Oh, this trendy term — customer-orientation! Nowadays, everybody uses it in advertising slogans, at the presentations, and on the website in the “About us” section. However, in reality, it often turns out that indeed the customer-focused approach is practiced by very few companies. And the hosting-provider market is not an exception. According to the most common user experience, reflected in numerous reviews, customers frequently complain over many hosters that don't satisfy their expectations despite promises and even guarantees.
But if a hosting provider is focused not only on customers' acquisition but on their retention too, clients get the service that can make them happy. Yes, it is possible. We know examples, and in the interview below, you'll meet with one of them.
Sergei Dolgushev, CEO and founder of Netversor GmbH, the German hosting-provider that serves customers since 2009 under the SIM-Networks brand, told us about his experience on how the way the genuinely German customer-orientation is working
Netversor GmbH has been operating at the German IT market since 2006. One of our core activities is professional hosting. Since 2009 this activity is covering under the SIM-Networks brand. We place customers’ IT infrastructures at two up-to-date data centers in the IT-capital of Germany, Karlsruhe. Also, we have a place in the Tier-III class data center in Dronten (the Netherlands).
Engineers of SIM-Networks develop and create IT systems for business of any size, from startups to international enterprise holdings. Our product portfolio includes SIM-Cloud IaaS, dedicated servers, webhosting, custom servers, private and hybrid cloud solutions.
It seems curious, but the approach to client service traditionally introduced by SIM-Networks, at the IT markets of some countries, is considered unusual, that local hosting-providers cannot or do not want to deliver the client orientation as we see it.
For instance, a critical matter of data safety and physical equipment protection. Many providers guarantee it, but only very few can provide it, really. We — can, first, due to the localization in the middle of the EU, in Germany, in certified datacenters with strict access control. Besides, we implement a range of advanced measures of information security, e.g., protecting data traffic by encryption, or hardware-based data encryption in cloud storage, so on.
We believe that the top-notch equipment, high-end technical support, and client service are determinant factors able to persuade the customer to deal with a hosting-provider. Or refuse from the deal with the particular provider — if the service quality is lower than the customer expects.
Talking about the high-end quality of our equipment, the first I mean is a hardware platform SIM-Networks. Frequently, most of all, in the low-cost hosting segment, the hosters sacrifice their truth in the name of marketing. By calling their equipment “servers,” such kinds of providers offer the customer the weak (often, desktop!), or re-used, second-hand equipment that not intended for working in the high-load server mode. Buying on the Internet with the accidentally chosen hoster, a server equipped by a hard drive of 500 GB, probably you would never know even the model (!) of such hard drive. Yep, the devil is in the details. The drive can be a desktop-class that is not designed for server loads. But the lowhoster will not tell you about it. Finally, you, the customer, will suffer.
The same situations are often happening, but SIM-Networks uses a markedly different approach to building its business. We do not use desktop systems or technologies. All of the hardware and network equipment we offer customers is professional, expensive enterprise-class equipment manufactured by global branded vendors. You won’t find any SIM-Networks’ plans within which Core i5 or 7 CPUs are used, because those processors are intended only for home PCs. You won’t find amongst SIM-Networks offers any configurations which contain desktop hard drives. Yes, these types of drives are in two times cheaper than server ones and similar by speed (that's the reason why some crooked hosters build their configs using these drives) but are intended for home use, not for 24/7 intensive high-loads.
SIM-Networks uses only enterprise-grade equipment. Everything regarding RAM, CPUs, hard drives, controllers, operating systems – all of the platform components which should be highly loaded day and night within long hours.
Sure, we initially design a high-available architecture of our IT solutions by duplicating all critical nodes and elements of our system. We do not build the system in parts – step by step, piece by piece, and after all, add something for redundancy. No way! We develop and install each of our infrastructure solutions in a way that, in the case of an accident, emergency, any problems, it would not theoretically affect the customers at all.
High-end equipment is one of the critical components of customer focus. It seems providers should clearly understand this. Still, for unknown reasons, even the largest telecom operators and data centers have a lot of flaws in terms of providing high-availability, and they appear, naturally, in critical events. We follow the duplication formula N+1. It means, for each "main" system, there is a duplicate and one more as a stand-by — e.g., for one working system, there are two clones.
Employees are the next fundamental factor impacts the quality of the client service. SIM-Networks does not work with outsourcers anyway. And never did it any time. It is critical for us. All range of technical or administrative tasks is performed by employees who are totally involved with the company operating and are cut from the same cloth with our business. Even the designer, account manager, and copywriter work in our staff, not outstaffing.
We initially built our business on this approach. This is another feature that distinguishes SIM-Networks from our competitors. Digging the market more profound, you will find that many hosting providers and data centers use outsource technical support. And the quality management in these circumstances becoming more complicated – it is impossible to guarantee that the expectations from the work of the involved specialists will be met. Unfortunately, we faced this approach and tested it on our own experience that was far from satisfying. I can share our conclusion – when you cooperate with an outsourcer, you're never sure that he will work with stable quality and even that he will do this job at all.
When you buy someone’s working hours within the outsourcing model, you cannot be sure that every time the efficiency will be predictable, the same as in the portfolio of an outsourcer, and guaranteed. Also, it is unlikely that an outsourcer will learn the specifics, or develop the skills that you need because he will work in a way that is more convenient for him using the skills and tools at his own leisure. Moreover, you should be ready that one day he can get tired of his job, or it stops being convenient or satisfy him, or due to some other reasons he just will leave you. This is the naked truth of outsourcing in hosting business.
SIM-Networks doesn't intend to risk. So, we have chosen such a format of work that allows us to control all processes and get a predicted result where it is possible. Sure, our competency criteria for the staff are quite high. But I consider this approach is totally viable because we get an excellent team of top-notch professionals. And we strive for it in all aspects of the work.
