Being a webmaster or site manager, you get used to working nights, weekends and yes holidays like the 4th of July. (If you want to do right by your clients, that is)
Take yesterday for instance. Most people were off for Independence Day. We on the other hand were working and doing an install for a client. As we didn’t want the client to be down at any point during normal business hours, the 4th of July is a perfect day to do an install. Now although we started just after midnight on Sunday, we didn’t get done until about 9:30 AM with all our install, and testing was completed by mid afternoon.
Now don’t take this the wrong way, I am not complaining. That is the job in a nutshell. When you manage people’s websites, you need to do what’s best by them. This means as little downtime as is humanly possible. Of course there are times when servers go down or horrible things can happen like hackers. These are things are beyond our control though we take every safeguard and measure we can to keep our clients safe. No, I am talking about normal best practices. Do not be down during business hours. End of conversation.
I like to talk say there are things that differentiate companies in a crowded market. The willingness to work around your client’s schedule, and do things at times which are not convenient to you, this is an example of what I called differentiators (if that’s a word).
Unfortunately, most web companies are really only interested in the “sexy” things in my business. They love doing mockups and showing clients pretty images. But in terms of actually managing your site after the launch, very few companies in the world specialize in this aspect of the business today. Why? The answer is simple, this type of work is not as fun as painting pretty images for clients. This is down and dirty, nuts and bolts work. But this is what make websites run. This is what keeps websites always improving and not out of service during peak business times.
So, our holiday may have been delayed as we worked most of the day. By the time we stopped and took a break for some barbecue and to enjoy the family time, the day was mainly gone. But at the end of the day, like most days, we know we did the right thing by our client. We will continue this policy, as that is what drives us and has made us the top website management company in the world. Now I know that comes off as boasting, but we stand behind our boasts with action. If you are not happy with your website management company, contact us today, we can help.
One of my proudest metrics is our client retention rate. Since I have been in business dating back to the mid 90s, I have retained 98% of my clients year to year. Typically, if the client leaves it is because they are going out of business, have a family member who wants to try their hand at web development and design, or have received a deal too to be true elsewhere. We all see these free websites, and packages that sound too good to be true. In the long-run companies grow to resent these companies, as their service is slow or is non-existent. (Funny, people go for bait and switch and deals that sound too good to be true and are disappointed when these fly by night companies don’t deliver quality service or products…)
I believe that you support a client until the last second of the last day they are paying you.
This was evident on New Year’s Eve. (Yes, we work on New Year’s Eve) A client I had for about 15 years or more decided to go with a new company to build a new e-commerce site. My estimate (which was tiny) was too high for her. (she forgot that I had grandfathered her in at our late 90s rates, and never raised her fees and charged her next to nothing for hosting and maintaining her site…) But, it of course is her prerogative and we wish her well. But, wait, it gets better……..Late in the day on the 31st, she sent a request to do some things to her website. Now I think I should tell you the new website was supposed to be ready by now and she had given me notice. But of course the developer had excuses and it was not done and probably won’t be done for months. (Red Flag anyone? Bueller Bueller Bueller) So she decided to pay me and continue with my service for a few months longer. Now 99.9% of the people out there would’ve made her wait till after the new year and probably a few days to a few weeks just for spite. But I made these changes after 5 o’clock on New Year’s Eve, because of that is how we do business. We support clients until the last second of the last day they have paid us for service. That is what customer service is all about, that is what RooSites is all about.
In conclusion: Looking back at 2014, it was our best year ever with great new clients coming on board, and 98% coming with us into the new year. We will always strive to keep our clients happy, and want to retain all our customers (well, maybe not all ;-). Now we know this is not a realistic goal, but by offering the best support in the world, we will continue to stay in the high 90s for client retention.
Happy New Year to you all, may 2015 be the best year ever for you, your families and your companies!
While I love what I do, it is inevitable that once in a while, you run into a client you just can’t please. Trekies know this as the Kobayashi Maru. It is the no win scenario. In Star Trek this was a training scenario to which there is no way to win. In the web business we know this as the un-pleasable client.
Now Web Development, and site management is a service business. There should be no confusion about this. You aren’t doing your clients a favor by building and/or managing a website. They are paying you and therefore deserve every consideration. You MUST do everything you can do to please your clients.
In fact, in my opinion, many of the no-win situations are the fault of the developer/designer and not the client.
