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Tips For Providers

Tips For Providers

NarutoNaruto Member
edited January 2012 in Tutorials

If you aren't doing this, you should:

1) Stay on Live Chat. If you don't have one, get one. If a node goes down and you don't answer tickets quickly enough your clients WILL come here and to WHT to complain about it. It also cuts down on easily-resolvable support tickets. If you require a paper trail or more clarification, have them submit a detailed ticket about their issue.

2) When something goes wrong, say something about it. If you messed something up out of incompetence, at least lie. The point here is you cannot leave your clients in the dark. They feel much better being given some form of response. An ETA, even if it's continually extended. You might think that too many negative posts on the Announcements page looks bad but it's good to do.

3) Remain professional and type as neatly as you can. Stray away from public forum drama. Don't insult people or attack previous clients, ever. Also, no client wants to see a half-ass reply or poor usage of the English language. If you cannot type professionally think of what that says about your ability to comprehend. Do not get too comfortable with your clients either. You want them to believe you have high standards.

4) Do not be greedy. Refunds are good. If a client has had real bad service with you thus far and they want a refund, give it. It may save you from being another horror story on here or WHT. When you return funds to your clients it shows that you are not a scammer. It makes you appear you are doing better off than you are. People are easily turned away after reading a bad review.

5) Be stable. You want as much uptime as possible. It looks really good. If you're using technology you don't understand, stop. Beta test before implementing something. These guys did this, these guys did not.

6) Remain active. Help your clients out. You're knowledgeable aren't you? Post tutorials. Consider an IRC or a forum. (moderate it!) You want your clients to know there is a community they can turn to for assistance. Not everyone knows how to use Google.

7) Be swift. Monitor your nodes! Watch for abusers. Don't wait until someone has to complain about it. Be swift to answer your tickets as well, but remember to be detailed and read exactly what your client said. Answer all the questions!

Note: I hope my tutorial hasn't offended anyone as it was not meant to. It just highlights some of the things I look for in a provider and stuff I hope other providers start striving to do. I currently do not own any services with any of the providers I used as references in this post.

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Comments

  • Great tips! Are you a provider yourself, a wanna be one in the future or just a client?

  • Thanks! I'm just a client.

  • Nice post. It reminded me to start working on our info site again. :)

  • Thanks! Some common sense reminders that sometimes we run the risk of forgetting :)

    IperWeb & Prometeus, Hosting Provider since 1997. iwStack cloud infrastructure
  • vedranvedran Moderator

    1) Having 24/7 live chat is expensive, unless you have no life and you can stay on chat all day or you can hire someone from a third world country who would work for peanuts, but then you'll probably get broken English.

    I'm interested, how are LEB providers doing it? I've seen some offer 24/7 live chat, but I'm pretty sure they can't afford to hire at least 4 support staff you'd normally need to cover 24/7.

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  • KuJoeKuJoe Member
    edited January 2012

    We refuse to outsource which is why we do not offer 24/7 chat. We used to include a live chat option on our site but I stopped using it due to being very slow and buggy. I always keep Google Talk on when I'm online and I provide links on our sites for guests to use it and surprisingly it's used very often compared to the live chat link we used to have. Of course, I only deal with general questions and pre-sales stuff, all other support questions are directed to open a ticket.

  • Even I don't do live chat. You get folks who, if you don't answer within 2 seconds, they start with the abuse when you do come on line. It's like pulling teeth as well trying to get details out of some folks.

    In your case of "If something goes wrong" that's what third party notification services like Twitter are good for. Point folks to that and have a status page and/or an announcement page/blog somewhere else.

    A support ticket system with a decent "Fill in this form" with spaces for the error or whatever information you need is a huge blessing.

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  • KuJoeKuJoe Member
    edited January 2012

    +1 @drmike

    If something is broke the last thing I want is to talk on IM to one person when I can be fixing the problem and/or putting out an announcement for everybody.

  • +1 @Kujoe on that here too. We've implemented many things to let any of us know when something is going wrong; having to allay concerns on IM or live chat increases the time it takes to fix something. Then again, I make Adam do it now, since he's the one who wanted the live chat :)

    @Naruto , regarding #3, my background usually has the mindset that everything written needs to be neat and professional, however, I'm an ESL person, so I remember how difficult it was at first. A lot of our customers do not speak English natively, so when I communicate with them, I attempt to use words that are simple. This isn't to stay that I dumb down my responses, but I try to keep it easy. Think simple English wikipedia vs regular English wikipedia. Just some additional insight :)

    I am no longer affiliated with IPXcore.
  • vedranvedran Moderator

    Yes, but average client wants a live chat. Not only that, they want 24/7 phone support. Somehow it's easier for them to spell out their site URL and error message they are getting than copying/pasting it in the ticket. :/

    We've had a few clients turning back from us because we didn't offer phone support. I'm not in hosting but software business, still it's the same more or less support-wise imho.

