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Rewarding Time-Efficient Clients
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Rewarding Time-Efficient Clients

How do you reward time-efficient clients? (Clients who place simple, regular orders themselves via your CMS, pay at time of order and have no problems with their payment or funky custom requests)

This is in contrast to clients who refuse to make a username or log in and place the order themselves, and want to place their orders via the [email protected] email manually and want some idiotic back-rev unsupported ubuntu version and a bunch of special packages preinstalled.

I want to incentivize clients to place their own orders efficiently and with minimum staff interaction so staff can focus on infrastructure maintenance and operational improvements.

Comments

  • hzrhzr Member, Moderator

    $100/h min 1 hr increments for staff time wasted that could be done self-serve

  • thedpthedp Member

    $7 per manually processed orders.

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  • HostSlickHostSlick Member, Provider
    edited July 31

    What's so bad about clients ordering via support? I don't understand

    Those clients you can actually build up a communication, find out future need, sell them other services, build up relationships etc.

    We tend to contact clients aswell to ask for feedback on what we can do better for them, if there's any need or if they need any help etc

    I think commutation is good and this gives you a good chance to make more money

  • jarjar Provider

    I'd agree with de-incentivizing the less preferred behavior. That's more likely to generate change by decreasing overhead or increasing revenue to cover the overhead.

  • @HostSlick said:
    What's so bad about clients ordering via support? I don't understand

    I never said it's bad. And it's great for high revenue clients. but most of our clients are low end buyers. A single hour of employee time spent per order will erase a month of profit.

    I want to provide every service they need now and in the future, in an automatically and efficiently. Manual order placement should only be necessary if what they need can not be selected in the CMS.

    Like I said: I want staff to focus on infrastructure maintenance and operational improvements that will benefit ALL clients, and increase the value everyone receives from our service.

    Personal Relationships are great. We have them and maintain them for larger (usually colo) clients. But I can't employ an account manager to hold hands with a prospect for six hours, courting them into a $15/mo sale that brings $7 of monthly profit.

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  • jackbjackb Member, Provider
    edited July 31

    @HostSlick said:
    What's so bad about clients ordering via support? I don't understand

    Those clients you can actually build up a communication, find out future need, sell them other services, build up relationships etc.

    We tend to contact clients aswell to ask for feedback on what we can do better for them, if there's any need or if they need any help etc

    I think commutation is good and this gives you a good chance to make more money

    If someone wants something custom it's fine, but "how do I order X standard plan" when there's a massive order button is just a waste of everyone's time.

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  • UnrealServersUnrealServers Member
    edited July 31

    @jackb said:
    If someone wants something custom it's fine, but "how do I order X standard plan" when there's a massive order button is just a waste of everyone's time.

    Yes, that old song...... don't forget the second verse, two days later, and 5 minutes after they pay the invoice we made manually two days ago: "I ALREADY paid for my order. where is the server. soooooooo sloooooowwwww!!!!!!111111one I'm filing dispute."
    (Customarily sung on a Friday night)

    and verse three, an day after they've had logon credentials, when the abuse reports start coming in "PLZ REBOOT, NO CAN ACCESS SERVER MACHINE."

    As much as I disdain that song, I don't want to punish anyone. But I do, as I said, want to reward the clients that sing something else.

    I think I'm actually thinking of dropping Free Month of Service on the longest open accounts, at random. Especially those who haven't had any tickets in a year, and bring in > $50/mo. Hopefully they tell their other time-efficient buddies and word of mouth grows sales amongst the best type of client without me having to work on advertising.

    Datacenter Lottery. Maybe that's an idea. Might have to check with legal on that if we call it a lottery.

  • pikepike Member

    Hetzner does this pretty well. Their whole system is designed to need very few human interaction. The reward is a very competitive price.

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  • I've said in the past 'all human interaction with clients is a bug'. I'm not sure I'd go quite as far at this company. But I certainly expect staff to do the work of improving our ordering options any time they have to make a manual order. I do.

  • Mr_TomMr_Tom Member, Provider

    While it's good to offer an incentive for the preferred/easiest method, sometimes it's nice to be able to contact someone (especially if it's a specific you can contact), ask how it's going and have a chat about future services as well as discussing custom requests.

    I get as businesses grow you can't be an "account manager" to everyone, being able to reach out to someone is always a nice feature.

