Excellent E-Commerce Customer Service

12 Principles for Excellent E-commerce Customer Service

One of the most important ways that businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors online is through the quality of their support. It’s an especially important part of success in e-commerce, since people are often using e-commerce because they want a convenient, fast and easy experience – so they want help to be immediate and effective when they need it.

 

Does this perspective toward the supreme importance of customer service sound inflated? Consider that more than three-quarters of consumers have abandoned a shopping cart because they became frustrated with the quality of service, according to statistics compiled by Help Scout. Plus, the aphorism that “bad news travels fast” holds true: word of a customer service failure gets to more than double the people that a service success does.

 

Since customer service is such a critical piece of your business, it’s wise to fine-tune it as much as you can. Here are some thoughts on customer service excellence:

 

#1 – Open by listening.

 

As is also true with sales and marketing, leading with the ear rather than the mouth can be a powerful way to connect and problem-solve, notes Jamie Carmichael of UK business directory Yell.com.

 

What is the customer saying? As you listen, make sure you understand what they want (with clarifying questions as needed) and provide your best expertise.

 

#2 – Give fast and accurate answers.

 

Obviously, the purpose of customer service is functional: people want answers and to move on with their days. One simple and straightforward way to solve problems faster is simply to be available at all times, 24/7. That way no one is ever having to check your hours and jot down a note to get in touch the next day; they can simply take action.

Typical ways that companies provide help 24/7 are through live chat and through content, such as a blog or a knowledge base.

 

#3 – Simplify the process to quit your service.

 

Make it easy for people to cancel your service whenever they decide that makes sense. Typically people have already decided they are going to close the account before they get in touch with you, so efforts to try to retain their business will often prove futile. Plus, if canceling is easy and respectful, they’re likelier to come back.

 

“[F]ollow up with a phone call or email or survey to determine the reason for their departure,” advises business coach Donna Guntner of Foxonlinelearning, “but don’t force them to go through this process to exit.”

 

#4 – It’s positive to provide brief explanations.

 

Despite the overarching effort to be as efficient as possible with customers, it’s also not entirely positive to feel that you want the interaction to be completed rapidly. It can be very helpful to express why something the customer wants can’t happen – what exactly it is that’s in the way. A little bit more time can humanize the experience more. Being as open as you can with your conversations makes the tone feel that you are people working together toward the same basic goals, rather than a sort of cog in an anonymous system.

 

#5 – Become an expert at apologizing.

 

When something goes wrong in a customer’s use of your service, accept blame as possible. That’s helpful, according to help desk software LiveHelpNow, because admitting to fault on your end can defuse potential conflict. Keep in mind that the customer may still walk away upset if you give them a refund. For cases in which your company was clearly in the wrong, apologize profusely and mention the steps that actually should have been taken by the company.

 

#6 – Be cautious about automation.

 

It makes sense why so many businesses are turning toward automation to solve many of their customer service issues: it’s highly affordable. However, as Carmichael notes, be aware that the result is often very expensive in terms of the user experience suffering. When someone is trying to move quickly, they may become frustrated talking with a bot – especially if the bot is malfunctioning or otherwise failing to properly address their issue.

 

#7 – Understand that each situation is unique.

 

You of course want to have standardized, cookie-cutter ways to solve the most common problems that arise. However, there will be times that the policies related to a particular product or service don’t apply. Watch our for these exceptions to your rules. You will earn trust and loyalty from customers by recognizing that their case is special and suggesting a customized solution.

 

#8 – Go to your customer for answers.

 

If you are having difficulty figuring out a solution, ask your customer for their perspective. They probably has something in mind that they feel would make sense given the circumstances. Even if that final answer is not exactly what you want, the customer may also feel that they are not getting exactly what they’d hoped.

 

Although it may be a compromise to zero in on something workable, this approach allows you ”to end on a positive note,” notes Guntner, “and while the customer may not return to you, he probably also won’t tell everyone he meets that you’re an ogre, either.”

 

#9 – Provide simple calls to action.

 

If your customer needs to take a set of steps, make sure that you convey instructions properly, and that everything is fully understood. You can deliver an extraordinarily streamlined and effective checkout process, but a customer or prospect may still leave irritated if you aren’t paying as much attention to your support.

 

How important are next steps? Carmichael actually suggests that every single time you talk to a customer who has a problem, you should close out the call with clear actions that should follow the call (on both sides, as applicable).

 

#10 – Be respectful and friendly.

 

Customer service should be infused with positivity. Greet them, use their names, and always express appreciation for their business. Be grateful, and consider building in a customer loyalty program and even setting aside an annual customer appreciation day.

