AT, ST, and CIS: The Nemesis of Customer Service is no Acronym


CharlesM
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E=MC2

 

This is, perhaps, the most readily recognizable equation in all of mathematics. What, though, is its relevance to the web hosting company that is Hawk Host?

 

Customer service is its own form of mathematics. A recent experience that I had with the beast that is Hawk Host's support ticket mechanism confirmed this to me. Allow me to elaborate.

 

First, the cast of acronym characters that made appearances in this latest encounter that I had with the Hawk Host service machine.

 

ST = Support Tickets

CIS = Cracks In Ships

AT = Alberto T.

 

In his posting of 11 July, 2013, it was none other than Brian Farrell who stated, and I quote, "I've said it before but I'll say it again, I almost prefer negative criticism to positive. Negative reviews show me the cracks in our otherwise stable ship."

 

Source: http://forums.hawkhost.com/topic/2987-3-years-9-months-review/#entry9973

 

So, while I post this in the Hawk Host forum here, it's actual intended audience is a subset of just one, single person - Brain Farrell. The purpose of this posting is not to beat Hawk Host over the head. Rather, the purpose is to highlight for Brian why a customer of his company, namely myself, believes that Hawk Host's support ticket system could be improved.

 

Before I continue on, lest anyone conclude otherwise, the real hero of the day was Alberto. It was Alberto, and none other, who preserved - and extended - the Hawk Host legacy of commitment to customer service. It was Alberto who solved the problem in this customer's eyes. Somebody at Hawk Host owes Alberto a raise - and a nice dinner at the company's expense.

 

In the twinkling of an eye, Alberto managed to achieve quite a feat. He elevated himself to Fabian-esque status. Heretofore, it has been Fabian Porter who has set the standard for true customer service at your company. So, how did Alberto T. - this Hawk Host employee who apparently has a last name comprised of but a single letter - manage to impress upon the customer that he should be placed on par with Fabian, in the customer's eyes?

 

In one response, Alberto managed to put an end to multiple problems that spanned several days and multiple support tickets. In his eyes, Alberto was probably just doing his job. There as probably nothing particularly special about providing me a link to the Hawk Host knowledgebase. Didn't Tony Baird actually track down a solution for the customer a full two days before Alberto even entered the equation of this particular customer service episode?

 

The support tickets in question that I created over a span of 30 August, 2013 to 02 September, 2013 are:

 

CHE-951-16100
ZYH-179-19228
VEN-953-87825

 

Hawk Host personnel that I interacted with, via Hawk Host's support ticket mechanism during this span of time were:

 

Austin K.

Tony B.

Alberto T.

 

Why is Alberto T. owed a nice dinner at Hawk Host's expense, from my perspective as a customer? Because it was he who saved me the time and energy and effort that would have been required for me to post on some general web hosting website's forum, asking people who work for other web hosting companies if they could kindly assist their Hawk Host brethren in the web hosting business with figuring out a solution to my problem - a problem which grew, from the customer's perception, into multiple individual problems.

 

Ultimately, a Hawk Host employee finds a solution for the customer, so that shows that Hawk Host's support ticket system works. Right? If that's how one chooses to look at it, then yes, that's correct. But, one does not find cracks in one's ship by not looking for them, or by looking where the cracks don't exist. The customer's perception of a company tends to factor in a multitude of different things, in any given customer service episode.

 

If, in fact, no cracks exist in the Hawk Host ship, at all, then why is a customer of several years (almost four years, in fact) bothering to take time out of their day off from work, a day that they intend to spend going fishing with their eight year old son, in order to get Brian Farrell's attention?

 

If no cracks exist, then why did it take from August 30th to September 2nd for the customer to perceive that a solution was actually found to the problem that they reported using Hawk Host's preferred method of reporting problem's with one's web hosting service?

 

If no cracks exist, then why did the customer in question go to the trouble of creating three support tickets, before the problems reported were actually resolved?

 

If no cracks exist, then why did I end up interacting with three different Hawk Host employees, instead of just one?

 

It would be a very simple matter for me to post nothing, and to just chalk it all up as a problem reported, and a problem eventually resolved, and to go about my day off with my son. But, if I did that, then Brian Farrell and the Hawk Host team would miss what I feel is a golden opportunity to improve their crack detection skills as a web hosting company.

 

But, none of this explains why I - the customer - thinks that Alberto T. deserves a raise, in addition to a nice dinner at company expense.

 

Alberto T. posted a link to the Hawk Host knowledgebase. Big deal. Right?

 

Wrongamundo!

