Posts Tagged 'Expectations'

May 5, 2011

Giving Customers More Than They Expect

Giving a customer the ability to do something that they didn't know they could (or even know was possible) can make for an exceptional customer experience.

I've had a season mini-pack of Dallas Mavericks tickets for a handful of years now and have always gotten the exact experience that I expected: The same seats every time, consistent food and drink, great entertainment, and a quality team on the court that wins considerably more often than not.

However, this year it's been a little different. This year, they have thrown in several perks that cost them nothing or next to nothing but have made a huge difference in the overall experience.

One game in particular sticks out in my mind. A couple of weeks before a game against the Wizards, I got an email about a no-cost chance for me and one other person to stand in a high five line to give fives to the players as they came out for warmups. I had no idea fans actually got to do this, so I gladly signed up and took my 5 year-old son to the game. I had also received an invite from the sales rep to choose a date to spend the first half of a game in one of the suites, so I made it the same night.

That night, we joined a small group of people down by the tunnel before the game, and we got to give all the players, Mark Cuban, the Mavs Maniacs and even a few security guards high fives. My son was over-the-moon to "meet" his favorite players - Dirk, Kidd, and Jet - could hardly contain himself.

This game also happened to be the week before the Super Bowl. I only mention it because on the way to our suite, I was blinded by the biggest ring I had ever seen. It turned out to be a Super Bowl ring and the guy wearing it was James Harrison (the linebacker for Steelers that lost a bunch of money to fines for helmet to helmet hits last season), so I got to meet him and wish him luck for the big game.

Oh, and and I can't forget to mention the free hats, shirts, and Roddy B. bobblehead.

Long story short, I probably couldn't tell you who won the other ten games I went to this year, but I don't think I'll forget anything about this particular game.

The thing I took away from this experience is when you give a customer something above and beyond what is expected, however seemingly insignificant, you can monumentally improve their customer experience.

To bring it back around to SoftLayer, we give customers a great API - a REST API at that. We give them VPN, a private network, IPv6, and a fully provisioned server in a couple of hours. Each of these differentiators enables us to provide products and services that our competitors can only hope to imitate.

The first time the customer uses the API to automatically create a new Cloud Instance from their own program, it'll be a Maverick-game experience. When they transfer data from Washington, D.C., to San Jose, CA, on our private network with zero bandwidth charge, they'll feel like they're high-fiving Dirk Nowitski. When they access their server over the free KVM over IP, they're walking up to the suite and meeting a Super Bowl champion. And all of that is on top of a stable, speedy server environment!

What can we do to improve your customer experience?

-Brad

November 18, 2010

Tweet Tweet ... Tweet?

If I've timed this submission right, I'll be the first person with a byline on the SoftLayer blog from the new SoftLayer office in downtown Houston. I'm part of an esteemed group of new employees who had The Planet business cards until last week, and I'm excited about the opportunity to subject a new group of readers to my abundant arsenal of esoteric references and feeble attempts at humor. I've joined SoftLayer's marketing team, and I'll be focused on our social media outreach.

Don't worry, this post isn't going to feature any of those "I like long walks on the beach, red wine and dinner by candlelight" introductory tidbits you usually get when you meet a new person on a blog. We're diving right into the good stuff. Today's topic: SoftLayer on Twitter.

If you've been around for a while, you already know a lot about SoftLayer's official Twitter accounts, but because a new crowd of customers might be checking out the InnerLayer for the first time, let's step back and look at each account. By sharing our purpose for each of our accounts, you know what to expect when you click the "follow" button.

@SoftLayer: http://twitter.com/softlayer
This is the big kahuna. The @SoftLayer account is your primary company contact on Twitter. If you have a question, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want information about a ticket, send it to @SoftLayer. If you want a haircut ... you should probably go to a barber. Because @SoftLayer account has the widest reach, you'll learn more about the company and our offerings here, and when you need a response from SoftLayer, this is one of the first places you should look.

@SoftLayer_News: http://twitter.com/softlayer_news
Now that the merger is complete, we have more than 76,000 deployed servers in 10 data centers with more than 1,500 Gbps of network connectivity. Wherever we go, we'll be making waves, and the @SoftLayer_News account will try to keep up with all of our coverage. When we post a press release or announce a product, followers of @SoftLayer_News will hear it first.

@SoftLayer_Sales: http://twitter.com/softlayer_sales
@SoftLayer_Sales is where we teach the art of bonsai tree trimming. Actually, that's a lie ... Unless you can think of a server sales-related question involving bonsai tree trimming, you won't read anything on that topic. It's actually your one-stop shop for SoftLayer server specials and your Twitter contact for anything and everything sales-related.

@SLChat: http://twitter.com/slchat
A new addition to the SoftLayer Twitter team, the @SLChat account is designed to help us communicate directly with users. With more than 24,000 customers, we might have several simultaneous conversations going at a given time. Previously, if you reached out to us on Twitter, we'd reply to messages from one of the accounts above, but as our user base grows and our Twitter follower count increases, we don't want to spam those primary channels with updates that may only be relevant to one customer. By adding @SLChat, we're improving the signal-to-noise ratio on all of our other accounts.

