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Hosting Discussion > Operating a Web Hosting Business > Customer Service and Support Issues > The importance of Customer Service for a Web Host
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  Post #1 (permalink)   10-26-2004, 07:38 PM
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Notice the title states customer service and not support. Most hosting companies are tech savvy enough to provide adequate support to their customers, sure enough. However, few have learned the merits of quality customer service when dealing with their clients. Any host will testify that answering support requests through a ticket desk or email absorb a generous portion of a host’s daily activity. Thus, the ins and outs of the daily tech support grind tend to weigh heavy on smaller, underpowered hosts and can cause them to become complacent. This is a huge tactical error that must be understood if a smaller host is to compete in the very competitive world of web hosting.

In fact, quality customer support can be a newer web host's arc de triumph, their niche. When competing with the larger web hosts who may own several dedicated servers or perhaps even their own data center, the smaller host needs to standout. Quality customer support is the trump card you have complete control over to set yourself apart from the competition. As a matter of fact, some larger companies lack in this area simply because their clients' numbers are too large. This is just the factor a new host needs to capitalize on in order to carve their position in this industry.

How does one accomplish this? It's actually quite simple but requires a stern dedication to satisfying the client.

Handle Support Requests with a Twist of Service
Tickets and support requests should never be one line or one word answers. Many times this will require your client to resubmit their ticket and cause both frustration for them and loss of time for you. If the ticket is answered correctly the first time, then the problem is solved that much faster and efficiently...and this is what clients want. They want fast responses and complete answers to their queries. Do not belittle their request with standard one line jargon.

Always Thank The Client
Always thank the client for submitting a request to support or sales. Open each response to a ticket or sales inquiry with, "thank you for contacting Any Host support/sales." And then go on to answer the request...accurately. Make sure you understand the question, if it's not clear, politely ask them to clarify it for you so you properly answer their query.

When closing tickets or sales inquiries always close with "Thanks for writing in. Please contact us if we can help you further" or "Thank you for your interest in Any Host and for the opportunity to earn your business today". This makes an unforgettable first impression to the client.

Advanced Notice of Downtime and Maintenance
When clients leave a host for minor downtime or network issues, that's not usually the major cause for their departure, but the culmination of shoddy support, slow response times and incomplete support answers. Finally solidified by downtime, no matter how minor.

Never fail to inform your clients of scheduled downtime. They will appreciate it. The "pit in stomach" one gets when they log on to their site and get that dreaded white page is a very powerful deterrent to NOT use a particular host’s service. When your server is down, be the first to let them know. Have a mailing list of your clients' off server contact emails for a quick email blast informing them of any issues.

Fast Response Times
Response times to tickets is also crucial in maintaining good customer service. Most clients will find no justification for a host taking 3, 4, 5, sometimes 12 hours to respond to a support ticket. Resolution times vary, of course, depending on the severity of the issue at hand. However, to take hours to simply respond to a ticket is insane and will surely cause your clients to post a link in many forums about how slow your company is to respond to a simple name server query.

Negate Bad Press
Historically, customers are more prone to share bad news about a company than good news. There's not much that can be done to change this. Bad experiences tend to resonate longer and thus cause a wicked backlash. A very effective method to counter act this "unwritten law" is to negate bad press. Squash it. Don't let it happen. While this is not 100% possible by any means (you can't satisfy everyone), if you research the companies that continuously gain praise on major hosting forums you'll find one constant. Fast and friendly support and good uptime. The fast and friendly support will often yield you much slack when those inevitable bouts of server downtime do occur.

Ability to answer a customer's question is very important. But to answer their queries with professionalism, politeness and resolvement is just as important and often overlooked in our industry.
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  Post #2 (permalink)   10-26-2004, 08:15 PM
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Now that's a very, very good article! Thank you BliksemHosting!
 
 
 


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  Post #3 (permalink)   10-27-2004, 06:44 AM
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My pleasure Dan and thanks for the kind words!
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  Post #4 (permalink)   10-28-2004, 12:45 AM
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Great BliksemHosting............... This is good one.........
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  Post #5 (permalink)   10-28-2004, 06:12 PM
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Thanks annbaby! Happy to help
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  Post #6 (permalink)   10-28-2004, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
"Thank you for your interest in Any Host and for the opportunity to earn your business today"
If I found a sales person of ours saying that, I would ask them to leave.

When I hear that statement, I think of some greasy car salesman trying to sell me a 1987 ford mustang. Cut and paste cheesy one-liners are one of the biggest annoyances you can ever run across in sales.

Quote:
"thank you for contacting Any Host support/sales."
Same with this. After three responses to support tickets, that line will become annoying to any customer, as it becomes increasingly obvious that you are hitting them with cut and paste false sincerity. Keep in mind, they have probably already hit this same greeting with an auto-responder from your helpdesk.

I have very different views on customer support/service - yes, fancying them up with "Yes sir, No sir" is fine for some clients, but most clients just want results. The "KISS" effect, if you will.

