust – Even When Things Go Wrong

Last week one of the ad companies a bunch of our clients use had a really hard time. However, instead of denying the problem, and putting the blame on something else, Mediavine owned it, and are doing everything in their power to make things right.

This is too rare in their industry, and we have been so impressed by how they handled the situation, that it’s worthy of a post. (Especially since we grumped about the problem when we were dealing with it.)

For many of our clients, their site is how they earn their living. Some earn revenue through their stores, but most use advertising to earn revenue. Unfortunately, placing ads on a site introduces a lot of complexity to allow for tracking, changing out ads, and preventing fraud. And with greater complexity comes a greater chance of failure. (This complexity can often manifest as slow page load times, but that’s a topic for a different day.)

In this case the issue was their plugin. One of the things it does is to schedule daily and weekly tasks. However there was a bug where with every hit to the site, it added new daily and weekly tasks for clients’ sites to do.

Uh oh. You can imagine what happened with very busy sites. Yup, they were very busy scheduling new tasks, and then trying to run all the scheduled tasks. One site had over 900,000 tasks scheduled. The hamsters powering the servers were very busy – we noticed higher database & server loads than normal, had just figured out the culprit, and were executing a fix when a client forwarded the most amazing message with the subject…


Whoa! An email from Mediavine sent to their clients admitting the problem, giving a quick explanation of what happened, providing instructions on how to fix it, offering help if necessary, and promising to make things right.

Wow! That’s awesome if true! Yeah, I admit it, I’m a bit cynical at times. Those times being days which end in “y”.

The instructions matched up with what we had been doing – turn off the plugin and clean up all the scheduled tasks. Score one for them in properly analyzing the problem and providing useful info to fix.

They continued to communicate well regarding what pitfalls folk might encounter trying to fix the problem, what each subsequent iteration of the plugin did, and ideas for how to resolve them. Score another point for them.

We were pretty worn out from cleaning things up, so I wasn’t tallying the points they were scoring, and I somewhat sarcastically (You, sarcastic?) tweeted if they’d at least send us pizza & emailed a crankyish note to see if the “make things right” included us, as we really didn’t want to bill clients for spending so much time cleaning up something not in their control.

Amber at Mediavine responded pretty quickly in the affirmative. She wasn’t defensive and didn’t try to put any spin on what happened. So different from others we’ve dealt with!

Okay, now I’m starting to feel more confident about them. They’re doing the same things we try to do in the event of an emergency: “Be transparent about issues, get fixes out, keep communicating, and figure out how to not have the same problem again.”

Too many companies don’t realize how important this is.

People don’t really expect perfection. We all gripe and grumble when things aren’t working right. But so long as we’re treated with respect and know that the people dealing with the problem are doing their best to get it solved, are communicating the issues and possibilities, and then making an effort to address consequences afterward, it’s easier to accept those (hopefully few) imperfect times.

Mediavine has done all we could want, and more.

Troubleshooting live server / software events is a bit like dealing with a high-speed tire blowout while driving a school bus full of kids – but thankfully, without the physical risk.

  • First you need to get the bus safely stopped on the side of the road.
  • Then you need to figure out how to change the tire – maybe enlist some passengers to help.
  • Simultaneously, you need to reassure everyone that they’re safe & will be back on the road soon.
  • Then, before going full speed, you test that the new tire can handle freeway speeds
  • And then afterwards, get everyone cleaned up, and figure out if there are better tires that won’t blow out.

As a result of how Mediavine handled the plugin ‘blowout’, we’re now comfortable recommending them to clients looking for an ad service. They earned our trust. And we’re looking forward to working with them on ways we can better care for our mutual clients.

-TS Jay

P.S. Yes, we’re getting pizza. 🙂

One thought on “How to Earn Your Clients’ Trust – Even When Things Go Wrong

  1. Thank you for the way you and your team handled this little crisis we caused your team. We can’t thank you enough for minimizing the downtime our bug caused. While I don’t love the circumstances, I’m glad you were able to connect with Amber and I look forward to figuring out ways we can work together! Enjoy your very very well deserved pizza.

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