Archives for October 2009

Sometimes there are a lot of servers in service. But it is still the service that matters.

I don’t hide the fact that I work for the world’s largest hosting company.  And there is very little doubt that you have surfed on a server that was serviced by our company.

When you have more servers than almost anyone in the world, you can host a lot of sites.  Hosting them is one thing – servicing them is another issue completely.

We are a hosting company with a service problem.  See – we just love serving customers.  Sure, we serve billions (or more) web pages a year – but we do that by focusing on serving customers. People serving people.  Sounds simple.

There are a lot of companies in our line of work.  There are very few of them that are entirely focused on our line of work though (some also sell books, or operating systems, or girls with hardly no clothing hawking domain names,  or search results, etc).  And fewer still that have been committed to a quality customer experience for as long as we have.  Or at all.

Our chairman likes to play a little “trick” when he does public speaking events.  He asks for a volunteer from the audience that has a cell phone.  Then he gives them the general dial in number to our offices.  And he asks, “What do you hear”?  It is always a human – and almost always within three rings. I put “trick” in quotes because it really isn’t a trick – we answer the phone.  With humans.  Humans in one of our offices – customer experience and trust is something we care far too much about to entrust to a third party call center – or the endless loop of auto-attendant hell, “Your business is important to us.  Please stand by.  Your business is important to us,  Please stand by”.

Human interaction is what we do.  It is our core business.

So how do you grow a “service company” in these times?  It’s manpower intensive!  Everyone seems to be cutting back, yet we keep investing in people.  Sure, we’re buying a heck of a lot of servers as well – but our investment is in people – as it always has. People grow our business.  People are the foundation of our business.  People are the future of our business.

The economy is tough, yet we have continued to grow.  Why?  Because we are cheaper?  We aren’t.  In fact – you do pay a premium when you entrust us with your website, your business application, or your remote file storage.  Why?  Because you aren’t just buying a service or a server – you are buying good old fashioned service.  The kind gas stations used to give, and bed and breakfasts still offer.  The human touch.

So we cost more – how are we growing?   It’s really simple.  People are willing to pay to not have to worry about things.  Daycare, dog-walking, pick-up and drop off dry cleaning – they all work off this same premise.  It isn’t rocket science – but it is rather tricky to pull off.  It certainly doesn’t just happen.  It takes a commitment at every level of the company – from the newest hire to the most senior Exec.

And scaling it is even more interesting.  Growing from 1000 to 3000 employees in a matter of a couple years isn’t easy – ask anyone that’s done it.  Unless it is an assembly line (and even then I argue it is difficult) it tends to dilute your culture – and your level of service.

How do you avoid that? (it sounds really ugly!).

Well it is ugly – and it can poison a company if it’s not managed.  By people (again, that people thing?).

Culture isn’t something you can just claim.  It isn’t something you can just train.  It isn’t something you can just “invest in”.  It is something you live – by the experienced teaching the inexperienced.  By customers reminding us when we stray.  By looking back at those 6 year old videos and realizing that what we want to be tomorrow is what we were yesterday – a service company full of great people building a great company that is fun, and entertaining, and educational.  For employees AND customers.

And always, always truly helping customers.