Today’s online shopper wants more than just cheap prices, they also want a great user experience. Key to this is the quality of your customer service. Sites which provide this find they attract more new customers and retain existing ones. In this post, we’ll look at seven ways you can improve the customer service you …
Modern web clients have many choices for their hosting company. Gone are the days when clients were limited to a few local hosts. Today, email and low-cost long distance access have given users a choice of hosts anywhere in the country. These hosts have grown in sophistication from the hole-in-the-wall outfit containing a few machines to full-blown server farms. Modern hosts are easier to work with, easier to setup, and much more reliable. Now that hosts are as plentiful as oranges at the supermarket, how do you choose the best orange?
Challenges to “Try Before You Buy”
Like many other things, you never really know when a hosting service is good until you live with it for a while. Some key checkpoints are:
- The first billing problem
- A year’s worth of reliability – a downtime check
- The first technical problem – is the staff knowledgeable, professional, and competent enough to fix the problem quickly?
If your site passes this litmus test, then you are good to go. However, what do you do when it does not meet expectations? Even sites that offer a month-to-month billing plan, which is virtually a try-before-you-buy situation due to low monthly costs, unsatisfied clients must still transfer their sites and begin from scratch with a new host. For this reason, it is economically imperative that clients do all the homework they can before they commit.
Reviews Are a Strong Newcomer Strategy
The quality of hosts varies according to their offerings. For instance, a host that does a good job with a WordPress blog site may not be suitable for an Active Server Pages (ASP) application, or even a simple storefront. This means that unless a client has had a good experience with a hosting provider for a particular type of website or has a trusted friend with the same requirements, then they are virtually a newcomer. In that case, one of the best research strategies is to get information from reviewers. These reviewers have run the gauntlet with the potential web hosts and can talk about the journey.
Different Types of Review Strategies
Modern hosting companies have the option to manage their own publicity. There are various channels, each with their own level of control by the hosts and their credibility. Some of these are:
- Reviews by the host – many hosts offer “marketing blurbs” from satisfied customers. These often display prominently on their home page, or in a rightmost column on all pages. In general, none are negative. Companies generally get these blurbs by soliciting current customers although there is no mechanism to preclude reviews by the host site staff.
- Review forums by the host – a slightly more credible source are support forums on the hosting site. The types of issues discussed at these forums give specific experience points to the client. However, these posts are often heavily regulated. Fair but critical posts do not always see the light of day.
- Independent third party review sites – independent review sites have much more credibility than anything within the hosting company’s purview. These sites generally make their money by capitalizing on their traffic through ads and other marketing instruments. Because their money does not come from the hosts they discuss, there is no conflict of interest.
- Third party review sites, subsidized by the hosts – some third party sites appear like independent sites, but in reality post reviews only by hosts that pay them an affiliate fee. This payment creates a conflict of interest, and the associated reviews may be suspect.
- Social media sites – businesses of all sorts, including hosting providers, are taking advantage of social media as an advertising channel. Because all may participate, including the staff of hosting providers, there is a basic credibility for this source. On the other hand, there is not a mechanism for filtering provider shills as there is for many independent sites, and so many of those appearing as users on social sites may in reality be provider staff.
Generally speaking, the more control a hosting company has over the reviews, the less credibility those reviews afford. Clients do best to follow reviews from sites as far removed from the hosting company influence as possible.
How to Choose a Real Review Site
One way to get the instinct for choosing a real review site is to study Amazon.com. Because Amazon’s reputation determines the level of their repeat business, they are careful to maintain the integrity of their review system. Some key signs are:
- The review profile – like Amazon, many review sites post a histogram for each listing. This is a bar chart ranging from the highest rating to the lowest. A good product will be top heavy. A legitimate review site will not all have top-heavy histograms.
- Common language – a give-away of influenced sites is common language among the reviews. Although a few of the reviews may be negative to add credibility, a similar tone in the writing indicates the reviews are all coming from the same person.
- Reality check – most affiliate sites will have some notable no-shows. A hosting review site that does not include such top-tier providers as PureHost (formerly Dell hosting services), KnownHost, WiredTree, or FutureHosting are likely affiliate sites.
Case in Point: WebHostingGeeks.com
WebHostingGeeks is an example of a very-convincing review site that is still an affiliate site. They say they do not fake reviews, forge ratings, or hide anything (such as affiliate links.) They talk the talk, and use sincere language. They are very convincing. However, a savvy client with a little time to research will soon find that they do not pass the checks listed above that are necessary for a real review site.
Review the Reviewers
Perhaps one of the best ways to get a quick sense of a review site is to get a review on it. By searching the keywords “Review WebHostingGeeks”, clients can find several sites that explain that WebHostingGeeks is in fact an affiliate site.
Today’s environment of high accessibility has made a mindset of caveat emptor more important than ever. Sites that purport to be independent but in fact are not underline the importance of careful research. Those searching for the right hosting provider on the first try should focus their efforts on truly independent third party review sites.
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Hosting service provider Code Spaces had most of its data, backups, machine configurations and offsite backups either partially or completely disappear after an encounter with an unknown hacker.