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  • That's an interesting angle. We've offered 24/7 phone support for the past 7 months (if you call during night time in USA, we'll probably be groggy, but we'll be there...) but so far no one's called yet. Granted, it's not a toll-free number (on the To Do list) but it's still there.

    I am no longer affiliated with IPXcore.
  • @Naruto said: 1) Stay on Live Chat. If you don't have one, get one.

    Well, you did not define your tips as for LEB providers or if only in general for all providers, but since this is LET, I will have to assume it is directed at LEB providers.

    To the point, this is completely un-needed. You are paying for no support, or a self-managed service, why do you need support, much less extra quick, higher level of support? If you need support, you need a managed service if you don't really know what you are doing. For the few little things the average provider will need to do for the client, tickets are perfect.

    It's no secret I work by myself, which is why I keep my announcements page updated to avoid ticket overload, but really, all LEB providers work with a near skeleton crew, so do you want to barrage them with the same 20 questions as everyone else standing in line for an answer, or do you want to let them fix the issue?

    Hostigation High Resource Hosting - SolusVM OpenVZ/KVM VPS
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  • While a few of you disagree with the need to provide your clients with a live chat feature, that is your choice. It is not a requirement but it is a nice tip when you view things from a client's perspective. My current primary provider has this feature and I love it. Obviously not all providers can or are willing to go through such lengths but when they do it's highly appreciated.

    In @miTgiB's case it would be difficult as he works solo. He can't explain to every client what he's doing while he's trying to do it, which is understandable. Anyway, it was just a list of tips highlighting the stuff I like about particular providers. I didn't mean to imply anyone that doesn't do these things is horribad or whateva'.

  • i'm against live chat, pls no need to drama also on the customer part. I want a cost effective solution (budget, not cheap) so i'm willing to cut unnecessary things. Support among those.

    Google is free and i'm not expecting any support (apart from keeping the node running) so that all i pay goes into hardware, network and no money wasted to teach me basic server management.

    What i'd like thou is a professional help when i really need it, for a cost, even a low one (ie. 5usd per ticket). My guess is most questions ppl ask in their ticket can be answered using google and public forum. So while most of naruto points seem reasonable to me, the first isn't.

    A host has to offer a stable vps, not being my teacher or help me doing my homework.

  • DamianDamian Member
    edited January 2012

    Also building on #4 (or maybe a new point?) is: Be Flexible With Payments. Don't terminate clients on the same day they're due. Send out payment reminders. Better to keep a slow-paying customer than to have no customer at all.

    (edit) especially for those of us (me!) who pay for things with a company debit card, and keeps it at the office. I'm not typically at the office on weekends, unless something goes pearshaped. (/edit)

    I am no longer affiliated with IPXcore.
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  • @miTgiB said: which is why I keep my announcements page updated to avoid ticket overload

    Now that's a sorely missing point with a number of providers here.

    @Damian4IPXcore said: Be Flexible With Payments

    heh I wonder why you bring that up? :)

    When I went through my supermarket management training, we were taught it cost them $500 to get a new customer to walk in the door. While I'm real iffy with that figure directly applied to the result, I do believe in the adage that it's cheaper to keep a current customer than it is to get a new one.

    A point also missing with a couple of providers here as well.

    Now I'm not saying that one should give away the company of course. Of course it's up to the client dropping you that note saying that they're going to be a few days late....

  • A few people on an IRC I attend had an issue with "If you messed something up out of incompetence, at least lie." in #2.

    I would rather be told the flux capacitor went out than not know anything at all.

  • drmikedrmike Member
    edited January 2012

    Of course winding up on your local BBB's top 10 worst local companies list isn't a good thing either:

    http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/action-9-dirty-dozen-list-released-bbb/nHGJn/

    edit: Why does M2Host sound familiar?

  • sleddogsleddog Member
    edited January 2012

    @Naruto said: 1) Stay on Live Chat. If you don't have one, get one.

    Ummm, no. First, live chat provides no means of user verification. Unless of course you want to type your account/root password in there. Secondly, it's synchronous communication. IMO, tech support works better asynchronously -- when requests are queued, prioritized and dealt with. I don't want my workflow interrupted by some inane live-chat request from an unverifiable person. I also hate phones.

