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      Current state of vpsBoard   02/04/2017

      Dear vpsBoard members and guests:

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drmike

GRIPE: Customer Support is not a business option.

11 posts in this topic

Not a gripe with anyone I am working with / clients, but an evolving and growing gripe due to what I keep stepping in during research (read: shit).

I continue to fail to understand why support is an afterthought at best in the hosting industry.

This business is NOT PASSIVE INCOME.

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.

You have to not only sell to buyers, but have to provide rapid and useful presales support and maintain the customer with rapid and useful support when they are a customer. Failing to results in sales not happening, customers doing more chargebacks and long term lack of business.

Apply a per customer support overhead dollar value so you fund support.

I was doing research on a company earlier and realized they had been a VPS company in the recent past.  They stopped doing that because they couldn't provide ADEQUATE customer support.  They flipped customers to another VPS provider, who within several months stopped offering services and for the exact same reason.  Problem is this company and owner did the same thing in other hosting niches over time.  Same bad approach, same fail.

Earlier I had someone (an end buyer) say about how bad support was widely, that other providers typically were 24-48 hour response time waits.

Here's my message to company owners - stop buying yachts, fancy cars, opulent watches and fluff for your ego.  Instead invest in workers that actually show up and do work.  This is business, treat it like that before you find yourself without one.

Again, hosting businesses ARE NOT PASSIVE INCOME.

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Earlier I had someone (an end buyer) say about how bad support was widely, that other providers typically were 24-48 hour response time waits.

LowEndTalk is probably the best place to visit to find both providers and some customers who think 24-48 hours is acceptable (for the first response to a ticket..not even the resolution) if the service is priced below x.xx monthly.

Slow response times aren't limited to small hosts, but for many large unmanaged hosts slower responses (to their free support tier) are part of their revenue generation plan: i.e. faster support is available for a price ( OVH, Online.net, Worldstream, and many others offer paid support add-ons with guaranteed response times in xx minutes).  Small unmanaged hosts generally don't offer premium support packages so you're stuck with whatever you get, and if what you get is 24+ hours before they even look at a ticket the host is going to have a high customer churn rate and probably attract a high percentage of those wonderful people who don't care about timely support (spammers, botnet operators, malware sites, and other abusers).

Quote

Here's my message to company owners - stop buying yachts, fancy cars, opulent watches and fluff for your ego

As a rule, the company owners who think 24-48 hours is acceptable don't buy yachts, fancy cars, or opulent watches because their hosting business barely brings in enough to pay the monthly server bills and so they're working (mostly dead end) day jobs and fitting their hosting businesses into any spare time they can find.  Fluff for their fragile egos is generally their hosting businesses as witnessed by all of the "CEO" and "Director of" titles in forum signatures and the inability of many "CEOs" to deal with irate customers without breaking into tears and filing a fraudrecord report because the customer was angry about the crappy service or slow response times and typed in all caps in a ticket or called them a name (note: the customer very well may be a psychotic asshole but if you ever want to quit your day job and make a living from your business you are going to need to learn how to deal with irrational irate name calling customers without getting emotional)

Q: is there a direct relationship between the owner thinking 24-48 hour response times are acceptable and the owner not being able to make a living from their hosting business?

A: yes

Quote

Here's my message to company owners 

My message is the same as it's always been to new business owners in any field:  before you open your doors write a business plan, spend some time working for established companies in your field, and also brush up on any areas of running a business that you're weak on: finance, marketing, customer relations, human resource management, etc , have adequate startup capital to get you through the first xx months, etc.  I see too many people rushing to start businesses without being fully prepared for running a business (especially in the push button host in a box world) and the result is usually a quick trip to the deadpool.

Quote

Again, hosting businesses ARE NOT PASSIVE INCOME.

My friend makes $8,475 a month just by spending a few minutes a month working from home on the computer renting a cheap server/SolusVM/WHMCS and placing free ads on hosting forums

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Support is easily the most costly expense of a hosting provider so opting to being an unmanaged service drops the prices drastically for clients. We've had thousands of clients and less than 1% of them complained about our lack of 24x7 support, those same people also complained about how expensive we are so in the end I was extremely excited to refund their $2. :D

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31 minutes ago, KuJoe said:

Support is easily the most costly expense of a hosting provider so opting to being an unmanaged service drops the prices drastically for clients.

Unmanaged addresses the type of issues customers can expect to receive support for (e.g.. network/hardware assistance only, no software issues) but whether a service is unmanaged or managed shouldn't affect the response time for serious issues like hardware problems, network issues, entire nodes crashed, etc.  If unmanaged provider A's average response time to these type of issues is 30 minutes and unmanaged provider B's average response time is 24 hours then provider B is going to lose good potentially lucrative customers (e.g. people running businesses, etc) to provider A, and the customers who stay with, or are attracted to provider B will probably be problematic: a higher than average percentage of abusers, more likely to file chargebacks (take a look at hosting forums, a fairly significant percentage of chargebacks and payment disputes could have probably been avoided if response and resolution times hadn't stretched into xx hours or xx days).

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4 hours ago, KuJoe said:

We've had thousands of clients and less than 1% of them complained about our lack of 24x7 support

On average how long would someone wait for support during non staffed times?  Thinking maybe you cover the clock well, even though you don't man the desk 24/7.

4 hours ago, DomainBop said:

whether a service is unmanaged or managed shouldn't affect the response time for serious issues like hardware problems, network issues, entire nodes crashed, etc.

