Recently, while spending some time in the hospital with an oxygen tube in my nose, I changed a few perspectives. Near death experiences tend to do that. I maintained my customer satisfaction because I was able to continue respeonding to support requests and emails. With my phone, I am able to perform 85% of my job from any bed and 98% of my job for customer support because the main knowledgebase is kept in my head and the accounting and web stuff is now all online.
When composing an email reply, I have the luxury of reading what I’ve typed before I send it. I can check the squiggly red underlines to correct spelling. I can re-arrange paragraphs and combine points before clicking send. I should add that I often don’t do any of those things, but my point was, via email you can always take the time to look good and profressional — if you want to.
If the support call arrives via the aging technology of landline voice, none of that applies. I don’t get to take my time. I am surfing live on the edge of now and everything I say is both first and final draft. It is heard as spoken in a rare moment of shared NOW.
All my support web sites now include a live agent text chat option at the bottom right, which is a combination of these two mediums.
This means, if you’re looking for Frogstar support or Orange Shirt support, or NetBound support, you’re getting me, one way or the other.
My customers for the most part seem to know this, understand it, and may even go as far as to say that is why they have stayed with Frogstar support, many of them for over 20 years now, continuously. We have evolved together as the Internet grew from a new toy people were not sure about how they’d integrate, to the tool it is today, that peole question how they ever lived without. Many of them know about as much about how it works, as they did back then, because they don’t need to. Their personal IT guy takes care of all that “stuff” for them.
That’d be me.
Every so often, while supporting someone I’l say or type something, and when I see or hear it come out of me, I’ll think that concept is a good one. I’l have to remember that. One of my favourite examples of this, was how I started describing the differences between POP and IMAP email, because as phones and multiple device email needs arose, people were always confused.
On other web sites, they’d go and read a long FAQ or help page, but in my world where stories are king, I liked using analogies. I remember the first time the postal service was used to describe the concept. It wasn’t planned, but as I started the story, it just worked, and over time as I retold it, it became polished and my main way of taking a problem they probably didn’t car about knowing, to a cute story that made sense.
Most recently, and the example I am blogging about now, is the single line I offered to a customer as an answer to her need. I wasn’t personally familiar with this particular person, although the company she was calling from has been a client for over 15 years. I do less for them these days because their budget for high design exceeded my talents 10 years ago, and so I don’t handle their web site or emil, but I do manage their internet domains.
The client asked me the one task I hate hearing clients ask.
“May I please have the access password for our domains?”
The reason I hate the question, is because it is almost the only one task remaining, where my answer has to be “No”. Not only do I hate that, but not being able to have access to domains is a red flag scary concept to most customers. That single “No” can start a lndslide of doubt and concern. Companies can’t afford to NOT have access to their own inform,ation. An accidentally lost popular domain could cost millions of dollars without that being too significan’t an over exaguration.
I am still forced to answer “No”.
When we started this company, the three of us were at different places and I became the front face and voice of it while the others handled the technical and sales. The Internet was so fresh, 100% of the customers were still dialing in on land lines with modems. There were very few hosting choices and unless you were online, you could have a hard time finding out how to get online.
Almost no companies had dedicated tech departments or even an IT guy on staff, and when I say no companies I am referring only to thoise within my circle of influence. The small 1 to 10 employee sized companies where I was actually their on-call IT guy.
In the start, it was a pretty easy sell to convert these onsite support clients into hosting clients simply because it was actualy my job to find them a host and set everything up. At that time none of the execitives or staff had any interest in understanding the Internet. They just wanted to get online, and pay an invoice. If I had the chance to start it all again, I’ve have charged double and they would not have blinked. I found out much later many people doing similar things were charging tripple and quadrupple but that was never me. I was the guy that actually got more reward from giving things away than being paid a fair wage. I wanted enough to pay the bills, hve the newest phone and pay the rent.
My tech guy, a friend from back to our high school days was one of those rare and lucky kids that found technology and blended so well, he would code progrms, and for a break, would code other programs. I’ve known about 5 and all five have done work for me at some point. I was the perfect match because I knew how to liason with the user, and back in the 80s and 90s, most of those guys didn’t communicate with humans a ffraction as well as they did with the keyboard.