SoftLayer is built around a social media culture. If you know where to look, you'll see our executive management team checking in at the office and retweeting great press coverage we've gotten. Those updates can be fun and interesting in their own right, but they point to an even more important truth: As a company, we want to be engaged with our community so we can learn from it. If you've got something to say, we want to hear it. Post a comment, send a DM, tweet an @ reply, leave a wall post, send a carrier pigeon ... We're listening.

-@khazard

May 20, 2009

Dealing with Customer Service

No – this isn’t one of those blogs or editorials ranting and railing about how no one out there is able to provide good customer service anymore. This isn’t about how no one in the service industry – from restaurants to retail and everything in between – seems to care about the customer anymore. People have been writing those stories for the past 50 years (about half as long as they have been writing about the coming demise of baseball). This is just a short little missive lamenting how the same people that complain about lack of service are often people that work in the service industry themselves.

I often find myself in a retail store wondering why I can’t get help locating an object. Or in a restaurant wondering where the wait staff is. Or trying to work my way through an automated phone help system. Part of me sympathizes with the wait staff knowing that they are probably just too busy to get to my table. Maybe the restaurant is understaffed or maybe they have an unexpected rush of customers. And part of me even realizes the operational value of the automated phone system. The ability to reduce head count and lower costs with an automated system seems like a great idea (and sometimes it is).

But when I find myself in those aggravating situations and my anger is just about to get the better of me, I generally come back to the fact that myself and everyone else that works at SoftLayer is in the customer service industry. Oh, I might complain to a manager or I might tip less or I might shop at that location less. But more important than that, I try to use that experience as a reminder of how important customer service is. I’m not talking about just the ability to provide the product the customer is looking for – I mean the ability to be able to answer questions in a timely manner, to answer the phone as quickly as possible, to handle outages as quickly and professionally as possible, to provide customers with frequent updates and most importantly, to treat every customer interaction with the level of urgency that the customer thinks it deserves.

And THAT’s the important part – not just solving the problem, but making sure that the customer’s expectations are met.

-SamF

May 9, 2008

Industry-Wide Language Barrier

What language do we speak here at Softlayer? What language is spoken across the industry? Is it the same, or does everyone have their own code for translation?

It seems that in the “on demand datacenter industry”, “hosting industry”, “dedicated server industry” (or whatever you prefer to call it) each company or provider has its own idea and way of projecting who they are. These projections are seldom in line with one another and have a slight difference only to give some idea of separation.

The biggest grey area that I have seen and something that gets distorted is the idea of managed services and just the term “management” in general seems to have lost any kind of universal meaning. The thing that I run into most is when a customer asks us if we are a managed company. I find this to be a loaded question knowing what I know of the industry and other providers. The reason is that you can call your service anything you want to and even come up with clever and creative names for it, but at the end of the day creative marketing doesn’t get results when the rubber meets the road.

It is imperative that the correct expectations are set so that customers aren’t lead astray and find themselves in a situation that they were unprepared for because they were disillusioned by gimmicky wording. Softlayer has the reputation of being an honorable company and I am proud to be a part of that. We do not consider ourselves to be a managed service, but we do offer support and help in many situations. We have support staff here 24 hours every day of the year that can help you, or possibly help point you in a good direction for you to be able to help yourself. We offer OS updates and patches at no additional charge automatically. We strive to be as upfront and fair on everything from the bottom to the top, so I feel that it is my duty to explain this situation in more detail. In fact, all of our sales representatives and many of our customers have felt this same way. What I have found is that this upfront and honest explanation is a rarity and that many companies are not as forthcoming as they could be or should be when discussing “managed services”.

There are a lot of companies who provide the exact same services as we do and call this being “fully managed”. There are others who promise the moon and a shoe shine with their service and then just come up short on the efforts. Now, this may not be entirely their fault because they may have excellent intentions, but a poor and impractical business model. However, intentions don’t get results and customers are the ones who pay most for the misrepresentation. The worst situation is when someone pays a huge premium for a service that is overpromised and then severely under delivered. When I am able to talk to someone who has been in this situation they really appreciate the options and control that they have over every aspect of their service when choosing Softlayer as their provider. The only satisfaction I can get is helping people that have been taken advantage of find a provider that they know they can count on and exactly what they can expect.

This elaboration of services extends beyond server management. No matter what buzz words a company may want to use to describe your company (“largest”, “best”, “heroic”, “ultimate”, really just fill in the blank on this if you’ve been around long enough.) the main thing that matters in this industry is functionality. I am confident in saying that no other company can offer anything close to what Softlayer can provide. Softlayer provides options and capabilities which are unparalleled in the industry in order to give customers complete control over their hardware and thus their own business. There are some that have tried to copy our model and others who have tried to produce a stop-gap solution between what they offer and what we offer, but they have failed. Is this, perhaps, a key reason why we have been able to sustain our high level of growth and remain stable? Possibly. Is this a sign that the best is yet to come with Softlayer? Definitely.

If you want to talk about situations or projects you may have coming up, I would be happy to speak with you and help come up with a solution that will maximize your businesses potential. In fact my entire team is here for this specific purpose.

-Doug

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