Customer Service Philosophy

Last week I wrote to you about my experience in the web hosting industry, focusing in particular on my observations about the range of technical support and customer service philosophies that I have had direct experience with. This week, I’d like to expand on those ideas by outlining the support philosophies that we have at Spry and at VPSLink. By way of a brief introduction to this article, I should mention that the support philosophy is one key difference between Spry and VPSLink. While VPSLink is an unmanaged VPS solution, Spry is a fully managed VPS provider. So while there are similarities among them, the actual customer experience will be quite different from one company to the other.

Core Principles
We share these core principles in both the Spry and VPSLink support and service teams.
1 – Accuracy. Above all else, provide accurate diagnosis and solutions to issues that the client has raised.
2 – Timeliness. Resolve all issues as quickly as possible, and provide timely status updates when complex or time-consuming issues arise.
3 – Professionalism. Always maintain professional tone and courtesy in your communication with clients and team members. Professionalism both demonstrates and demands respect.
4 – Advocacy. Be the client’s voice inside of the company. Remember that our clients are the only reason we stay in business, and if we fail them, we fail ourselves.

Spry Specific Support
At Spry, we provide fully managed VPS solutions, as well as shared hosting, managed dedicated servers, and unmanaged dedicated servers. Unless you’re using an unmanaged dedicated server, your account includes our Basic Support at a minimum. This means that our technical support team is your on-call IT professional for hosting. If there’s any problem with your site or email, you can contact us and we’ll work to resolve it on your behalf. Because of the wide range of services and technologies available at Spry and from third parties, we have had to define some basic limits to what we can and cannot support.

At Spry, every VPS comes with at least Basic Support. This is our support for the base operating system, control panel, and pre-installed programs. If you know how to use your control panel of choice and configure the software that is pre-installed, Basic Support should be all you need. We strive to fix errors that do occassionally arise with the control panel software, and will try to educate you in the event that configurations you have made do not have the intended effect.

In addition, each of our VPS products includes Advanced Support for the first 10 days of the account. If you are not familiar with using the control panel of your choice, configuring the pre-installed software, or operating a unix system from a shell, we will help you get things up and running, and will point you to documentation that you can use to keep the system running properly after the initial setup. We do offer Advanced Support for either a $10 monthly fee or a $10 per-incident-fee. Advanced Support is included free of charge with our 400 level VPS servers and above. For more information on the differences between Basic Support and Advanced Support, click here.

Whether you’ve got Basic Support or Advanced Support, you’ll find that our approach remains the same. We will attempt to troubleshoot and correct errors that you report to us, and we’ll provide you with the information needed to either avoid or correct those errors in the future. With Advanced Support, you get the benefit of being able to bring us the rote administrative tasks associated with managing your site or sites. In either case, we must charge administrative fees for the installation, configuration, or troubleshooting of third-party software.

VPSLink Specific Support
At VPSLink, we provide cost-effective unmanaged VPS solutions. Period. We recognize that not all hosting customers require technical support for configuring and operating their sites. Since that support comprises a major component of the cost structure associated with most reputable hosting providers, these self-sufficient customers are paying for more resources than they use, and that’s just not fair.

VPSLink does provide extensive resources for the user community via our forums and wiki (where our staff are active participants). And of course we’re ready and able to provide support for the systems that impact your sites or service but that you do not have access to. We also provide a web-accessible trouble ticket system where you can submit issues related to the performance of or access to your VPS. For more information on VPSLink’s support policies, click here.

To be clear, there is a trade-off for customers here. Because we have taken the plunge and removed support costs from the VPSLink pricing structure, we are serious when we say that the product is unmanaged. Take the time to learn how to administer your server, ask the vpslink community for help, or choose a different provider (might I recommend Spry?). We’ll still strive to provide accurate, timely, and professional support, but be aware that our expectation is that you know how to manage a unix server. At VPSLink, we’ll fix our errors, but we’ll merely point out yours.

There are certainly other providers who have decided to promote community-based support, but I believe that VPSLink is unique in its approach because the community includes the knowledgable, friendly, and professional support staff of Spry. Every other hosting company i’ve encountered has chosen to provide either managed or unmanaged VPS solutions, but never both. Those companies that provide managed solutions rely on the customers who are truly self-sufficient to fund the support for those who aren’t. In the case of most other community-driven support, the only representatives the company provides to that community are developer or administrator representatives. They have chosen not to fund staff that is dedicated to customer support.

I truly believe we provide an affordable VPS solution for every hosting customer in the market. But in order to take proper advantage of what we offer, you must carefully and realistically assess both your ability and your needs when it comes to system administration and site management.

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