    As mentioned, if it's just a "how do I order X" when they've obviously missed something, fair enough - but don't make it difficult for long term customers to get in touch and discuss new needs.

  • We're not going to make it difficult for anyone.

    Again the idea: REWARDing time-efficient clients. I'm thinking of giving money back to clients that have been the most efficient.

    Think about insurance companies that give you a break on your rates if you haven't been in an accident in 5 years. Seems like a win win to me.

    But what other ideas do you all have at rewarding time-efficient clients? (Clients who place simple, regular orders themselves via your CMS, pay at time of order and have no problems with their payment or funky custom requests)

    Maybe no other provider is doing this? which I guess is fine by me :-) !!!

    Most of what I read on this thread so far and seen at other places was punishment based, which is fine and fair. But I'd rather give carrots than whippings.

  • jarjar Provider
    edited July 31

    @UnrealServers said: Most of what I read on this thread so far and seen at other places was punishment based, which is fine and fair. But I'd rather give carrots than whippings.

    My only fear is that the only end result is less revenue from the ones doing things the preferred way and continued drain on resources from the others. The ones doing it in the way that isn't preferred, I suspect, are not likely to bite. So it really doesn't result in a positive outcome for you, in my theory.

    I could be wrong though, every client base has its unique elements. I've been backed into corners with support overhead a few times, seems to be the most common scenario in the industry among those that are growing.

  • asasdasasd Member

    Here are my recommendations. Exactly one of them is a joke.

    @UnrealServers said: rewarding time-efficient clients

    Don't reward solely by this criteria. You might end up rewarding idlers. Not good for you, not good for the planet.

    @UnrealServers said: custom orders

    Ask a reasonable set-up fee for custom orders, but never differentiate between customers who order via form, phone, e-mail or even paper mail.

    @UnrealServers said: want some idiotic back-rev unsupported ubuntu version and a bunch of special packages preinstalled.

    Put up a disclaimer that says "Free setup =/= Free managed OS installation."

    @UnrealServers said: A single hour of employee time spent per order will erase a month of profit.

    Outsource support to India.

  • @asasd said:
    idlers

    Interesting. I haven't come across that term in that context before. Are idlers common? Why/how do they happen?

    @asasd said:
    Ask a reasonable set-up fee for custom orders, but never differentiate between customers who order via form, phone, e-mail or even paper mail.

    How much do you all consider reasonable? We've been going with $50/hr for custom labor. Usually that means a colo client on another continent or who doesn't want to come to the USA who wants us to do hands-on stuff like playing musical chairs with ethernet cables. Not used very often with dedicated servers.

    Paper Mail....That hasn't happened yet. I honestly don't know what I'd do if I received an order on parchment. I might laugh and throw it out without accepting payment then again, why not accept it. Anyone here ever receive one that way?

  • If the problem is your customers submit order requests through email, it's pretty fucking clear where to focus the attention. Put ordering instructions in your email signature. Everything else is dumb. It also sounds like you lack features people want, so either make it clear what you will and won't do during the order form, or suggest ways they can get those features without asking (e.g. manual OS install via netboot or ISO).

    Incentivizing existing paying customers means you lose revenue at the expense of additional time and overhead to manage and promote this reward.

    I dunno, you come off whining about people wanting to give you money despite having deficiencies that make them need to contact you in the first place. You just came to bitch. "Welcome to life", "Cost of doing business", all that jazz.

  • UnrealServersUnrealServers Member
    edited August 1
  • hzrhzr Member, Moderator

    The last thing I ever want to do is contact support if I can just click a button to open HTML5 IPMI proxied securely or reboot the machine.

    Make everything self service, then charge huge amounts for unreasonable stuff that they can't do themselves but are able to.

  • VirMachVirMach Member, Provider, Top Provider

    There's really no good way to this, at all.

    If you raise prices and then give a discount to those who opt-in for a lower level of support, there will still be people who expect the same level of support and will get upset if you even mention again the bill rate they agreed to when signing up. Then you could do it the other way around where you actually bill people for things that cost time, and keep prices low, but that doesn't work out either because then many people see this as being ripped off even though it's usually the opposite. Everyone also expects and assumes a different level of support, and of course for some of it you have to assume the "average" -- as in some people will take up much more of your time while others take virtually zero. This last concept could actually end up hurting you if you provide incentives people because you may end up having to pay out these benefit(s) to people who would have cost you no support and no money, when in reality you may be attempting to just get a very small percent of your users who would have otherwise taking up your time to consider not doing it. Except to those people, the value of the reward would not end up being worth it.