 

The link, itself, is beside the point. The link closed the deal, it brought an end to this experience with the support ticket end of Hawk Host's web hosting operations.

 

Any web hosting monkey could have posted that very same link.

 

Did Austin K.? Did Tony B.?

 

No. Nope. Not at all.

 

Because they didn't, the customer - that's me - persisted in seeking support.

 

When I was told about something called a "bad handler," when I posted a follow-up question asking what a handler is, what was the customer told?

 

When Tony said, two days prior, "I believe I see what happened during the migration the system went to set your password to what it was before and received an error about the characters so it did a randomly generated one. You should be able to reset it via our client area as soon as the migration finishes which should be in the next 24 hours," I posted two responses, neither of which were then responded to.

 

I don't dislike Tony. I don't dislike Austin. Hell, I don't really know Austin, at all. The point is not to rake them or anyone else over any coals of criticism. Rather, my focus is upon trying to highlight cracks.

 

If I had ghosts, who am I going to call? Ghostbusters, perhaps. But, if cracks exist, who is Hawk Host going to call?

 

Cracks in one's web hosting ship, with regard to service and approach to fixing cracks that may, from time to time appear, can, if unchecked, result in cracks to relationships with one's customers. There are web hosting cracks, cracks of a technical nature, be they hardware or software related. Those are the easy ones to patch. Relationship cracks, those are the ones that threaten a company the most.

 

The Crackbuster, today, is Alberto.

 

But, again, why does he deserve a raise?

 

Because, it was Alberto who ensured that Hawk Host's reputation remained intact. It was Alberto who saved the day for the customer. It was Alberto who extended the Hawk Host legacy in the mind and in the eyes of the customer. It is Alberto who I am praising on my day off.

 

There is Fabian. There is Alberto. There is the rest of the Hawk Host gang.

 

I didn't receive bad service. I received some fairly prompt attention, as far as response time to my initial reporting of a problem is concerned.

 

But, from this customer's perspective, opportunities to refine the support ticket process exist.

 

The initial problem that I encountered on August 30th, when I tried to load one of my websites, was a problem that pertained to an application/x-httpd-php message in my web browser. Over the course of the last few days, I learned that I could not access FTP for either of my websites hosted by Hawk Host, that I wasn't receiving any incoming e-mail for one of my domain names, and the problem morphed and grew to where, eventually, my cpanel control panel, which at the start of the whole episode I had access to, I was no longer able to do so.

 

My problems that I experienced during this whole multi-day episode are now resolved, and life as a webmaster returns to normal. My websites are just hobby type sites, so even when I encounter problems with my websites, as seldom as that has actually proven to be over the last almost four straight years, it is never a life or death crisis. Such interruptions do not interrupt any revenue streams. In a nutshell, the world doesn't end.

 

Accordingly, it is worth keeping such episodes in perspective.

 

I'm not mad. I'm not upset. I'm not even really annoyed.

 

I simply want to give Brian Farrell my view, from a customer service perspective.

 

As a customer, the biggest cracks that appeared over the last few days were not the technical problems. Rather, they were in the responses, themselves, and in the way that Hawk Host presents support tickets to its customer base.

 

Getting to the support tickets to view them is tedious. Signing in to one screen is not enough. Thumbs down on this approach.

 

The link that Alberto provided to me was a far superior response than was Tony's, when he told me that I should "be able to reset it via our client area." Which password? Where in the client area? The intimate familiarity that Hawk Host personnel have with their menus and screens - It should not be taken for granted that the customer has that same degree of familiarity.

 

Each and every question that the customer asks should be responded to, preferably by quoting the question first, and then providing individual responses to each individual question. That did not happen during this episode. If it had, then the third support ticket would never have been created by myself.

 

Support ticket systems are convenient for web hosting companies, as a method for tracking problems and problem resolution. They are not, however, standalone incarnations of customer service, nor are they a proper and full substitute for the basics of the same.

 

All things considered, you have a fine web hosting company, and overall, your company does a very good job at providing support for web masters such as myself, if the last four years are any indication, at all. But, as the saying goes, there is always room for improvement.

 

If company profits allow, perhaps someone from the company could go on Wheel of Fortune, and buy some letters and vowels, so that Alberto ends up with an actual full last name. That way, he can reap the full measure of praise that is due him from the customers that he pleases, when he brings resolution to problems that trouble them, from time to time.

 

Have a nice day, gentlemen. Brian, enjoy your never-ending hunt for cracks in the ship of state that is Hawk Host: web hosting company extraordinaire!

 

Me? I'm gone fishin'.

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