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The sun never sets on SiteHost’s support team

/ Culture
The secret to offering personal, expert support to ever more kiwi customers has been to take SiteHost overseas.

Over the years we’ve gotten used to accommodating more customers, almost all from New Zealand. There’s more data on our servers and more traffic on our network, but that doesn't mean giving up the dedicated, personal service that we’re known for.

When it comes to support we have made some big decisions in the last couple of years. We now have an international team across New Zealand, Brazil, the Philippines, and Serbia. Everyone in the team is a part of the SiteHost team, which is to say that we’ve done this without outsourcing. Some might say that we’ve done it the hard way, but we see it as the only way to make sure that every single ticket is handled in a way that keeps you happy.

A good problem to have

It makes sense that as we take on more customers, our support team fields more calls and tickets.

Most support still comes from our Auckland team

If you’ve submitted any of those tickets, you’ll know that every query ends with a quick question about how well our team did. We’ve been asking that question since 2014 and the results have always been consistent. With very small ups and downs over the years, 95-97% of responses have been positive. If you scroll down and look under this article, or if you check our homepage, you’ll see the percentage from our last 200 responses, updated daily. As I write this, it’s at 97%.

As well as tickets coming in from more customers, we have also seen more tickets come in outside of regular business hours. More SiteHost customers are operating outside of New Zealand, and the 24/7 integrity of websites and online systems matters more than ever.

We have always delivered support around the clock. In the early days that meant our Technical Director, Quintin, slept with a phone next to his bed. Later on it meant running a night shift. But when you only want to employ the best engineers in town you soon learn that they have options in life, and that they (quite reasonably) won’t jump at the chance to work vampire hours.

More SiteHost customers are operating outside of New Zealand, and the 24/7 integrity of websites and online systems matters more than ever.

So, what’s a hosting company to do when they’re dedicated to providing industry-leading support but out-of-hours demand is starting to stretch the team?

Out with outsourcing

In the tech industry, like many others, one typical way to get more people to pick up customer calls is to outsource. We already knew that this wasn’t for us - a few years ago we acquired a small web hosting company that came with outsourced customer support. After seeing this arrangement close up, we soon replaced it with in-house expertise. Ticket responses got better, customer satisfaction increased, and ever since then we’ve been convinced that outsourcing isn’t good enough for us or for you.

Start with a customer’s point of view. When you contact us you just want to get the expertise you need. That’s why there are no tiers of support or barriers between you and our most expert engineers. There’s no “have you tried switching it off and switching it on again?” before you’re escalated to someone with the skills to solve your issue.

Because outsourced teams have limited training and tools, they can realistically only provide a “tier one” helpdesk. SiteHost customers deserve better.

Then there are the team members to think about. As an employer we believe that people working for us deserve more as well. Outsourcing contracts give very little control over the training and career development of the individuals on the team - things which we take seriously.

So, to boost our customer service with our own team, we needed to look elsewhere.

A Brazilian experiment

As we were considering options for covering overnight support, an opportunity came up. In 2019 Andre, who had already been in the Auckland team for a year, decided to move back home to Brazil. Would it be possible for Andre to take his job with him and keep delivering great support from thousands of miles away? We decided to find out.

Andre, our international pioneer

“I was actually looking forward to it,” Andre says of his move. “As I was moving away from New Zealand, a remote work opportunity would allow me to keep growing my career, doing what I like to do.”

These were pre-Covid days, so remote working was nowhere near as well understood as it is now. “I left with homework to do: read and learn as much as possible about the remote work challenges and get ready to start again in a few weeks.

Quintin was so keen to get the on-call phone off his bedside table that he even made a trip to Brazil with extra equipment and to help settle Andre, who’d done his research by then, into working remotely. Although Andre was already familiar with our customers and technology there was still a learning curve. “Collaborating with the team in a completely different time zone was pretty new to me. That's something we all had to learn on the go.”

This all obviously worked. Two years later Andre says, “this has been working great for me and the team in New Zealand.”

Our experience with Andre let us really smooth out the remote working process before we started hiring more support. Until 2020 he was the only remote team member working on your support tickets while New Zealand sleeps (Brazil is 15 hours behind New Zealand). With a few more cleverly-placed people we could make sure that the sun never set on our support team.

Following the sun to the other side of the world

But that would mean repeating the trick in other timezones, with new employees who would need to be trained from the start. Covid complicated things by making it impossible to make in-person visits to new team members, but we have found ways to make it work.

As well as Andre in Brazil, today we have SiteHost support team members in the Philippines (4 hours behind New Zealand) and half a world away from here, in Serbia.

Luka, who is based in Serbia, had worked remotely before, but in a different way. “I didn't work remotely with a team in front of me before. Having stand-ups every day got me more into the team and more in touch.”

Luka serves SiteHost customers from the other side of the world

It’s the little touches like this - the ones that keep our team working as a real team, no matter where they are - that make the SiteHost difference.