View Full Version : Customer support for newbie webhosts

08-07-2005, 11:12 AM
Quality support increases customer retention, which is as important as customer acquisition for a webhosting company. However, a startup webhosting company should be aware of the available options.

While deciding on how to provide the support, the same rules don't apply everywhere. Larger hosting companies should be handled differently from smaller hosts. If you are a newbie, ask yourself the following questions:

1) How many hours can you spend daily for providing support ?
2) What is the level of technical skill you have ?
3) What is your support budget ?
4) Are your clients more technically proficient than you are?
5) What are the technical services you would like to provide ?

The answers to the above questions will help in deciding what support system is to be used . Let's see how the answers to each question would influence the plan .

1) How many hours can you spend daily, for providing support ?
A proper customer system can give you more time to spend on other departments like marketing and sales. So when you are designing the customer support system, you should decide on how much time you should be spending on providing support .

What happens if there is not much time available for support? For a startup company, spending just 3-4 hours per day would be more than enough. Since there would be few support queries coming in, it wouldn't be difficult to handle all queries . But here instead of concentrating on replying to each email or phone call, start building solid self help options for customers . Build a knowledgebase and also provide tutorials . A new hosting company with well laid out tutorials and walk-throughs give a better impression to the clients. It has been observed that there is a 60% reduction in the number of support queries coming in once the above tools are provided .

What's advised is, instead of trying to run a 24x7 support system, concentrate on providing self-help-support for customers. A customer will appreciate a site that says "Customer Support from 9am to 5pm" along with self-help support documentation rather than going 4 the more expensive 24/7 support when ur business is small. With competitive pricing this would paint the company to b one run by a professional rather than a newbie.

2) What is your technical capability ?
Many startup companies r run by a single owner who juggles the roles of sales, support and billing personel by himself . Support is 1 department where his technical skills will be tested daily. Single owners who are not technically ready will end up losing more money and time which otherwise could have been used effectively for growth of the company .

The support determines the customer retention factor , which is the deciding factor for the company's growth . Hence it should not be neglected . It's okay to try your luck with 50 or so clients. But once your clientele grows to over 100 , get a better system running . If you are not familiar with the systems involved, contact any outsourced tech support company and get a single tech from there to get the system ready . You just need a dedicated tech for 12 hours to install the system for you . Make sure that you get the following services done by the tech:

1) Ticketing System / Help desk installed
2) Backup procedure installed ( if not available already )
3) Customer Contact Form on your site installed .
4) Security auditing of your server .

All of this will cost you very little . Once done, you can start providing quality support for your customers . Remember to get the tech from a good company, as there are many out there . A few are Bobcares , touchsupport , actsupport ( Dont forget to checkout the testimonials of their customers before coming to a decision ) .

There are a lot of newbies who would like to take care of their customers themselves . The problem is most of the issues that can be solved by an experienced person in 10 minutes will take an hour or more for a non-technical person. This will leave a bad impression for a startup hosting company .

If you are technically good , then have email-based customer support . That'll help archive all communication , and also give time to think twice before providing a response . As a startup company , it's a necessary safeguard to read through what you are responding to before sending it . The problem with chat/phone is that your knowledge-level gets thrown open infront of the customer . A single mistake in the response can bring in a bad reputation.

3) What is your support budget ?
Like in any industry , the amount invested can make a major difference in webhosting too . Just in the support department , there are a lot of things that could be done if there is a lot of money at your disposal .

Having telephone support is the best option . Clients can be handled better over phone than through any other media . Nothing can beat the personal touch a telephone conversation can provide . On the negative side , you'll have to prepare for understanding all kinds of pronunciation and slangs . This could become difficult as you retain customers that are from different parts of the world . Also be aware that phones have to be attended even if you are vacationing with your girlfriend on a lovely beach .

With more money , you can setup a nice informative site and tutorials . Having flash based Howtos can be of real help for the users . Further, having a professional looking tutorial will make customers at ease with the services . Also spend money once in a while to get the servers audited for security and resource management . Many outsourcing companies provide this service at low rates like $12 per hour.

4) Are your clients more technically proficient than you are ?
A good businessman will know who the future customers are going to be . Market study prior to starting a business is needed in webhosting too . Decide whether the services are to be offered to hosting novices or power-users . Knowing your customers will really help in providing efficient support.

Hosting novices prefer to go to the companies charging much less . Their requirements are much less , and their sites would consist mostly of static HTML pages.Give phone numbers to clients on a need-to-know basis . Together these services will comfort the newbie . But it's not recommended that you have a user-forum in this situation . There was a company that setup a user-forum , but ended up getting bashed on a daily basis for no fault of their own . Newbies do more worrying .. hence its best to keep them seperate .

Power-users are those who use a lot of resources and services ( SSH , CGI , ASP , Java , Coldfusion ..etc ) . They make the best use out of the resources available , but at the same time are experienced and often patient . In case the power-users are being targetted , get a geek ready. Otherwise, more time would be spent on googling than answering support queries . A tech guy who is experienced on the services provided will make life easy .

5) What are the technical services provided ?
A hosting company will use a lot of software and hardware that are technically complicated . This includes Control Panels , Server's Operating System , Coldfusion , Java , ASP .. etc . Selection of the services that are to be offered will influence the support department too .
Technology changes fast , and it's normal to be forced to update the software and servers quite often. But a frequent change and upgrade can cause a lot of downtime . Users would also get agitated over it . There would be a rain of support queries after an upgrade or change . If a control panel like CPanel is being used , which updates every fortnight , you would have to stay on your toes all the time. Be selective on the services and prefer using software that requires a minimum of changes . Plesk, another control panel , is a good example for it . Once installed Plesk would not require a change very often , which means less support queries.

Further , for a starter its better to start with limited services . This will help in getting a solid support base , and as the company grows keep adding new services . Also update tutorials , and problem solvers as new services are added .

Selection of the best Support System
Support System

1) Email based Helpdesk / Ticketing System

Efficient, Archivable

2) Telephone support

Realtime, Personal Touch
Costly, Non-archivable

3) Chat Support

Realtime, Zero charge Difficult to track issue & handle multiple users

4) User Forum
Less time required, Zero charges
Non-realtime, depends on user's skills . Too open

5) Knowlegebases-Tutorials-Problem Solvers-Howtos Cheap, Easy for users .
No personal touch, Static solutions .

Each of the above options have their own advantages and disadvantages as shown . The best support would have all the above options , 24x7 . But that's a really costly and time-consuming way of providing support , especially for a starter . Hence it's not advicable ( unless dad is giving up huge pocketmoney to spend on this.. )

Support is just not about responding to customers , it includes how support is provided . Having a complete support system running, with a professional touch added to it, will make a great impression on customers . Add to it a competitively priced package and then there will be nothing that can stop this mushroom from growing into a tree.

09-04-2007, 04:32 AM
your informations is most important i have sned to may all friends as forword. thanks again!

10-04-2007, 11:31 AM
Thank you very much!
The analysis was very helpful, and i have informed my friends about this!

03-12-2014, 03:46 AM
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