He wrote our initial needs softwarre from scratch, exactly the way he wanted it to be, and although parts have been rewriten and patched and modified over the years, it was still a very propiritary system written before even the concept of a user accessible front end was a concept. The idea was offencive almost and even if a front end user interface had existed, I certainly would not have given any client access. Email and DNS was not onl;y complex beyond comprehension, it was also vunerable to errors that coukld cause massive delays or even those dreaded domain losses.
Snapping back to current times, the clients are educated. The software is user friendly, and the clients expect to be able to do it themselves. Many by now have an IT department or at least – the techie person in the office everyone relies on. Hearing a NO to user access is unheard of.
I was about to say No to this client and in my head, I could see the possability of that one word being a deal breaker that might cause me to lose a $1000 a year contract. Naturally, the smart answer was;
“Yes of course… but are you sure you need them? Frogstar’s pride is that we were developed from day 1 to be your personal IT department and dod everything for you. It’s kind of our thing to be the single phone call. Since you are in control after the DNS point, there really isn’t much that you need the access for. I can certainly make any changes you might have, with the safty and security of 20 years experience. If you still need access, I’ll get it for you.”
I got lucky. She still wanted the access, but she wanted to change the actual DNS NS servers too, so I did that first, and gave her TOP LEVEL access which really only allows here to change the contact info. Our propietary system is for DNS that we host… and I’d still have to say NO when somebody asks for that.
Luckily, I am the liason with personality that can go through that speach above and talk most people out of the need, but I see that tide changing and so we’ll have to lose some features and capabilities and eventually give in to a CPANEL type DNS system with front end access.
Moments after that call, the idea wrang into my head again. If I am hard selling the personality based hosting company where you’re paying to have us (or me) do everything for yu almost as if I were your go-to staff IT Guy, then the idea occurs to me that I may not actually need to own the hosting back end anymore. My customers still don’t care as much about the hardware and specs because they have a trust that their IT guy is taking care of that.
In fact, transitioning from a hardware dedicated hosting company with high overhead to a human based company in charge of all the same functions but on an existing established host, gives the client the best of both worlds. They no longer have to debate and justify the merits of a big company bs a litle company. They can have both, and still be a quarter the prices they’d be paying for somebdy else, and a sliver of a fraction they’d pay a dedicated IT guy who would probably lie and over complicate his descriptions just to justify a staff position for a jb that requires less than 15 minutes of work a day or less for an average small company.
The point of good Internethosting with any company isn’t the hardware, it’s the people. You need toknow when you call, yiour needs will be met, yiur questions will be answered, your answers will be undestandable and you can trust them. That comes best when the person you call is the person who answers the phone… every time. If you could choose to deal with the same likable support guy every time you shopped at any store, you’d probably take that option.
Here is my new radio commercial;
Wouldn’t you love your own IT guy? Do you have a guy? No? Really? You don’t have an IT guy? That’s crazy? You gotta get a guy! I’ve got a guy. His name is jJeff. I’ve known him for 20 years. He came to our Christmas party and last fall’s corn roast. Oh man – you gotta get a guy.
You can use mine.
As I proceeded, it occured to me the next logical step is that I could recruit new customers not from the end users anymore, but perhaps a singular support person for all your hosting and domain needs could be just what other IT contractors need, but more importantly, imagine the benefits to everyone if your web desiger was able to sell his or her web sites, and include a guy.
Hey Bob. Do you have a web desinger? Yeah, and you’ll never believe.. mnd comes with a guy>
Ok.. I’ll work on my second radio ad.
—- This has been a streaming though at the speed of my typing. First draft, but it is my goal forthe rest of 2018 and potentially for the rest of my life.
Do you have what it takes to be a guy? Most importantly, you have to be able to talk to people so they like you. Tell a few good stories and your foot is in their door forever. It’s satisftying job to be somebody’s guy – I’ve got over 490 people who know if they call, I’ll answer. I’m ther guy.
Imagine if I actually tried to promote my business instead of 100% referrals. People love to share their guy, but – the future is looking bright.
End of part 1, 9pm Saturday from my hospital bed.