Customer satisfaction as we know is an integral part of a successful business. The other day when I was talking to one of my friends over a coffee, he told me about the kind of problems he was facing with … Continue reading
Customer satisfaction is one of the terms that’s context has been emptied because it has been used so often without understanding the real meaning. Many companies spent huge sums of money to collect customer satisfaction data (CSAT) to analyze it further to understand the end-user experience. However, many of the companies fail to understand how to collect the data systematically and how to analyze it correctly.
Since the data that is collected will be the basis of all the decisions the company will make, the first step is to ensure that the data is properly collected. You have to make sure that the best practices in survey design and administration are employed. You also have to make sure that the data is representative. With this, I mean that you should not only collect data from some type of customers, such as the lowest/highest budget, or most/least worked with. You should collect data from the whole spectrum so that you will have an accurate representation of your customers. Otherwise, you will have skewed data, which will be misleading at best.
Second, you should know what you will do with the data. Although this looks like a no-brainer, many of the companies do nothing more than grouping and averaging data. This grouping and averaging hides many details and mislead decisions. You have to find appropriate and relative metrics to analyze data. Only with these metrics you will be able to measure different types of customer feedback and different levels of satisfaction.
Attention to minute details and individual occurrences is as misleading as overall averages. Zooming further inside the data to find details makes you lose sight of many trends and systematic occurrences. This leaves you trying to find and correct something that affects tens of people and leave things than affect hundreds or thousands. The best thing to do is analyzing trends, finding out systematic and/or correlated occurrences and then finding and eliminating the root causes.
When you spot root causes, there are three things you can do to eliminate them, which are changing/evaluating processes/workflows, training people to understand what is important and improving/optimizing resources.
The first thing to do is evaluating your processes and workflows and changing them when and where necessary. If your CSAT data is pointing at some problems, then start analyzing the processes and workflows that may lead to such problems. Most of the time, we-always-do-it-this- way masks many of the problems that lead to poor processes and customer dissatisfaction. Be bold and question your processes and workflows. Think about the possible ways to do things better. Think what you can do about the call center workflow when customers report excessive waiting times and being transferred from one staff to another. Maybe you need to rearrange workflows, maybe you need to introduce detailed processes or maybe you need to introduce new set of tools, such as a real-time collaboration platform.
When you are evaluating your processes, it is highly possible that you realize that your staff does not have the knowledge they need to overcome certain problems. Following my question above, it can be highly possible that better trained level 1 support (call center staff) could solve the problems on the spot rather than trying to connect to level 2 support. Or you could see that there is a knowledge gap between level 1 and level 2 support staff, which leads to transferring calls between support teams, increasing the waiting time. Maybe it is the level 2 support staff that should receive the training.
Many organizations fall into the fallacy that once the staff is hired and trained, they know what they are doing. However, business conditions and customer expectations change and the training has to be renewed. You should approach training in a structured way: it should be continuous, tied to business processes, mapped to desired outcomes, be part of the annual review, which should include reviews from customer feedback and knowledge evaluation based on present conditions.
Next, you need to optimize your resources. The resource optimization is closely matched to your customers’ expectations. Following our example above, how do your customers feel when they are waiting for minutes listening “all our support professionals are busy, please hold the line” response? What hours of the day the customer waiting times are longer? Does adding more level 1 staff to the – say – 1000 – 1400 hours will reduce waiting times? Do you require more level 2 support people during 1900 – 0300 hours? Or do you need more level 2 staff? Maybe your web site is not able to keep up with the current customer connections? By optimizing your human and machine resources you can match your support to the customer expectations.
In case that you are producing goods, rather than services, you need to evaluate all these with your product development, production and delivery personnel. If the product has design flaws that lead to dissatisfied customers blocking your level 1 staff, you need to involve the design and production teams to the analysis. Again, a properly prepared CSAT survey will point you to the right problems, as well as assisting the teams by understanding the priority features and functionalities and eliminating the unnecessary ones.
As you have seen by now, collecting CSAT data gives you absolutely nothing, and in some cases mislead you, if not properly analyzed. On the opposite, if you employ the right techniques and ask the right questions, it can help you keep your customers satisfied and loyal. From the company’s perspective collecting data correctly, analyzing it in detail and deploying it the right way will have meaningful business results with better performance.
Welcome to our first official customer Q&A post!
In these posts we are going to answer any questions you have and highlight them in the post to try and improve communications.
So if you have a question please ask in the comments?
We will answer in the comments or plan a full blog post if it’s a big question or requires someone smarter than me to answer it.
1. Bobby asked a great question about our reseller hosting plans and Resource Points.
2. Scott asked about the status of our new DNS system and our support of DKIM. A full post will be coming down the road too on the new DNS system as our system engineering team progress on that.
3. Daniel asked for more posts about how a 100% work force works and for info on how our team is divided up. A full post on that is coming soon too.
4. Wayne asked a question about viewing memory and CPU Usage in shared hosting and I explained more about Resource Points since that is a direct measurement of those. He also voted to bring back the forum 🙂