Customer Service and Corporate Culture
You’re thinking about taking that leap of faith and building a web-based business, joining the other 125 million entrepreneurs that populate today’s web. So you talk to some friends, you do a little research on site designers and maybe you even call one. Before you take your first leap of faith, define your customer service goals. What will your corporate culture define about your company. Because after all, corporate culture can account for up to 20-30% of your corporate performance.
Baby steps. No need to jump in head first, right? Right. But at some point, you’re going to go shopping for a web host. Now, whether you’re a total noobie at this HTML stuff, or you just want to migrate your existing site to a host that puts you first, choosing the right host ain’t all that easy.
How Does Your Web Host Treat You?
There are thousands of them. Then there are re-sellers who rent a big chunk of disk space at wholesale and sell it, bit by byte at retail. You don’t have a clue who these re-sellers are, but you can be sure of one thing. They’re in it for the money.
Customer service may be totally non-existent. And you may not know it until it’s too late. Your site designer has built your site on a host server, location unknown. Is your web hosting secure? What type of web hosting security do they offer? Heck, it could be server in some college dorm room for all you know. So, host resellers should be crossed off the list before you even start shopping around.
So, what do you look for? Customer service. You want it built into the corporate culture of the web host. You want every person who works at the hosting company to have your best interests at heart – from the cleaning crew to the high-tech geeks who keep those racks of servers up and running – 100% of the time.
The question then becomes, how do you recognize a host that emphasizes customer service? Well, there are a couple of “tells” that’ll tip you off. Note them as you shop for your web host, comparing low costs, lots of features, customer specials, hand-holding and infinite patience. That’s a host you want on your team. And indeed, your web host IS a member of your on-line business team.
So here are a few things to look for before you sign on the dotted line and get locked into a 12-month contract that sinks under the weight of its own legalese boilerplate.
Check the web site.
If the website text is all about the web host, that web host ain’t all about you. You don’t want to read a bunch of features. All quality hosts provide the same features so who cares.
Instead, read the site text to see what it has to say about you – the client. What steps does the host make to help you on your digital road to success? Can you call a rep any time, day or night? And will that rep pour herself a strong cup of coffee and spend two hours explaining how to install a secure checkout?
Read all about it on the web site. Is the focus on the host, or is it on you? Client care and customer service is all about you. And if client care is a core principle of the web host, you come first – even if that rep has to slam down four cups of Kona to get your shopping cart functioning as it should.
How many ways can you get help?
Oh, this is a definite “tell” when it comes to how a host company treats its clients.
Some hosts only allow you to contact them by email. That’s not good when your site has disappeared from web radar. You want to get your site back on line like NOW, man!
The more ways you can contact your web host, or better still, the more ways they can contact you, shows the importance of customer service as part of the corporate culture of your web host.
At the very least, you want a easy-to-find telephone number.
You want access to the right person when you need it – even at 3:00 AM and you can’t sleep and you have a question and need an answer – NOW. A toll-free number is very comforting, especially for noobs with a list of questions that’s longer than that week’s shopping list.
Some web hosts will call you, avoiding that annoying “Please hold, your call is important to us” time. Yeah, well if it’s so important, why have I been waiting 20 minutes to talk to a rep?
Some web hosts offer a call back feature so you aren’t stuck on the phone “waiting for the next available representative.” Click the “Call Me” link, enter your telephone number and you’ll get a call back – usually within minutes.
Good tip: Write down your questions so you can get the answers you need ASAP. A good rep is a caring rep but he’s not a mind reader so know what needs to be addressed.
How many times do you hear from your web host?
Most of us get an auto-responder every month or three months. It’s the receipt showing the charges that the host just made to your credit card.
That’s about it. Think about it. When do you hear from your web host? If you’re like most site owners, it’s only when you owe them money: they’ve made a charge or, heaven forbid, your credit card has expired and your site will be removed unless payment is made within the next 15 minutes! Not the kind of web host you want.
Look for helpful tips, a newsletter, a series of suggestions in your inbox. (Be sure to white list your web host if it sends out regular industry updates so this cutting edge info doesn’t end up in the spam box.)
A good web hosting provider is totally pro-active and engaged in the success of your business. It costs 10 times as much to acquire a new client than it does to keep an existing client and you better believe that web hosting CEOs know this. They want to keep you happy. Heck, you may even get a holiday greeting card!
Are you talking to a human?
Press 1 for tech support. Press 2 for billing questions. Press three for design support. It’s the scourge of modern corporate communications – especially when it comes to tech support.
And there’s nothing more frustrating than finally getting a techie when, in fact, you want to change your credit card number. “Ohhhh, you need to talk to someone in billing. Let me transfer you.” (Reset the timer for another 20 minute wait. Put the phone on speaker and hope no clients call while you’re waiting for something as simple as changing your billing information.)
So, is there a clear distinction listed on the contact us page? A tech support number? A billing and accounts number? A hand-holder number who will walk you through the installation of a blog to your new site, or help you plan a seamless site migration, complete with a d-base the size of refrigerator box!
A single, toll-free number is a good start but you want alternatives to ensure you’ve got the right person on the telephone.
Also, if you aren’t getting the satisfaction you want from rep A, ask to speak to a supervisor. Still no satisfaction? Work your way up to the ladder, even if it means talking to the CEO. NOW you’ll see some action if client care is core to the corporate culture.
How long has the web host been in business?
A great indicator of how well hosts treat there clients. We tend to stay with those who treat us well. We tend to dump the dogs. So, look for a company with at least 10 years in hosting business web sites.
It says a lot about the quality of client care.
One final note. If you don’t know thing 1 about building a web site, go with the host that provides a lot of tools – plug-in modules, free shopping carts, multiple layers of security – all of the features you need to turn that digital vision in to web-based reality.
Is customer service a core value?
If client care isn’t a core value of the web host, you want out. No contracts. That works for the benefit of the host, NOT the business owners who reside on the host servers. Look for a money-back guarantee, lots of telephone, email and chat features, a bag of site building tools and a human who answers the phone, slurps down a double shot latte and helps you position that vid-clip in just the right place.
Remember, your web success contributes to the success of the web host and smart host owners recognize this. They cultivate it by providing every thing and every one you need to build and launch a successful site.
The client-centric host keeps you up-to date ( you hear from them for YOUR benefit) and, if necessary, you can actually talk to a C-level exec to get your problem fixed or your questions answered. Watch out for these warning signs .
Customer care MUST be a part of the corporate culture of your web host. If it isn’t, guess what.
You picked the wrong web host. Strike one.