 

#11 – Don’t over-reference your legal files, and make sure they aren’t excessive.

 

No one wants to have to leaf through a small-print agreement filled with difficult-to-decipher legalese to determine exactly what your stated policies are. Yes, you can fill your Terms of Service contract with parameters intended to protect you; but that will not always mean that the customer is happy in the end. In fact, it can be a good idea to highlight anything in those pages that might be unfavorable to a customer later.

 

#12 – Be amazing.

 

Customer service should be considered a central concern, not something that’s optional. It’s necessary to be thoughtful, and to set aside a substantial investment and time, if you want exceptional customer service – around which you can strengthen your brand. With each one-on-one interaction, bear in mind that the customer will feel incredible if they get the sense that you are taking extra steps to help them. “This feeling comes across not only in what you do, but how you do it and, perhaps more importantly, why you’re doing it,” explains Carmichael.

 

*****

 

Do you want out-of-this-world support? At KnownHost, our Birmingham, Alabama, support office is staffed 24/7/365 – so that we are here for you day and night. Compare our managed VPS hosting plans.

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What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

This article describes what a virtual private server (VPS) is and how it relates to other major technology concepts: virtual private networks, the virtual machine (VM), shared hosting, and dedicated hosting. We then look at especially compelling reasons to use a VPS and a few of the most prominent ways that one can be used.

 

  • Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server
  • Getting to Know the Virtual Server
  • Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS
  • Typical Uses of a VPS
  • Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server

 

Two major concepts that have closely aligned names are the virtual private network (VPN) and the virtual private server (VPS). While both are virtualized and centered on privacy and security, that’s about as far as the similarity goes.

 

VPN: This technology allows you to securely use the internet and connect to private networks (such as a company’s internal one). All traffic is passed through an encrypted tunnel, and each device uses a remote, proxy server – concealing your IP address, what you do, and where you are.

 

VPS: The virtual private server is an advanced, secure way to divide the resources of a physical server (the main host) within a data center. A hosting provider creates VPSs by slicing up one piece of hardware into multiple, independently operating instances.

 

Getting to Know the Virtual Server

 

Perhaps the best way to approach the virtual private server is the idea of a virtual machine. A VM allows you to run an emulation of a computer within your computer, drawing on the resources of the physical one –  disk space, RAM, CPU, etc. This tactic allows you to run an entirely separate operating system (OS) solely for the purposes of the VM, even if its type and version of OS are identical to what’s on your hardware.

 

Because you only are using a portion of the resources for the VM, you can have several of them running on one computer or server, as is common with hosting services. A hosting provider that offers VPS hosting has a vast number of physical servers that each contain multiple virtual machines. While demarcation and intrusion prevention within the physical machine is not a huge concern on your own PC, VPS hosts must have security safeguards in place to ensure isolation of each customer’s server. That’s why the terminology virtual private server is used – to denote the attention paid to privacy and the server programs that are typically loaded onto this type of VM.

 

Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS

 

Shared hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting are the three main alternatives to a VPS.

 

Shared hosting: With shared hosting, your site is stored and served from the same physical machine as many other customers – possibly hundreds of them. All domains are drawing from the same CPU, RAM, and other resources.  This type of hosting is the lowest-priced option. However, your site’s speed and reliability suffer from other users, and you don’t get root access.

 

Cloud hosting: This type of hosting is slightly more expensive than shared hosting (similarly priced to VPS hosting). Rather than using a single server to store and load your site, a cloud system distributes resources across many different computers for faster response times. However, this model typically doesn’t give you root access, and its distributed structure presents fundamental security challenges.

 

Dedicated hosting: This format means that an entire physical server is used solely for your site and applications. While you do have all the resources reserved for your own purposes, a dedicated server is substantially more expensive than shared hosting.

The primary reasons that someone will choose a VPS are performance, flexibility, error-proof sandbox, and security. Let’s look at each of those factors:

 

  •  – Performance – When you switch to a VPS, you will get guaranteed resources. That means traffic spikes on other domains stored on the physical server won’t slow down your site.
  •  – Flexibility – A VPS can be considered your own remote computer. While the primary purpose of a VPS for most hosting customers is to serve websites, you can perform any functions on your VPS (within the hosting provider’s guidelines) as you can on a PC.
  •  – Error-proof sandbox – Virtual private servers give you “do-over” potential because they exist within a virtual sandbox. Damaging a virtual server won’t impact the operating system running on the hardware itself. “The VPS can be rebooted or reinstalled without much issue except maybe for lost data (so always keep backups),” notes Joel Lee of MakeUseOf. “On a dedicated host, a mistake could cause permanent damage.”
  •  – Security – Other users within the physical server can’t hack your virtual sandbox and access your VPS through the relatively simple means they can on a shared server.