There are a bunch of other things I'd add to this list where responsiveness is expected.  Things like container not starting, IP offline / null, etc.  Bunch of these addons are often enough caused by customers themselves, still responsiveness required.

I think if a company can't offer 120 minute replies normally they should make it clear up front in literature /  site copy and in order emails that support is only available between whatever hours.  But I have yet to see much of this transparency.  Clearly saying such upfront would drive lots of customers elsewhere, towards the competition.

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On 4/20/2016 at 6:53 PM, drmike said:

On average how long would someone wait for support during non staffed times?  Thinking maybe you cover the clock well, even though you don't man the desk 24/7.

There are a bunch of other things I'd add to this list where responsiveness is expected.  Things like container not starting, IP offline / null, etc.  Bunch of these addons are often enough caused by customers themselves, still responsiveness required.

I think if a company can't offer 120 minute replies normally they should make it clear up front in literature /  site copy and in order emails that support is only available between whatever hours.  But I have yet to see much of this transparency.  Clearly saying such upfront would drive lots of customers elsewhere, towards the competition.

It really depends on the situation. Our average response time right now (for the past 10 tickets I think) is 37 minutes. I can't recall a single client support ticket that's ever taken more than 12 hours to receive a response.

As for transparency, we have this nice page that clients see before opening a ticket (unless they open a ticket via e-mail of course): https://securedragon.net/clients/submitticket.php

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11 hours ago, KuJoe said:

It really depends on the situation. Our average response time right now (for the past 10 tickets I think) is 37 minutes. I can't recall a single client support ticket that's ever taken more than 12 hours to receive a response.

As for transparency, we have this nice page that clients see before opening a ticket (unless they open a ticket via e-mail of course): https://securedragon.net/clients/submitticket.php

I like your submitticket page. Realistic disclaimer.  Hoping others follow suit and do similar.

Consider me a math nazi, but if you aren't running 24/7 support  desk and assumed overnight is probably not covered and assuming 8 hours or more is reasonable away state,  how do you average down to 37 minutes?

What is 37 minutes representing?  Time from when customer sends ticket in until point of first response?

I've seen these numbers in other shops, and witnessed the mass delays as a customer.  Meaning the two never aligned in my experience.  Not saying or claiming that, just wondering how you calculate that in your shop...

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37 minutes is the average response time for the 10 most recent tickets so sometimes it can be 3 minutes and sometimes it can be 3 hours. I work the night shift so I'm able to cover the hours my father is sleeping on most days. The main goal for us is to automate as much as possible and provide clients with the ability to fix as much stuff on their own. Short of network/hardware issues (which our data center's monitor their network closely and we try to have as much redundancy as possible with our hardware), there's very little a client cannot fix on their own unless they get suspended for something they did in which case they can open a ticket and we'll deal with it when we're available.

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17 hours ago, KuJoe said:

As for transparency, we have this nice page that clients see before opening a ticket (unless they open a ticket via e-mail of course): https://securedragon.net/clients/submitticket.php

Quote

The main goal for us is to automate as much as possible and provide clients with the ability to fix as much stuff on their own.

Your submit ticket page also has a link to your knowledge base which has 131 topics and many questions can be answered without opening a ticket by reading your FAQs which translates into instant gratification for the customer and  fewer tickets and reduced support costs for the host (note: I'm aware that the majority of online customers don't read  FAQ's, policy pages, etc, and will still open tickets even though the answer is right in front of their face)

The average small host I see however has a knowledge base that is basically useless: typically less than 10 topics and so customers are forced to open a ticket to ask a basic question that has probably been asked a million times already which translates into more time spent answering tickets and higher support costs for the host and longer resolution times for the customer. 

TL;DR all you lazy hosts out their should be more like kujoe and spend some time working on your knowledgebase and FAQ's :P

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3 hours ago, DomainBop said:

Your submit ticket page also has a link to your knowledge base which has 131 topics and many questions can be answered without opening a ticket by reading your FAQs which translates into instant gratification for the customer and  fewer tickets and reduced support costs for the host (note: I'm aware that the majority of online customers don't read  FAQ's, policy pages, etc, and will still open tickets even though the answer is right in front of their face)

The average small host I see however has a knowledge base that is basically useless: typically less than 10 topics and so customers are forced to open a ticket to ask a basic question that has probably been asked a million times already which translates into more time spent answering tickets and higher support costs for the host and longer resolution times for the customer. 

TL;DR all you lazy hosts out their should be more like kujoe and spend some time working on your knowledgebase and FAQ's :P

I think 131 entries is most I've seen in a Knowledgebase of a provider.  Good stuff.

I am with @DomainBop about providers upping their efforts.

4 hours ago, KuJoe said:

37 minutes is the average response time for the 10 most recent tickets so sometimes it can be 3 minutes and sometimes it can be 3 hours.

I noticed the last 10 tickets notice after I posted... Foot in my mouth...

I thought earlier this morning about this approach to calculating support times.  It's interesting when in conjunction with one more piece of data - when that last ticket was.  Would clue someone into if ticketing was then / recently active.

 

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4 hours ago, drmike said:

I thought earlier this morning about this approach to calculating support times.  It's interesting when in conjunction with one more piece of data - when that last ticket was.  Would clue someone into if ticketing was then / recently active.

Good idea, I can easily incorporate this into the script output.

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