If you’ve followed my posts here on Geek Estate, you know I’ve had a long history as a customer of Diverse Solutions. I’m not sure exactly when I started with them, probably sometime in 2008, but I was using their dsSearchAgent (Mapping IDX) well before they launched dsIDXpress (WordPress IDX). Their Mapping IDX was truly innovative, enabling DIY agent/broker/webmasters to embed a world-class search tool as attractive and intuitive as any custom option available at the time. Then they released their revolutionary WordPress IDX plugin, democratizing indexable IDX at a time when the technology had only been available through much more expensive, proprietary website companies.
I jumped on the WordPress bandwagon and was impressed by the results. It was exciting in those early days. You could discuss issues and make suggestions directly with talented programmers like Andrew Mattie, Jonathan Mabe and the founder/CEO Justin LaJoie. Improvements and innovations were implemented at a rapid pace. This pace eventually slowed, as would be expected, as the products matured. But still, the customer service remained strong and the product was solidly reliable.
Then, in late 2011, Diverse Solutions was acquired by Zillow. DS reps assured a nervous clientele that this would be a good thing. With the huge resources of Zillow behind them, we were told that innovation would accelerate, and good things were in the pipeline. But just as customers began to get over the initial shock of the acquisition, another shock was announced: Zillow would offer essentially the same WordPress IDX product that DS customers were paying $59.95/month for (plus website hosting), for $10/month (including website hosting). And unfortunately, instead of acceleration, there was stagnation. Loyal customers tried to be patient during the transition to the “Zillow era” at DS, but after a couple of years customers began to complain on their forum that innovation had slowed to a standstill.
The product still worked, and was converting leads, so many customers stuck with them, hoping for the best. But then came the reliability issues. Looking back through the forum, reported outages were few and far between before 2012. But with each passing year, outages became more frequent and longer-lasting. You can see in the comments of this 2014 post a number of complaints about a lengthy outage which happened shortly after that post was published. Already at that point customers were describing the outages as “frequent.”
In 2015 through 2016, the outages got worse. Way worse. I’m talking outages every day. Then multiple times per day. I had become friendly with one particularly dedicated DS customer service rep, and she had given me her cell number where I could text her when there was an outage so she could notify the team. Without that contact, there would have been no response to outages that happened on weekends or weekdays before noon Eastern, since DS was on the west coast.
At first the outages were only 5 to 10 minutes long. But soon they were hours long. Reports to DS customer service were replied to slowly, and with a boilerplate “we’re working on it” response. As the chorus of discontent grew louder in the Diverse Solutions Mastermind Group on Facebook, DS customer service reps seem to have checked out. Reps who used to chime in and engage with customers in the group stopped responding. My contact stopped responding, too. I have to think that was a top-down directive.
Messages to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and diligent Zillow liaison Jay Thompson came back with nothing more than the same “they’re working on it” response we had been hearing for many months, going on years. It had become apparent that either they did not know how to fix the problem, or did not care to. How is it possible, with all of the resources at Zillow’s disposal, that they could not fix this? The only non-nefarious conclusion was that Diverse Solutions IDX was simply not a priority for Zillow.
The multiple, daily, extended outages took a massive toll on our website traffic, and in-turn our business. I made the decision in late 2015 to leave Diverse Solutions. Looking back at my Google Analytics, I should have left much sooner. I just kept thinking (hoping?) they would figure it out and and turn things around. But they never did.
After an extensive search, I finally found a vendor I was excited about (about whom I will write more in a later post). It took me longer than I had planned to get my new site live, because I was adding new content and custom features, but I finally went live just last month, August 2016. I can only guess as to how long it will take to rebuild the lost traffic.
I am left with so many questions. Do they have any idea how to fix their problems? Do they even want to? What are Zillow’s plans for Diverse Solutions? Will it be shut down? (Earlier this year DS stopped taking new customers for a time.) Will they let this slow decline continue? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.