 

Typical Uses of a VPS

 

Above, we got a basic sense of what a VPS is and factors that make it attractive. Now, let’s look at some of the ways that this route is useful to people on a day-to-day basis:

 

  1. Serving a website

 

The main reason that someone signs up for a VPS is that they need a server through which to run their site. When you adopt one, you should notice that your site is performing better than it was on a shared account (because of the guaranteed allotment of resources). Also, the full root access gives you better control. You are able to install and get rid of whatever programs you want.

 

Example: You can use a VPS to run your e-commerce platform (Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, etc.). With the stronger resources of a VPS over shared hosting, you have a competitive advantage over many other sites in terms of stability, speed, and general user experience.

 

  1. Hosting a server or business files

 

Sometimes people will use a VPS to run a Minecraft server or host Mumble for private chatting. Businesses will often use it to host media or other files.

 

  1. Testing

Virtual servers are a cost-effective way to test anything before you bring it live. That includes new environments, operating systems, applications, frameworks, or anything else.

 

  1. Torrents

 

You can use a VPS for torrenting, in which case the machine is called a seedbox. By moving your torrent activity to a VPS, you clear out that bandwidth on your local system and designate a 24/7 machine for that purpose.

 

  1. Backups

 

You can also use a VPS for the storage of key files. That’s something that customers will often do if there is extra space available beyond what they need for their primary purposes. Assuming that it’s leftover space, you are able to effectively get free file storage in this way – and it’s within a private environment, so your security is strong.

 

Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

One final key consideration when you look into a virtual private server is whether you want to get an unmanaged or managed VPS plan.

 

If you are unsure which way to go and perhaps don’t feel technically confident with a VPS, “it is recommended that you go with a managed VPS solution,” advises Creativeoverflow. “[I]t is better to go ahead with a specialist hosting company that can manage the technical aspects of your VPS solution.”

 

*****

 

Are you considering a virtual private server to run your website or for any other purpose? At KnownHost, our hosting packages – all of which are managed based on our 15+ years of experience – offer great speed, incredible support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Compare managed VPS plans.

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Backups and Redundancy

What You Need to Know About Backups and Redundancy

Everyone knows the person who unconsciously hits ctrl + s every few minutes when working on a document. Or they have backups of backups with external hard drives seemingly in every location imaginable. This may sound like overkill, but the truth is, it’s hard to be too safe when it comes to your data. This is especially true if you run a business. If you’re currently paying for server space, whether it’s a VPS or dedicated server, you no doubt have valuable information sitting on it.

 

Whatever you do with your server space is up to your discretion. Each use case is different. Chances are you at least have files that make up your website on there. Associated databases with customer information, emails, or anything else related to allowing your business to operate are going to be on the server as well. If you’re keeping large amounts of data stored remotely, you’re probably working with a dedicated server. This is especially true if you’re running a mid to large sized operation that’s using your server space for more than a website.

 

Information Security is Everything

 

With business critical information being kept in a location that you personally do not control or own, it’s important to have a data safety plan in place to ensure that you don’t lose important information that could make or break your business. As far as what your hosting company offers, sure, free backups are available. This is a helpful complementary service that’s perfect for getting some peace of mind that you could restore your website in the event of some kind of incident. But, this generally shouldn’t be relied upon as your only backup solution. After all, does all of your business information live on that server or do you have a lot of it saved locally as well? Chances are your business critical information lives in multiple locations consisting of your server and a home machine.

 

It’s your responsibility and it is in your best interest to have your own backup plans in place in order to ensure you don’t suffer from any catastrophic losses should something disastrous occur that affects your server for any reason. Redundancy is the key to information security. Having multiple backups (and different kinds of backups, specifically) is a best practice that every business owner should adhere to in the event of a rare, but serious event occurring.

 

How costly can data loss be? How can you protect yourself from it? Here’s what you should know about backup redundancy and why being a little obsessive with your backups isn’t a bad thing.

 

The Costs of Data Loss

 

The concept of business continuity is something that if you’re just starting out with a website and maybe a small team, isn’t at the forefront of your concerns. But eventually, you may hope to have your own facility with a large staff and a more complex organization. As your business grows, if it’s not already at this point, you will accumulate even more data. Important emails, customer information, art assets, and pages of content are just some of the things you’ll need access to in order to run your business from day to day. What would happen if these things somehow got lost? Unfortunately, many businesses have experienced this for a variety of reasons, so we do have some idea how this situation plays out.

