What do customers really want? Written by Alex Lekas
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Few service providers are equipped to fully do either #1 or #2, let alone both. Thatís reason so many providers have more partners than organically developed features. Partnerships allow companies to offer additional products and services at a fraction of cost of in-house development thereby making enhancements affordable for customer.
As to second point, SME marketplace remains key battleground because of its size. Of millions of small businesses in US, there is a sizeable percentage with no web presence and among companies that are online, plenty have sites that are little more than digital brochures. As those businesses grasp value of having an online component, service providers grapple to introduce features that are relevant, features that reflect what customer wants.
The struggle to create value is key to question being posed here. Economic signs say this should be a good year. Companies are spending more on IT, particularly on hosted applications that improve office efficiency. That efficiency, however, means fewer jobs so people pushed out of corporate world have turned to self-employment. That, in turn, means more businesses with online components that demand servicing as they, like their former bosses, try to do a lot for relatively little. Companies that can offer bolt-on products that improve productivity certainly provide one thing customers want.
Bottom line is, customers want service, however providers choose to define that. There is personal tough that regionally-based companies can offer through their closer connection to customers. There is feature-focused approach, giving people what their businesses need in order to be successful. There is value-based proposition and its ever-lowering prices. There is also reverse Ė premium provider Ė which charges more but has burden of proving its worth. And there is universal imperative of being accessible to customers, ready to listen to them, willing to respond to concerns, and able to implement necessary changes that answer question that drives their business.
Alex Lekas is the VP / Marketing & Corporate Communications for AIT, a web hosting and ecommerce services company that powers 191,488 business sites on the Internet.
How to Choose a Web HostWritten by Matt Smith
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Many hosting companies, big and small, are offering 24/7 technical and customer support these days. Be very weary of these claims. Most companies that claim 24/7 support donít really live up to expectations. In addition, a 1-800 number does not guarantee that someone will actually answer you phone call, or even be helpful. Look for a company that has a good, honest support structure set up with a variety of support options: support tickets, live support chat, e-mail support, and perhaps phone support as well. My own web hosting company, for instance, has everything but phone support. We are still capable of answering inquiries within minutes. If you are considering a particular web host, best thing you can do to evaluate their support is simply send them an e-mail or open a support ticket and see how long it takes them to respond to your inquiry. If it takes more than 24 hours, thatís probably a bad sign. In order to substantiate credibility of your potential web hosting company, I suggest looking for some type of customer testimonials on their webpage. If they list customerís website or e-mail address, go extra step and contact at least one of customers. They will be able to confirm that they are real customers and let you know about their experiences with given company. If they have no testimonials, or testimonial listings do not contain a means of contacting customers, do a search on company using a big search engine like Google and Yahoo!. Look for forums and other webpages that may contain customer feedback about your company. Many times, customers that have either had a very bad or very good experience with a hosting company will go onto at least one webmaster forum and tell others about their experience. Looking up these comments is a good way to get a third-party assessment of a particular hosting company.
If you follow these bits of advice I am certain you will find a reliable, affordable hosting company that is right for your website. If nothing else, you could give my hosting company (SitePhase.com) a look and compare it to other companies offering similar plans. Whatever company you decide to go with, I wish you best of luck!
Matt Smith is the co-owner of SitePhase Web Hosting (http://www.sitephase.com). SitePhase offers affordable and reliable web hosting solutions starting at $2.95/ month.