    2) When something goes wrong, say something about it. If you messed something up out of incompetence, at least lie.

    Umm, no. That's how you make a bad situation 100 times worse. There's an old saying, "Truth will out." One lie can destroy a relationship.

    3) Remain professional and type as neatly as you can. Stray away from public forum drama. Don't insult people or attack previous clients, ever.

    Providers are often abused on forums. Accusations of "scam!" and "cheat!" are readily posted by users (of questionable identity.) While I agree that providers should not allow themselves to be dragged into idiotic debates, I think they should call "bullshit!" when appropriate.

    4) Do not be greedy. Refunds are good.

    And a lot of clients are bad. Yes, clients who have had a genuinely poor experience should be offered a refund. But the whole refund concept is open to abuse.

    5) Be stable. You want as much uptime as possible.

    What do you mean by "uptime"? The numbers you see when your execute the "uptime" command, or network uptime as recorded by a third-party monitoring service? System uptime can be impacted by things such as kernel updates. So a reboot of an OpenVz node to load a new kernel might be seen as a good thing.

    6) Remain active. Help your clients out. You're knowledgeable aren't you? Post tutorials. Consider an IRC or a forum. (moderate it!) You want your clients to know there is a community they can turn to for assistance. Not everyone knows how to use Google.

    The prime objective of an unmanaged host should be to ensure that your service is functioning correctly and is accessible. Anything beyond that is optional. All those things you mention take time, and for a lowend hosts that's time bled from achieving the prime objective. One of my favourite lowend hosts (who I don't use anymore only because they're on the wrong side of of the NA continent) is http://prgmr.com Their motto is:

    We don't assume you are stupid.

    7) Be swift. Monitor your nodes! Watch for abusers.

    Ah, finally, something we can agree on. :)

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  • Hey @Joel when did you hack @sleddog's account?

  • @Naruto said: Hey @Joel when did you hack @sleddog's account?

    Tips for Kids on the Internet

    • Try to be mature, even if you're not.
    • Try not to make a complete ass of yourself.
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  • Hey man don't be mean about it. No hard feelings, etc.

  • AldryicAldryic Member
    edited January 2012

    @sleddog said: I don't want my workflow interrupted

    You just perfectly summed up bzImage :P

    @sleddog said: I think they should call "bullshit!" when appropriate.

    Yup, I've done that a few times <_< Combine it with immaculate record-keeping, and that's the fastest way to shut down a troll/hate thread.

    BuyVM - OpenVZ & KVM Based / TUN, PPTP, FUSE, SIT & GRE Enabled! / Stallion Control Panel || G+ / FB
  • I actually love it when providers call bullshit. It gives this feeling that they know what they are doing, but they should also be able to admit when they were wrong. Look at BurstNet, they are the best at calling bullshit, but they could use some work on the sorry part.

  • @Naruto said: 5) Be stable. You want as much uptime as possible. It looks really good. If you're using technology you don't understand, stop. Beta test before implementing something. These guys did this, these guys did not.

    I see what you mean but not all Lowendbox providers are as big as BuyVM They don't have a spare node just sat there for testing. Think about it , if a LEB provider puts out a test box adds $100+ to there outgoings each months they have to make up for that $100+ loss some how so the only way i could see in doing this is by increasing the plan prices.

  • @Naruto said: 6) Remain active. Help your clients out. You're knowledgeable aren't you? Post tutorials. Consider an IRC or a forum. (moderate it!) You want your clients to know there is a community they can turn to for assistance. Not everyone knows how to use Google.

    Why are we expected to get all this time from?

  • @Naruto said: 2) When something goes wrong, say something about it. If you messed something up out of incompetence, at least lie. The point here is you cannot leave your clients in the dark. They feel much better being given some form of response. An ETA, even if it's continually extended. You might think that too many negative posts on the Announcements page looks bad but it's good to do.

    I agree with this.

  • NarutoNaruto Member
    edited January 2012

    @DotVPS, you are allowed to multi-quote and edit your posts.

  • Generally very interesting tips, all providers need to abide them.

    Thank you @Naruto for posting these tips.

    HostSnowy.com

  • @stancatswon said: Generally very interesting tips, all providers need to abide them.

    Funny that you mention this when you pretty much broke all of them when you ran HostRail.

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  • @KuJoe said: when you ran HostRail.

    Greek accounting principals

    Hostigation High Resource Hosting - SolusVM OpenVZ/KVM VPS
  • KuJoe I think you had a typo the R should be an F ;)

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  • Great tips and feedback from everyone, I think all of these things are very important.

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