 

Studies have shown that data loss cumulatively costs businesses worldwide about 1.7 trillion dollars a year. Luckily,  U.S. based companies are considered one of the leaders in the world when it comes to data protection. But that doesn’t mean you should take these situations, no matter how rare, lightly. If something were to happen to your laptop, for example, and all you had was an incomplete cloud backup that doesn’t include your documents folder, would you be able to get back to work quickly? That’s why every repair technician asks that initial question of “do you have an external hard drive with a backup on it?” It’s the people who don’t that end up suffering far more than just the loss of a machine. This same mindset should apply to your business’ information in its entirety, no matter where it usually “lives.”

 

The Different Kinds of Backups

 

Backups vary in how they work. No matter the system you put in place, it’s recommended you have a cloud backup you can access at anytime, a local backup you keep at the office, and an offsite backup on physical media that you keep in a secure location should the other backups be rendered unusable at the minimum.

 

Running a “full” backup of course saves everything in a selected location. While these are the most complete backups, they can be time consuming and you run the risk of creating a situation where you have duplicate files.

 

A snapshot is a little different. It helps avoid the possibility of data corruption that could occur as new writes are made to data during the full backup process. It’s referred to as a snapshot because it’s a read-only copy of your data made at a specific moment. It’s not as taxing on your system and can be used in conjunction with full backups for extra protection. Keep in mind a snapshot is not technically a “backup” and you shouldn’t rely on them alone.

 

Incremental backups will only save changes made since the last incremental backup. It’s a relatively quick way to make sure your information is up to date and doesn’t requires as much space as a full backup.

 

A differential backup captures any changes that were made since the last full backup, which is slightly different from the way incremental backups work. You typically won’t perform both and it’s really up to your preferences which you opt for.

 

Readiness in the Face of Rare Events

 

You may get a sense of “worst case scenario” when reading through all of this information. After all, what are the chances of some natural disaster or fire knocking out the facility where all of your data is saved? Isn’t a cloud backup made at regular intervals really enough? Sure, chances are you won’t experience a situation like this. It would certainly make for the perfect storm of events. But don’t think of these backup guidelines as just something that acts as a contingency plan should you lose access to a server. It’s a good guideline for securing every aspect of your business. Now more than ever, we rely on compiling information. Do you really want to risk only having one backup that isn’t even on local media you’re in possession of? There’s nothing wrong with some redundancy in your backup efforts just so you can have peace of mind knowing you probably won’t lose anything, even in the most far fetched scenario.

 

Your hosting company offers as much as it can via customer service, but you’d do well to take it upon yourself to perform additional backups so that you have something locally to work off of should you need it.

 

Conclusion

 

Your business should partner with a hosting company that has the services and features you need in a server environment to help you meet your goals. KnownHost offers free backups, migrations, industry leading 99.9% uptime, complementary DDOS protection, and 24/7 fully managed support. Contact us today. Our team is here to help you find the best hosting solution for your business and assist you if you have any questions about your dedicated server.

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Understanding VPS Hosting

12 Facts You Need to Know to Understand VPS Hosting

To understand VPS hosting, you basically need to know what hosting is and what a virtual private server (VPS) is. This piece briefly explores both of those topics as a series of facts.

 

#1. Web hosting gives companies the servers they need to get online.

 

Web hosting is the service of providing Internet-related infrastructural plans to businesses and others. Organizations that do not have their own datacenters, want to move quickly to get started on a project, or do not want to manage servers themselves will use a web host for server space, file maintenance, and online services.

 

#2. Web hosting is split into three major categories.

 

Web hosting is, generally, also sometimes called website hosting or simply hosting. However, people will talk about hosting in terms of the individual category – the major ones of which are:

 

shared hosting: many accounts on one physical machine with a single operating system and unguaranteed resources. (lowest cost)

 

VPS hosting: a smaller number of accounts per machine, each of which has their own operating system and guaranteed resources. (slightly higher cost than shared)

 

dedicated hosting: one account per machine. (significantly higher cost than shared)

 

Related specifically to our topic of VPS, as you can see above, VPS hosting is fundamentally an effort to find “the best of both worlds” – the middle-ground between the flexibility and power of dedicated hosting and the affordability of shared hosting.

 

#3. Many people come to web hosting companies for speed.

Often, companies use web hosting providers for access to their fast web connections. If an organization were to host its own servers, it would be costly to get access to similarly strong data networks. Basically, the business that buys hosting services is leveraging the shared cost of a speedy Internet connection to store and serve its files both internally and externally.

