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It’s the Details That Matter

We like our customers.  Over-the-top customer service is our thing.  There are roughly eleventy quadrillion web hosts in the market today, and we stand out by treating our customers like actual human beings instead of just profit centers.  Apparently people like that — who knew?

Coffee cup with a heartWe didn’t have to hire some research company to figure this out for us.  It’s just common sense.  There’s an argument to be made that good customer service has financial benefits, sure.  After all, when you take good care of a customer, that customer is less likely to be enticed by every fly-by-night “$1 FOR A YEAR OF UNLIMITED HOSTING” offer that comes along.  Because it costs less money to keep a customer than to gain a new one, and because we don’t have to spend time fixing the problem again later down the road, and because a happy customer is more likely to refer new customers to us, our financial picture becomes that much more robust with each problem we solve.  But it’s more than just financial smarts and good business:  it’s just the right thing to do.  If we’re going to take a customer’s money in exchange for providing service, then we’re going to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth — especially when considering that we proudly avoid being the “cheapest host on the Internet.”

So it’s puzzling to me why major organizations, complete with well-funded PR units, do stupid or mean things to their customers.  For example, take the recent case of the lost dog on Air Canada.  It’s bad enough that they lost a dog, but — as much as I cringe typing this out — mistakes do happen.  It’s how an organization responds to and grows from that mistake that really tells the story.  And in this case, Air Canada inadvertently sent back a response that said, literally, that this was a small story from a small TV station and should be ignored.  Seems the PR guy meant to forward the TV station’s inquiry with his own comments, and instead hit the “reply” button.

Now, you can say that the mistake here was that Air Canada simply hit the wrong button.  I say that this minor technical problem is indicative of a much larger organizational problem.  What philosophy exists at Air Canada that would lead any employee — from an entry level baggage handler to their CEO — to even consider a response like this?

What kind of organizational climate have they created?

Many organizations like to drill down customer service to the lowest common denominators.  SOPs, flowchats, and checklists are huge in the service industry.  But these don’t actually improve customer service without an organization-wide umbrella philosophy of actually helping customers.  They might improve certain key metrics such as call times or total-calls-until-resolution, but those metrics can just as easily translate to “your customers gave up and stopped reporting problems because you’re a hassle to deal with.”

Years ago I worked for a large international corporation that patted itself on the back for having an extreme focus on customer service.  This particular company spent a lot of time and energy developing catchy customer-service-oriented slogans and requiring employees to create clever stories about those slogans.  For several years, some genius had the bright idea that the call center employees should paraphrase everything — and I mean everything — the customer said back to them.  The result was the improvement of certain key metrics, but an overall decrease in customer experience.  They had all the pieces of the puzzle, but they didn’t have any desire to put them all together.  There was no genuine company-wide interest in improving customer service, only an interest in improving service-related metrics.

In other words, “fake it till you make it.”

We’re different.  We actually work pretty hard behind the scenes to make sure our customers are well taken care of.  We start by building a reliable infrastructure (you can’t take care of your customers if you’re constantly fixing your servers).  We make sure all of our plan descriptions and promotional details are complete and easy to read.  We don’t bury contradictory terms in the fine print (“unlimited web hosting” — we’ll talk about that another day).  And when our customers do have a question or problem, we get our hands dirty.  We’ll jump in feet first to make things right.  We’ll get it fixed, and we’ll do what we can to stop it from happening again.  And based on customer feedback, people really appreciate that.

Great customer service is what sets us apart from the tens of thousands of other web hosts out there.  I won’t claim there aren’t financial incentives for doing so — we’re a for-profit business, after all.  But taking care of our customers is our overall philosophy that governs literally every decision we make.  From choosing only enterprise-grade hardware to constantly monitoring our infrastructure for trouble to having the owner of the company jump into the trenches and answer support tickets, it’s what we do.

Because from our perspective, at the end of the day, the only metric that matters is customer perception.

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