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Hosting Discussion > Operating a Web Hosting Business > Web Hosting Business and Legal Issues > A "How-To" on bussiness ethics and attitude: A customer Speaks!
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  Post #1 (permalink)   04-01-2005, 07:47 AM
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This is a "How To" guide on Ethics and Attitude for those people that want to start their webhosting bussiness.I am not a bussiness man but i can certainly comment on it from the customer's point of view.After all a bussiness is successful if it has customers so you might be interested on what they value in a webhosting company.

If you were actively looking for this How To guide you are propably relatively new in the bussiness or just considering to start one. First things First: Decide what kind of company you want to be.What is your target group? Bussineses ,personal homepages maybe? Then decide what you want to offer to your customers and what you CAN offer according to your budget and time you can invest.Keep in mind that in order for yout customers to be happy your company must be happy! Please look into it alot : if you are not satisfied with what you earn or with what you do ,dont expect to give your best self!

Make a list of want you want and then spend some time in forums.Read what other hosts view to evaluate the market ground but also read customer reviews.Do not hesitate to ask questions,remember that time spent in question asking is time saved and customers kept.If you are tottaly new to the internet world and have no idea of computers please refrain from starting such a demanding bussiness because you will stumble in alot of problems.

Once you get a good idea of the market niche you will start looking for someone to provide you with servers allowing you to be a reseller.Here,use the same criteria as a person looking to host his website would.Spend sometime researching the company you are interested in or spend some time regretting your choices and loosing credibility while it is your "mother company's" fault...

Some simple rules:

1)ALWAYS be HONEST.Dont lie about your time you have been around,customers can find out.Dont make promises you cant keep ,if for example you cant offer 24/7 support dont declare you can! Honesty is valued by the customer and please take into consideration that defrauding a customer does not result only in angry emails.There are real life ramifications too...

2) Do not use misleading advertisment...This falls under the honesty part but i have to point it out since so many companies do.Do not fall in that trap...

3)Do not get carried away by the "very cheap" hosting services others offer or for the "penny for a Gig" schemes.Companies that make such offers are not sustainable and vanish overnight! Its much better if your customers pay more but know that you will be there next month for them!

4)Customers value being informed.You may want to set up an "uptime" record and server stats on a seperate server so customers can check if their servers are up and statistics.Be sure to inform your customers for any maintenance,downtime experienced,suspended account,hacker attacks etc.The least this informing can do is save you lots of emails asking "where is my website?".

5)Be "reachable".Try to offer as many options of contacting you as possible.A phone number is a very good choice,if you can also offer it tall free go for it.If you set up a ticket system please familiarise yourself with it and test run it before releasing it to the public.Be sure that if you provide a contact email address to keep it of the server so in the case something happens you will be able to access it.Providing MSN number,ICQ or Yahoo messenger contact details is always a plus...A forum off your server would be a good idea as well.The customer must feel empowered to contact you.

6)As an extra to the above you can provide your name and even address in the contact information.These must be true. From a customer point of view its good to know who runs the server and it really limits chances of fraud.Be sure and prepared that some customers will try to verify your contact information!

7)Dimplomacy and politness if of utmost important when dealing with customers.Chances are that you will have to deal with a broad range of customers ranging from ones that will complain only if you jump up and down on their ribcages to the ones that will be furious and unreasonable screaming that they experienced 5 minutes of downtime the past 3 months! Keep your head cool and never answer an angry email while being furstrated.Have a five minute brake and then see what you can do about it.

8)As an adjunct to #7 keep in mind that Diplomacy means "cooperativity". Human error from your part or the customers/hardware failure//software failure and so on are situations all hosts face.What is the difference that sets apart a good host from a bad host? Good hosts cooperate with their customers to find a solution,bad hosts dont! Never blame your customer even if he was blatantly wrong : this doesnt mean you have to swallow it ,but remember there are many ways to say a thing.

Good example: " Upon investigation of the big server CPU usage ,we found out that a script used in your webpage consumes many CPU cycles so we suspended it while investigating how this could be rectified.We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.Since you informed us that you wrote that script ,could you please check again the code? I have already unsuspended your account and terminated the offending script so as you dont experience more down time."

Bad example : "The script that you made is eating up all of our service resources and thats why i suspended your account.Propably you programmed it wrong,so please dont upload scripts on the server if you have no idea how to do it correctly!"

