Importance of Technical Support in Web Hosting
It all started in 1999, when my husband, Amar and I owned a Reseller Hosting account with a fairly large Web Hosting company. We were trying to write an application in CGI Perl with MySQL for our new website. The connecting code, unfortunately didn’t work online, as it did on our local computer. Amar sent an email to tech support, asking for help connecting Perl to MySQL.. The Web Hosting company was one of the largest at the time, and we were expecting a prompt response.
The response took 2 days to come and when it did come, it didn’t answer our query. What happened after that, was a bizarre experience of poor service lasting weeks. Replies went back and forth, each with a turnaround time of over 24 hours.
What we realised at the end of it all, was that techs in some Web Hosting companies were a harried lot, overworked and a tad patronizing. Standard service meant 24-48 hour responses. There was scope for truly professional service, in an industry that was stretched to its limits.
Thats how we started Bobcares. We planned to provide Technical support for Web hosting companies in a 1 hour response and 6 hour resolution. Its 5 years now, since we have started. Other companies jumped into the response/resolution bandwagon. Now, 1 hour response and 6 hour resolution is more or less an industry standard. This change in the industry standard has no doubt, benefited hundreds of thousands of small website customers worldwide.
In Bobcares, we always emphasise on the importance of our work. Managing technical support for Web Hosting companies is like managing our clients businesses. Lets see how.
If a Web Hosting company has over 100 hosting accounts, it means there are a 100 businesses running on that server. 100 businesses that depend on being Online to generate income. Even 5 minutes of downtime, means lost income, credibility and some cases reputation to them. 5 minutes of not taking our job seriously can affect lives. This is a sobering thought and something we keep close to our hearts.
I like to equate the work of a Tech Support Engineer to a doctor in the Emergency ward of a Hospital. When a patient requiring urgent care comes in, the doctor has to be quick, have presence of mind and do all that he can to revive the patient. Once the patient’s vital signs are stabilised, the doctor has to check the cause, and provide medication or surgery to correct that.
Similarly, the tech support team needs to be available 24/7 to revive servers or services that goes down. This is important, so that the websites undergo least downtime. Then, the cause has to be determined and corrected. Just as a doctor is responsible for the life of his patient, the technical support engineer is responsible for the business of his clients.
Here is a typical situation. Someone meets with an accident and is rushed to a hospital. The patient’s family rushes to the hospital, and is anxiously waiting outside for news. One of the nurses or doctors will always make a point to come out and talk to the family, at least to update them on the situation. Has the issue been resolved (meaning the patient cured) ? Maybe not. The doctors are working on the resolution. But the response(an update) is very important to the family’s peace of mind. The technical support engineer’s response sooner technical support engineers understand this, the better.
A response to a Support ticket is an update by the tech to the customer, if the issue is not yet solved. It is different from the resolution, in that a resolution corrects the cause of the issue. If the resolution takes over an hour, the tech should send a response to the customer.
A response shows the customer
- 1. that someone is out there who has understood the situation and is working on it.
- 2. when the issue may be solved, at least tentatively.
Responding to issues gives a great deal of peace of mind to the customer.
Bobcares receives over 3000 Support tickets everyday. Engineers need to diagnose and solve them quickly and correctly. They need to reply to the end users and maintain a degree of quality in the whole process. The logistics behind this is mind boggling, and a challenge we have taken up with a great degree of professionalism.
It may seem like an overkill to many, but we have an entire group of people verifying random samples of our responses and resolutions. We check spelling and grammar, whether all questions in the ticket were responded to, whether the solution was technically correct and complete, whether the reply was clear, whether client instructions were followed and much more. Internal software alerts our managers, even if one ticket went over our response and resolution guarantee. The performance of our engineers is measured and tied down to this system. Our systems make us keep up our word to our clients.
A Web Host that has plans to grow big, and who would like to keep their technical support internal, would do well to design a similar system that will scale as the number of tickets grow.
About the author:
Sangeetha Naik heads Bobcares.com. She is the co-founder of Poornam Info Vision Ltd., Software and IT services company specializing in Linux based solutions for Webhosts and ISPs. Poornam Info Vision is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company with a team of over 140 engineers.
Sangeetha is a Computer Engineer based in India and has over 7 years of experience in the Hosting industry. Her articles have been published both online as well as in print.