You have some valid, if not blatant points, but I do not believe in over-buttering - it will lead you down the wrong path, quicker than a hiccup.

Most people however will agree with your post in it's entirity, so don't mind my ramblings.

Simon
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Last edited by Simon : 10-28-2004 at 09:26 PM.
 
 
 


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  Post #7 (permalink)   11-05-2004, 02:31 AM
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Wow, While I certainly appreciate your comments, I must say it's the first time I had a host disagree with this article.

Greasy car salesman?

Quote:
If I found a sales person of ours saying that, I would ask them to leave
Then you would be dropping a good salesperson. Whether you like it or not, there is a proper way to conduct sales and some hosts should consider improving on their customer service.

The article is about how a smaller host can stand out from the crowd by providing service, not just support.

This is advice I am giving based on 10 years of customer service and sales experience. Since launch, this is the stance we have taken...we have lost exactly one client and that was due to no shell access.

Being polite and thanking a client for their business or potential business is not sleazy...or greasy...not in the least.

In fact it's professional and a welcomed change from the typical one line answers most hosts are known for.

I value your opinion however and best of luck with your business plans and customer service protocols.

Every host is different.
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  Post #8 (permalink)   11-05-2004, 07:52 PM
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Personally I would go for a simple "thank you" without the branding part, but the point was good enough: Don't forget to say "Thank you!".

I don't know about the native English speakers, as you're using the word "You" as if it were "Sir", but where I live, if you address anyone you don't know on a personal level using the equivalent of "you", then *you* are rude (think of french).

Sure, I don't consider myself a "Sir" (I'm too young for that in my view ) and I find that this puts a certain distance between me and the other person; it even makes me feel uneasy. However, the nature of the Internet when it comes to communicating makes it difficult to estimate the right amount of "buttering" (as you Simon like to call it) that the customer feels entitled to, or feels appropriate.

Sure, as a business you can choose to focus on the "yous" rather that the "sirs", but that's up to you.

I do hate when the sales efforts get to the level where I can "feel" them. I feel that I'm lied to or that I'm considered stupid or an easy prey. That said, being sincerely courteous (as in not overdoing it) can't be inappropriate.

I do know what Simon is referring to. Script like selling efforts are annoying, especially after you hear a certain closure phrase a few times. You know they're learned, an automatism if you will -- and simply put there "to make the customer feel important".

This makes me remember of a scene in the begining of the movie "American Beauty" where Lester keeps smiling even though he was obviously annoyed (he was on the phone). It's that kind of "fake" that I don't like. Fake smile, fake feelings, fake respect.

I don't think that Bliksem was promoting fakeness though. The focus was to always be polite.

Quote:
I have very different views on customer support/service - yes, fancying them up with "Yes sir, No sir" is fine for some clients, but most clients just want results.
True enough. I loved reading the presales threads over at DIYhosting a few days ago. Answers given within minutes, helpful and to the point -- most of them signed Simon.
 
 
 


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  Post #9 (permalink)   11-05-2004, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ldcdc
I loved reading the presales threads over at DIYhosting a few days ago. Answers given within minutes, helpful and to the point -- most of them signed Simon.
Yep, I love sales and marketing - that's why i am in this business (EIRCA was originally a marketing company only)

The tech-related stuff can stay with the tech staff, but sales is the environment I grew up in (parents own a chain of electrical components stores) and I'll always be as involved in sales til I retire at 45.

When I speak on a sales call, or even in our sales forum, I am careful to be as attentive to the actual request as possible. I don't add the P's and Q's, but politeness is a must.

For around the last 15 years I have always been taught that adding buzz terms in a 'pitch' decreases your closing possibility by 5% per term. I stear clear of that type of thing, and 'cheese', as do the other 2 sales guys with us. That's just my preference - it doesn't mean I'm right and someone else is wrong (as stated in my previous post), i am just a 'bottom line' type of person, and 2100 signups later (over 3 and a half years), I definitely think that approach has worked, for me at least.

Simon
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  Post #10 (permalink)   11-06-2004, 01:17 AM
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Quote:
I'll always be as involved in sales till I retire at 45.
Now that's a goal all right. Retiring at 45! Hopefully you'll be a very wealthy man by then!
 
 
 


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  Post #11 (permalink)   11-19-2004, 04:54 AM
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Wow! Thanks for the great post! Looks like you know it all!
 
 
 


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  Post #12 (permalink)   01-07-2005, 05:29 PM
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From what I have seen it is different in the UK then the US. "Have a nice day" seems to make UKers think you are fake, and puts them off, where as in the US it is expected. Just an insight...
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  Post #13 (permalink)   01-07-2005, 05:37 PM
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What do people from the UK see as appropriate? Is a farewell message like that not used at all?
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  Post #14 (permalink)   01-07-2005, 11:24 PM
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Bliksem, that's a very good article - good topic, good organization, nicely written. And really, it applies to any service business, not just to webhosting.
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  Post #15 (permalink)   02-17-2005, 11:41 AM
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Really a good post nice job BliksemHosting
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