The customer-centric approach of the German hosting provider

Custom orientation service

This fashionable word “customer-orientation”! All use it now in their advertizing slogans, at the presentations and on page “About us” on the corporate web-page. However, in real it’s turned out that truly the customer-oriented approach is practiced by very few companies – results of various researches and inquiries give the reasons to suppose the proportion from Pareto’s law: only 20% of all who call themselves customer-oriented business appears to be such in practice.

And the hosting-provider market is not the exclusion. Sergei Dolgushev, CEO and founder of Netversor GmbH, German hosting-provider, customers since 2009 under SIM-Networks brand, shared his experience on how truly German customer-orientation is working.

What exactly hosting in German is?

Netversor GmbH Company has been working on German IT-market since 2006. In particular, one of our profiles is professional hosting. We place customers’ IT-infrastructures in a protected cloud and two up-to-date data centers in IT-capital of Germany - Karlsruhe. And since 2009 Company’s Russian clients servicing streamline all over the world was detached into a separate business under SIM-Networks brand. This idea came up, clearly, from the analysis of the consumers demand. As currently Russian takes by its popularity in the world (on both sides of the Atlantic!) the eighth place, we created a separate business – SIM-Networks.

All our principal processes are tooled for a Russian-speaking customer: documents, support, staff, marketing, etc. Said otherwise, exactly SIM-Networks Company services our Russian-speaking clients from all over the world. We regularly analyze

At IT-markets of the former Soviet Union we offer our customers what local hosting-providers cannot or do not want to provide. For instance, the matter of safety – both physical (we, for example, cannot be removed – we are too far and located under German jurisdiction) and information data protection: it is guaranteed by all, but only very few can provide it. Equipment quality, service quality, technical support is considered to be determinant factors able to turn the customer to necessity (or refusal of) of cooperation with a hosting-provider.

More expensive means better?

Talking about the quality of our equipment, the first I mean is a hardware platform SIM-Networks. Frequently (especially in the low-cost-hosting segment) the hosters sacrifice their truth in the name of marketing: calling their equipment “servers”, install for the customer what is not intended for working in such modes. When you buy in the Internet with the first available hoster a server with a hard drive of 500 GB, practically never you would know the model (!) of such hard drive. And the devil, as you know, is in the details. The same is happening more often than not, but we principally do not participate in this.

We do not use desktop systems or technologies. Absolutely everything we offer and present or customers is professional, expensive equipment from brand manufacturers. Around here you won’t find any rates using Core i5, and 7 processes which are actually intended for home PCs. You won’t find hard drives which, yes, 2 times cheaper than server ones and similar by speed, but are intended for home use, i.e. do not presuppose 24/7 operation.

We work exclusively with the industrial format equipment. This regards to random access memory, processors, hard drives, controllers, operating systems – everything that may concern the platform and shall operate day and night within long hours. Talking about architecture, we shall start from the postulate: all critical nodes of our system are initially duplicated. We did not built the system in parts – step by step, piece by piece and soon, something for fail-safety. No, everything was designed and installed in a way that in the case of accident, emergency, any problems it would not - theoretically – affect the customers at all.

The importance of this, it should seem, is obvious for everyone, but truly – the situation is far from the ideal one. Due to some reasons even the largest operators and data-centers have a great deal of faults in fail-safety assurance and they appear, naturally, in emergency situations. We accept the duplication formula N+1. I.e., for each “primary” system the double and one more reserve system (for 1 operating system – 2 reserve ones).

Just corporate staff

The next fundamental quality factor of SIM-Networks is people and staff. We principally do not work with outsourcers. It’s important. No technical or administrative task is performed by people not involved in the company, those who do not work here. Even designer works in our staff.

We initially built our business using such approach. And, once more, we are different from our competitors. When drill down deeper into the market, it will turn up that the technical support of the most hosters and data centers is located on outsourcing, accordingly, quality control gets significantly complicated: under such conditions it is practically impossible to guarantee that your expectations of the work carried out by involved specialists will be justified. This statement isn’t empty but proved with own experience: you invite the outsourcer and it is far from certain that he/she will work with a stable quality, that he/she will carry out this work anyway…

Buying somebody’s working hours on the outsourcing, we cannot be sure that each time the work will be forecasted, uniform and guaranteed. The outsourcer will unlikely go through special training, will not accommodate him/herself to what we need, will work the way he/she thinks favorable. And at worst, if he/she gets bored, feels uncomfortable or any other reasons arises, he’ll just shut the door and go away.

We chose for ourselves such working format that allows controlling all processes and obtain the expected result, where it is actually possible. Of course, we demonstrate high requirements to the staff. Instead we get quality on the output. And we strive for it in all aspects of our work.

For instance, if we Ukrainian telephone number is specified on our web-page, this means that there is an office in Ukraine. Compared to most colleagues specifying telephone number practically in “any country of the world”, in deed people are sitting somewhere on the sidelines of the Universe and all telephones are leading to one spot. Like in film “Slumdog Millionaire”: the main hero sitting in the call-center in India tells that he’s calling from Beverly Hills..? One of key principals of SIM-Networks work: we offer the customer what we actually have; we do not “sell” what we do not have.