 

#4. Web hosting is an industry that was originally created by the Internet.

 

When the Internet first became publicly available as a mass-market service (the early 1990s), those who were interested in creating websites had to have their own servers. Since servers are costly, and the maintenance of them can be highly technical, there was a potential business need for web hosting. However, the first step was to build servers and create web hosting packages that would meet the needs of many users at the lowest possible cost.

 

#5. Web hosting became prominent for meeting a common business need.

 

Web hosting grew as a business when it became clear that (unsurprising to us now) not everyone wants to host a server themselves. The basic business idea, in the early days, was that it would be a good business to buy servers and rent out the resources of them at a reduced cost to customers that want to run a website – regardless of (and, in a manner, completely irrelevant and separate from) the technical aspects related to hardware.

 

#6. Web hosting demand was minuscule in the beginning, and key statistics show us why it has grown exponentially.

 

Demand was initially not high for web hosting for three basic reasons:

  •  * the amount of people online was low;
  •  * web hosting was an emergent field that was below the surface of public awareness (“farther below,” really, since many people are still unfamiliar with the field); and
  •  * web hosting was costlier because there was less competition.

These figures from The Next Web give us an immediate sense of how mammoth the Internet really is now in size. In turn, these numbers, from January 2017, tell us why web hosting companies have become of ever-increasing use to business. [source]

  •  * There are 7.476 billion people on the planet (with 54% of us in urban settings).
  •  * The total population of Internet users worldwide is 3.773 billion, a 50% penetration of the possible market (so, in a way, it’s only half as ubiquitous as it seems globally).
  •  * Active social media users are a smaller population – at 2.789 billion people, that’s “merely” 37% of everyone in the world.
  •  * Interestingly, the number of mobile users, at 4.917 billion, is higher than the number of Web users.

 

#7. The business world was revolutionized by web hosting.

 

Everyone talks about the disruption of the Internet. That digital disruption that has changed our lives in so many ways for the better would not have been possible without web hosting – which supplied the convenience to allow businesses to get online in a structured and trusted manner. The changes were really business-wide and impacted almost every industry.

 

Specifically, a major aspect of that disruption was in marketing. Marketers had to completely change their approach as websites became increasingly critical platforms for the branding of businesses. What used to be print became digital – following the same basic pattern of magazines and newspapers.

 

#8. A virtual private server (VPS) gives hosting customers greater control.

 

A VPS is a virtual server that is experienced as its own server and has its own unique operating system (OS). For better costs than dedicated hosting, while still offering a significant technological upgrade from shared hosting, a hosting company divides one physical server into guaranteed sets of resources for a number of different VPS hosting customers.

 

Typically this scenario is described as a virtual private server (VPS). However, the term virtual dedicated server (VDS) is also sometimes used.

 

#9. A VPS is a similar concept to having your own private computer.

 

A virtual private server is fundamentally about separation. It takes the form of a virtual machine to meet the needs of each individual hosting customer just as an independent PC can be dedicated for use by a single person. This type of server gives a business the same capabilities (including full root access from some providers) as a dedicated server, with several VPS machines, all with separate operating systems, running on the same machine or set of machines.

 

#10. A VPS gives a user much greater freedom than they’d have with shared hosting.

 

A VPS will usually include basic components such as web server and mail server programs; file transfer protocol (FTP) software; and possibly additional applications for e-commerce, blogging, and other core features. Since a virtual private server has its own operating system, the customer takes on the role of a super-user of the OS. In turn, they are able to install whatever software they choose that can run on that particular OS (typically a Linux distribution).

 

#11. VPS plan management creates a major distinction.

 

As virtualization technology has progressed, companies are now able to provide VPS hosting affordably. One of the most important features of VPS plans is the determination of the responsible party to manage the server. In an unmanaged setting, the user bears the responsibility to manage and monitor the server. In a managed VPS hosting setting, the hosting company is responsible.

 

#12. Virtual private servers are of use to small and large companies.

 

A typical example scenario in which a VPS is useful is when a startup or other small business wants to create and run a site but does not want to have to make an investment in a dedicated server. However, an enterprise might use VPS hosting as well. The VPS setup is helpful in those cases because it allows one user to control various servers; one might be designated for the production-level website and another for a sandbox server (so that a false version of the site can be used for testing updates, changes, and new software or plugins).

 

*****

 

Hopefully, the above facts are helpful in understanding web hosting, the virtual private server, and VPS hosting. Do you think a VPS might be right for your business? At KnownHost, you are scalable on demand, without any downtime: no migration of files or databases are required, and there are no changes in your settings. Compare plans.

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