Many customers know the situation: you want to work on your own website or online store on the weekend and you encounter questions, problems, etc. Whereas previously you could send a written request to the support service via e-mail in situations like these, it has recently also become possible to reach Hostpoint Support by phone on the weekend during the usual times of between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.
Marco Bühler, as Head of Customer Service, you were responsible for the development and implementation of the new 7-day support service. Why is Hostpoint now taking this step and offering 7-day support?
Marco Bühler: Actually, it’s quite easy to explain: we recognized that there is a corresponding customer need. We are also staffed in such a way that telephone support is possible during the weekend, with the working conditions for our team remaining attractive.
Tell us about the planning. That must have been pretty challenging, right?
Sure, that wasn’t without its problems. Right from the start, I always tried to talk to our team leaders and supporters. Obviously, I also had to crunch the numbers, but in the end, I wanted to take my employees’ feedback into account. Once we had a plan, we just tried it out on our customers. Last summer, we also operated our hotline over the weekend for a month to see if our plan would work in live operation. Admittedly, this was under “easier conditions”, as none of our customers actually knew that we were available. But some customers got used to the service surprisingly quickly and then started calling on the weekend by preference.
How long did all the planning and preparation for this expansion step take?
As the planning was done in parallel with our day-to-day business, it’s pretty hard to tell. In the end, it was probably about ten to twenty days, if you add it all up and subtract the coffee breaks and after-work conversations over beers. Although, it is precisely those times that should actually be included, because it’s in those casual discussions that you hear lots of personal opinions that would perhaps be held back in a group setting or at an official meeting with a department manager.
But why is Hostpoint taking this step? What are we expecting from the new 7-day support service?
Since I joined Hostpoint, our mission has been to provide “the best support”. And having experienced almost all areas of support in my twelve to thirteen years here, I know that this is not simply an empty promise. We just want to get even closer to our customers, and we all know that there are problems and issues that simply cannot be explained well via written exchanges, especially when customers are not as familiar with the subject matter. And quite honestly, who wants to invest twenty minutes in an e-mail when you can discuss a question on the phone in two minutes? We have cases every day where we say to ourselves, “Oh, I’ll just give them a call, it’s faster than ping-ponging back and forth by e-mail.”
You also have to realize that there are plenty of customers who have hardly any time at all during the week to take care of their web projects. They then mainly have questions during the weekend. And finally, we also have lots of business customers with websites and stores that generate a lot of traffic or sales over the weekend. Obviously, they also want to be supported on the weekend if they encounter problems or have questions.
Hostpoint’s support is already considered one of the best in the Swiss web hosting industry. What distinguishes Hostpoint’s service quality from the rest?
In my experience, since my time in first-level support, it is always best to be as authentic as possible. Our customers appreciate this very much and so do the team members and supervisors. For me, authenticity in support means, for example, that customer conversations do not have to end no matter what with phrases like “I hope you have a wonderful and sunny day and lots of great experiences with our sensational products.” Support staff are people too, and even they can have a not so good day. I am of the opinion that lots of people can sense – at least subconsciously – when someone is pretending.
We realize relatively quickly when someone is simply not right for a job in customer service. Our support staff want to help our customers. They don’t do it because it’s in the instructions or because the team leader rules with an iron fist. For me, this is what distinguishes the quality of Hostpoint support. Of course, the technical expertise, the fast response time, the service in four languages and now the telephone support seven days a week, too, are all absolutely part of it. But the most important unique selling point for me is not the breadth of services, but the authentic people behind them.
“The most important unique selling point for me is not the breadth of services, but the authentic people behind them.”
Tell us a little about how Hostpoint’s customer service is set up.
We are a really diverse bunch. Just imagine one of those typical stock photos you get when you search a database for “IT team working in office”. Except that our style of dress is basically more relaxed and staff aren’t all constantly grinning. We have trained computer scientists, but also many people for whom it is a career change. Women, men, younger, older, light-skinned, dark-skinned – everything you can imagine, and in all shapes and sizes; we also have pretty much every clothing size covered. Even though we are experiencing a particular shortage of skilled workers, we are also able to absorb this well. In support, technical knowledge is just part of the skills you need to bring to the table. Just as important are resilience, empathy, friendliness and the ability to translate back and forth between our customers and the technical departments.
So how does Hostpoint support work? What does your everyday life look like?
Before the outbreak of the pandemic about two years ago, we were all in our then-brand-new office in Rapperswil. In other words, a large open-plan office. This worked really well, because everything was – and still is – tailored to our department: from the work equipment to the soundproofing elements to the coffee machines. Our work really gets underway when our hotline opens at 8 am. From then on, it actually depends on our customers how the day goes. If we have a lot of inquiries by e-mail, our team leaders organize for more people to focus on that than on the calls. If we receive a lot of e-mails on the same topic, we form spontaneous working groups that just deal with these inquiries and check whether there is a fundamental problem or whether it’s just a coincidence.
How has your way of working changed in the wake of the pandemic?
Not much has changed in terms of our basic way of working, except that, since then, we – like many other companies – have had to work increasingly from home. As a result, we obviously see each other in person much less often and have therefore had to learn to conduct our internal conversations and meetings by telephone or via our Hostpoint Meet video conferencing tool. There were definitely a few specific problems among our employees, especially at the beginning of the pandemic – from screaming babies to completely irritated pets to cluttered desks, we had it all. Most of this has been resolved in the meantime, so we are now also able to operate well from home for longer periods of time.
Are there already plans to expand Hostpoint’s customer service even further?
Sure there are! What I like best is the idea of a branch in the Caribbean for a “follow the sun” support service. Unfortunately, that’s not quite definite yet! No, seriously though, obviously there are other plans and ideas. Some are more realistic than others, some are experimental in nature, and others are just foreseeable, necessary, or have been wanted for a long time. But I don’t want to give too much away yet. Time will tell!
Hostpoint support is available to all customers seven days a week from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm by phone, e-mail, WhatsApp, Skype or via the contact form. A lot of helpful information, instructions etc. can also be found in the Support Center.