    So what ends up happening is you have to just eat the cost and pass it along, and unfortunately the many great customers will have to just end up paying more for the few. Most businesses operate this way.

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  • wotetiwoteti Member

    @UnrealServers said:
    How do you reward time-efficient clients?

    You don't.
    Spell out everything clearly and automate (and make sure the automation is error free).

    Just talking about generalities, many providers are unclear about the few examples below:
    If you place a 5TB traffic limit, spell out what happens when the limit is hit/exceeded. Server suspension? $0.01/GB overage? Jail time?

    If you give out discount for multiple orders or longer contract commitment, let the customers figure out the kind of discount they can get in the ordering UI. Don't ask for signup/login just to let the customer see various pricing options.

    Be up to date with OS options and have them all selectable from the ordering UI. Refuse weird or outdated OS. No provider goes bankrupt by not providing Ubuntu 8.04 as an OS option. For dedis, let them use IPMI.

    Contacting support/sales wastes the customer's time just as much as it wastes the provider's. Idiots will always exist but reasonable customers can turn into "idiots" just as well when frustrated by lack of info, workflow errors, and too early login-wall.

    Digital Ocean, Linode, Vultr, Hetzner cloud don't have to complain about this because they know what they are doing.

  • jsgjsg Member

    I think the secret sauce is

    • clear well described products and variants
    • a good and extensive knowledge base
    • a rich and well understandable interface (e.g. for mounting ISOs, rev. NS)
    • a clear understanding - and projecting - of one's target segment and strengths
    • strictly staying within one's boundaries in pre-sales
    • support friendly within boundaries and "coldly efficient" outside of it (e.g. just a link to KB)
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  • FranciscoFrancisco Top Provider
    edited August 1

    @woteti said: Spell out everything clearly and automate

    That's basically how we try to do it.

    We do our best to automate as much of our platform as we can. ISO's (like @jsg mentioned) used to be a thorn in our ass since we'd have to download, sync to all locations, add it in stallion, etc.

    I recently automated that all and made it user serviceable. BGP is the same with the only real involvement from me is to verify the users ASN and then add it in Stallion. Stallion then automatically imports all RPKI information and generates BGP sessions for all services.

    We keep track of what we get repeat tickets about (initial OS installs is a big one, help installing Windows is another). On the KVM side things are pretty damn close to perfect. Our old OpenVZ side still has bugs but that's more OpenVZ doing dumb things (sometimes it decides to mount the VPS after a shutdown, etc).

    Francisco

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  • jsgjsg Member

    I come back to one of my points because I think it's an important one:

    strictly staying within one's boundaries in pre-sales

    I've seen again and again that providers (understandably) try to lure clients by "promising" a lot - which I think often turns out to turn against themselves and to increase their burden ( ~cost) later because the pre-sales spoiled clients of course expect all the promises to come true.

    This is also related to the KB because if you don't have a good one then questions end up at support plus you don't have a reasonable basis to ignore them.

    If I ever offered Windows as a provider I would (a) automate installation and (b) clearly state that I don't offer any further support. Windows question should be addressed to MS (or in a Windows forum).

    Short version: Have a clear definition of what you do and do not do and do very well what you do.

    @Francisco

    Sounds mostly OK to me

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  • verovero Member

    @UnrealServers said:
    I've said in the past 'all human interaction with clients is a bug'.

    Indeed, some human interactions result in bugs/viruses these days..

    Your principle sounds good when you're a seller, but awful if you are client. Some similar implementations do work - like at Hetzner, but they still have support in place. And economy of scale adds here. If you're somewhat small, like that remaining fly, guess you'll have to deal with sh** you have.

  • asasdasasd Member

    @UnrealServers said: How much do you all consider reasonable?

    It really depends on your staff's skills, speed and your setup. For example a custom ISO set-up fee unreasonable if the provider doesn't have up-to-date stable versions of the most popular distributions.

    Paper mail is something you don't know you need until you do. One may lose a credit card and if you don't allow bank transfer, mail in may be the fastest option.

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