One of the essential principles of SIM-Networks is — we offer things that we physically have or can create, and we do not sell or promise anything impossible.
Many providers focus on price, saying, "a good price is our everything." But the bottom line is that far from everything! For example, a customer has some business; he buys a server for 100 EUR. For some reason, the server downtime one day per month, and due to this downtime, the customer loses 1.000 EUR. And nearby there is a server for 150 EUR that works continuously, without downtime, all the month. In this case, the simple calculation makes it clear to the customer what he pays for.
Sure, it all depends on the needs of the business, its strategy, and the stage of maturity (both business and its employees). Every concept, every strategy have their own viability. It is not a top-secret that business models with a priority of low costs over other vital parameters (customer-oriented service, equipment reliability, infrastructure flexibility, etc.) as common as others amongst the market. This kind of company definitely not choose a provider like SIM-Networks. We know that SIM-Networks is chosen by customers for whom the potential loss from unprofessional, inflexible, or utterly disloyal work of the IT service vendor is unacceptable. Our customers can bee found both among large enterprises and startups and SMB.
The downtime price has a leading role: as long as the user is ready to lose the Nth amount while his business processes freeze due to an available server, he will not look for the best solution. But once upon the downtime price becomes too high, he chooses another service provider that can respond to the customers' needs.
There are two key reasons which form the decision on dealing with the hosting provider — first, the price of troubleshooting, and second, the competence and experience of people who work by the customer's side. System administrators or programmers who have worked on cheaper systems know what awaits them in the low-hosting world, and many simply do not want to mess with this. These people do not want to spend three days of their only life to explain to some German low-cost hoster that the hard drive on the server is down and needs to be replaced. They do not want to explain to accounting managers that payment invoices should be drawn up in this way, and not otherwise. And so on, so on, so on ...
The customer is not only looking for technical resources at a comfortable price. Many users are oriented to get something more — to work on reliable high-end branded equipment, to use infrastructure flexibility, to get an individual approach for solving their issues, and get fast respond to their chat requests, to enjoy loyalty, transparency, and predictability of price and quality of services... All this creates additional value for the IT products, and if the provider is ready to provide it to the client, there is customer focus.
The true customer-focused approach can only be proven by trial. We check, verify, and continuously find that most of our competitors are not really customer-oriented. In the best case, they try to build their work based on customers' needs only where they really can, but this is a very narrow range of options.
Responding to a non-standard request from a customer, these companies can simply offer the product that they have but don't strive to get closer to the desired result described by the client. They see the customer only as some source of some money for some time. Their main principle is "sell, get the money, and don't think about tomorrow." The sales department, as a rule, acts separately from other divisions. The leading strategy of salesmen is to “sell a pup,” exactly, selling a service so that to get from the customer firs money and put a “tick mark” in a sales plan.
This situation is typical for SIM-Networks' competitors in the markets of many countries. They always rely only on short-term cooperation: a deal is done, the first payment is got, so, it's time to champagne! Further, they are already not much concerned: the client paid, and other issues are technical support headaches. And technical support, in turn, says to customers: “Well, you see, guys... sales managers sold you this product, but we can’t offer this — we simply have no the parameters what you need...”, or something like that. Of course, this approach has nothing to do with a customer focus.
SIM-Networks builds a business strategy based on long-term cooperation with our customers. We do not pursue short sales, quick profits; we consider the first payment of the customer less important than all of the subsequent ones.
We reflect our customer-centric vision in our marketing materials focused on customer orientation. What service can we call customer-oriented? The one that considers the needs of the client as its highest value. The one that tries to deliver the customer a solution that most fully responds to his expectations. The one that consistently strives to predict customers' needs and market demands.
We are not interested in providing the customer standard service, because it is so convenient for us. We are excited to satisfy the customer's needs because a satisfied customer is the best indicator of a customer-focused company.
Professional technical support is an essential component of customer focus. This is tested on our experience, on the experience of colleagues, acquaintances, competitors. We know what technical support should not be, and from our personal customer experience.
If a support expert is not aiming at solving a customer’s problem, this is weak support. If the technical support employee does not understand what the customer is talking about, this is weak support. If the technical support responds to a customer’s request every other day, week, month, or six months, this is weak support. If a customer needs an urgent shoot his trouble, but he forced to wait for the start of working hours of the technical support (next business day or business week), this is weak support.
If communication with the technical support service does not shoot the current trouble but produce the new ones, this is weak support.
The technical support of SIM-Networks works in the 24/7/365 mode — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Yes, we work on holidays, on weekends, and at night. Remember, I mentioned that our customers are located on five continents? These are different time zones, countries, different calendars with diverged holidays.
For example, in the United States Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Monday of November is a national holiday when it's all weekend. In Russia or Ukraine, January 7th is Christmas, also a day off. In Iraq, in the Bahamas, in Argentina or Brazil, where our customers are also localized, there are local holidays. But we believe that technical support is like emergency medicine, which, regardless of the calendar day, time of day, weather, or personal wishes, cannot leave the client alone with his problem.
SIM-Networks considers the ticketing system the most effective communication channel. Why? We explain in the article Ticketing system is a perfect communication tool for customers' privacy
Our mission is to justify the customers' trust, throughout all the time of our cooperation to be consistent in everything that we promise them, starting from the first contacts. Therefore, we pay close attention to our Tech Support's level of competence, including multilanguage, to communicate with the customers in one language.
You know the definition 'a company representative.' Usually, it means the person burden by a representative mission — either a receptionist, or a top manager's assistant, or the front office. However, I think, this term means not a person but the basic principle on which the business strategy is built. The face of SIM-Networks is its customer focus. As a German, pedantic and thorough."
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