9) Take some time having a look at new customers...Instant set up of accounts is something to be avoided since spammers are attracted like flies to light.This compromises both your security and performance of server.Pay attention if the first thing a customer does is upload a bulk emailer and shoots of 1000 emails...If a new account containes blatanlty false information dont activate it ,but email the person about it!

10) You can establish credibility through forums.If you become a respected member at a webhosting forum and accept good intented critisism people will prefer you.The customer feels safer by joining with the webhosting services of a well known webhosting community member! It also offers a good chance to show off your problem solving skills,your diplomacy skills as well as answering to customers who choose a forum to protest of a problem!

11) When you set up your bussiness layout ask yourself why people would joing with you and not with X host.Try to get the edge but always stay honest.In order to evaluate if yoru website is attractive ,have a break ,take a cup of coffe and visit your webpage.If you were a customer ,would you be considering joining? If yes ,its ok.If not why? Another idea is to give your bussiness URL to friends asking them what they think about it (you can widthhold that it is yours until they comment on it so you get a more independed opinion.To be honest though tell them afterwards that iit belongs to you and if they had any bad comments ask for suggestions to improve it!)

Thats all for now,i might add to this guide as many more issues for addressing can arise!As a closing notice keep in mind that you should treat your customers as you would like to be treated if you were one.

  Post #2 (permalink)   04-01-2005, 12:29 PM
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Wow great post, very impressive.
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  Post #3 (permalink)   04-05-2005, 11:57 AM
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Yes really nice, thanks alot

  Post #4 (permalink)   04-05-2005, 03:32 PM
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Very useful, true, and informative... keep up the good work.

  Post #5 (permalink)   04-05-2005, 04:12 PM
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Im glad to see these kinds of posts VERY helpful i will try and follow it more my self.


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  Post #6 (permalink)   04-05-2005, 09:10 PM
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Never blame your customer even if he was blatantly wrong

For once, I'm glad to read something that doesn't say "The customer is always right"

I strongly disagree with the basis of that age old saying, and feel it has run it's course, and should now be laid to rest.

Much like stated by Zorgoid, the customer is not always right, but there are many ways you can show a customer the right way, letting them see their error in a subtle way, without making them feel stupid, or alienated for their issue.
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  Post #7 (permalink)   04-06-2005, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ANMMark
the customer is not always right, but there are many ways you can show a customer the right way, letting them see their error in a subtle way, without making them feel stupid, or alienated for their issue.
Thats the way.The customer is NOT always right as the webhost CANNOT always be right. Humans simply Err.

I think the guy that first sayed "The customer is always right" should have stated it more correctly,saying that "Even if the customer is wrong ,dont rub it in his face until he/she starts hating himself " ...I guees this is too long though to be a catch frase.

I appreciate it when a bussiness man that has me as a customer shows me the errors of my ways the same way as i appreciate admiting his errors.Honesty is a MUST but diplomacy has its place.

Some people might disagree with me or Mark. "Whats the downside of Customer is Always right? " i hear you say?

Consider that as there are bad hosts ,dishonest companies and fraudulent bussnessmen there are also bad,dishonest ,fraudulent customers.A "Customer Is always right" approach with them can compromise your server's security,your bussiness and of course your credibility if you dont know where to say no to a customer.If a customer insists on running a script that causes 1001 problems at your server be sure to discourage him and work it out.You could kick him out in bloody screams,its more prefferable that you explain in decent language what happens and how it can be rectified.

Wouldnt it be unfair for other customers of yours not to take action where it is needed in accordance to a single customer's wrong handling,only not to disobey the "Right customer" moto?

That can set you apart from competitors so utilize it!

Also be aware that some customer's expectations are unrealistic! If one chooses a shared webhost plan of your company and starts demanding that you design his webpage (where you dont offer it) ,you install his prefferable control panel for him,turning blind eye when he serially overcomes his allocated bandwidth,giving him shell acces "just to try stuff" and you taking all the time action on matters that is NOT your responsibility ,well is this customer "always right"? I think not...

So let me rephrase : "Customer is Mostly Happy".And in order to do that "Company must be Mostly Happy"!

(I refrain from the "always" ,since so many variables are involved ,some out of our reach!)

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