The quality is important, not the price

Most hosters make accent on the price, like “good price is our whole”. But the point in that is not whole! For example, the customer hold any business, he/she buys a server for 100 p.u. Due to some reason the server does not operate once in a month, and this comes for the customer, let’s say at a price of 1000 p.u. And there is a server near by for 150 p.u. operating within all days of the month. In this case the customer understands at simple mathematics level what he/she pays for.

Certainly, everything depends on business needs and stages of its development. Everything has the right for living. Business models with the low expenses priority above other important parameters - reliability, flexibility, etc. – as widespread as others are. For such companies we are definitely not so good alternative. SIM-Networks is chosen by the clients therefore potential losses from non-professional, inflexible, disloyal work of IT-vendor is unacceptable luxury. And it may not be necessarily large, complete business, it may either a start-up.

In decision-making whether cooperate or not the following plays the role: firstly, the price of problem consequences, and secondly – qualification and experience of those people are working on the side of the customer. Administrators and programmer have been working with cheaper system realize what they can expect in the “world of cheap hosting” and most just don’t want to mess with this.

It would be rather not to tell the very German low-coster that the hard drive is dead and it shall be replaced; it would be rather not to make long and boring excuses that you do not send them spam – somebody just hacked your web-site, it was fixed, and here you are, unblock the servers which is blocked immediately without any warning.  They do not want make explanations for accounting office and someone else that the invoices for payment shall be established exactly like that but not otherwise. And so on, and so on…

The customer seeks not only for technical resources at the comfortable price. The part of users is interested in something more – work with high class reliable brand equipment, flexible approach to settlement of their tasks, loyalty, transparency and predictability… All this shall be called “customer-orientation”.

The key point is to provide the service, but not to sell

True customer-orientation may be checked with sampling method only. We checked by ourselves, are checking and continuously making sure that the most of our competitors are not customer-oriented: at best they try to work “from the customer” only where they are truly can, but this is too petty range of opportunities.

Let’s starting with that by the request of something non-standard most of the companies offer what they have trying their best to “sell a pup” the very this not trying to get closer to the result described by the customer. Everything is happened under the principle: “the key is to sell, and what will be next is not my business”. Sales department is acting out of touch with the other subdivisions. It is important for salesmen to “sell a pup” (the exactly “sell a pup”) a service so that to get from the customer firs money and put a “tick mark” in a sales plan.

Everything is happening further, does not worry the sales-managers absolutely. Such situation is peculiar for SIM-Networks competitors both at the RF and CIS markets and in other countries. They expect always on short-term cooperation only: agreement, first check and that’s all! Further nothing worries them – the customer paid and then let technical support deal with that. And technical support in its turn tells, “So, you were sold that, and cannot offer you such…” – or something of the sort. Of course, this approach has noting with customer-orientation in common.

SIM-Networks has built everything on continuity: we do not chase after short sales, we do not chase after fast profit, not so much for us the first customer’s payment is important, but his/her following ones.

Technical support shall be good

And talking about technical support – yes, we truly consider it to be the third important component of the customer-orientation. This was checked on our experience, on the experience of our colleagues, friends and competitors. Would in the technical support the person aimed at the customer’s problem solution – it is a bad support. If the employee of the technical support does not understand what the customer is talking about – it is a bad support. If the customer requiring immediate solution of the problem shall wait for technical support start working (the next working day or working week) – it is a bad support.

There are a lot of examples from life when communication with technical support service gives raise not to the solution of already existed problem, but raise of new ones. That’s why SIM-Networks initially accepted the format of technical support working hours: 24/7/365. Yes, we are working on holidays, weekends and at nights. Remember, I mentioned that our Russian-speaking customers are located in 56 countries of the world and on three continents? Yes, it is different time zones, different calendars with various holidays.

For example, Thanksgiving Day in the USA, the fourth Monday of November – national holiday, when everybody has festive. In Russia or Ukraine the 7th of January – Christmas, holiday as well. In Iraq, on Bahamas, in Argentine and Brazil where either or customers are localized – their own holidays. But we think that technical support is a “first aid” which is in spite of calendar day, time of the day, weather or personal wishes cannot leave the customer face to face with his/her problem.

Our principal task is to justify customer’s trust, to be successive in everything during our cooperation, in everything we promise him/her starting from the first contact.  That’s why we pay careful attention to the qualification level of the employees of our technical support. Taking into account our multi-language factor our technical support is speaking currently in four languages.

There exists a long-standing phrase “company’s image”. De facto it is a representative mission laid now upon the secretary, then upon reception, or front-office. However, I tend to consider company’s image as not the person, but the main principal whereon the business is built. SIM-Networks’ representative is its customer-orientation. In German pedantic and fundamental.

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