To try and assist both sides, here are some ideas both from the development side and from the client side. Hopefully this will help you with your next web project.
Web Designers/Developers/Website Managers
Contract: The best thing you can do is have a contract which spells out exactly what you are going to do, what it will cost and what will happen if you build things not in scope. So for instance if you have a contract to build a 10 page website and it grows to 20 pages, what are the additional costs?
Phases: Break your project up into phases. Then have your client sign off on each phase. So for instance if you are designing a site have the client sign off on the design. This way they can’t come back and want to blow up what you have done.
The never ending project: Now one of the trickiest problems web developers run into is the site that never gets finished. We have all had these projects and they are bottom line killers. We have to pay our team members, but don’t get final payment until the site launches. This too can be solved by a good contract which spells out that final payment will come due x days after all the work has been done (whether or not the client sends content).
Misunderstanding of requirements: Now many times the issue is a a developer just doesn’t get what you are looking for. You can do yourself a favor and save yourself headaches by having a requirements list which spells out exactly what you need. Make sure your designer/developer understands exactly what you need.
Contract: Insist on a contract, and make sure your developer clearly states exactly what your project entails. Make sure you own your code and that the contract spells out what happens when the relationship ends. This will save you angst and money if the relationship goes south.
Sign-off: Make sure you can sign off at different steps along the way. So you don’t get a site delivered not living up to your needs.
Bottom Line:: Notice how similar the ideas for the 2 sides are? Both want a quality product, completed in a reasonable amount of time. While Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru by cheating, If you take steps in advance of a web project, both can be satisfied and head off any problems.
Sadly, in the world we live in, websites are always under threat of attack from hackers and people with negative intent. A good example of this happened the other day. The company which houses my dedicated server was down for almost 24 hours. They claimed it was due to a firmware update in their main data center. Now whether that’s true, or they were hacked and they just can’t tell you for security reasons, the result was the same. My site was down as were many of my customers who are on that particular server. Unfortunately with hundreds of thousands of sites affected, it is very hard to get in touch with hosting companies. Live chat went down as they couldn’t handle the volume, and forget about phones as you sat on hold for hours.
My biggest problem is that my website and therefore my email are on the same server as many of my clients. So when they try to email me, it’s not going to get through. This is a major problem. A company like mine was built on great customer support and people know I always respond. Although some of my clients called or sent text messages, not everyone thought of that and relied on my company email or my support mailbox. So for me, the immediate need was to let people know what was happening and to provide as much information as I had at the moment. I immediately turned to social media and posted updates to my twitter and facebook accounts. Unless their is a major catastrophe, chances are one of those 2 sites is up and running.
The problem is that since emergencies don’t happen all the time (Thankfully), people don’t always know where to turn. For me this is a question of educating my clients. In my next email to my client list, I will be instructing people what to do in the event their website is down and/or email. Unfortunately one of the first thing that happens is people want to go in and change email settings. I always instruct people to first make sure their websites are up and running before mucking around with your email. Typically your email settings don’t change very often. So they should leave them alone unless they speak with me.
Managing websites is about communication. In this day and age you need to have alternate forms of communication as well. Social media is perfect as most people are on either Facebook or Twitter and both have an excellent up time records.
Great customer service is something you never forget. Recently my wife and I tried a sauce, Hissho Japanese BBQ Sauce. It was delicious so we wanted to buy more when the bottle ran out. Unfortunately we could not remember where we got it. So my wife sent an email to the company and asked them where she could buy their product in our area. Well, first off the company marketing person wrote back immediately. A very good sign, that this company cares about customer service. They told my wife where can buy the product, and mailed us two bottles and a T-shirt. (All of this was free of charge) We were so impressed that not only will we continue to support this company, we will tell everyone the story. Their great customer service gained a customer for life, and perhaps more due to our recommendations. (and my blog post :))
I always tell my clients, you may not be the biggest, you may not even be the best, but you can always give the best service. That is a lesson I learned a long time ago in this business. Answer emails right away. Don’t make people wonder whether you’re going to help them, let them know, and reassure that you are there and willing to help. For my business this what separates me from my competition. I answer all emails the same day, and if possible complete support requests the same day as well.
People appreciate great customer service. They are quick to refer you to friends and associates. No matter what you do for a living, this is something within your control. You can beat larger competitors by providing better service. I would pay more to do business with a smaller company that provides better service rather than a big faceless corporation with outsourced customer service.