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Hosting: Testing Your Candidates
When youíve narrowed down your list of possible hosts to just two or three, itís worth sending a test email to find out what the customer support is like. Great value for money, reliability and lots of useful features are all well and good, but if you have a problem, you want to be sure that you can get a helpful response from the support team within a reasonable period of time.
- Make sure you email the right people! Contacting the sales department wonít help at all if you want to assess the quality of the technical support, so be sure to get the right email address from the companyís website. If itís hard to find, that could count against them, but letís give them the benefit of the doubt and drop them an email anyway to see how they cope with it.
- Ask them a technical question, as if you are an existing customer. Thereís no need for them to know that youíre testing them. Make sure that you understand your own question and that you have some idea of what answer youíre expecting.
- How long does it take for them to respond? To fairly compare companies, you need to send your emails at the same time of day for each company. Make sure you take time zones into account, and then try to send your emails after midnight on a Saturday night, their time. This will be the best test of their service. Anything under six hours is a pretty good response time. Some companies put sales first; others prioritise support questions. You want one of the latter sort, because ultimately, once you are an existing customer, you will be dealing almost exclusively with the support department.
- How good is the response? Is the question answered precisely and correctly? Do they give you more or less information than you need? Clarity of response is also important: they should explain any technical terms you might not understand, and offer a structured response, perhaps with an explanation of the problem you are experiencing, and then a list of possible solutions.
- The manner of the response is also important. Make sure you choose a hosting company whose support technicians address you in a way you feel comfortable with. Some people prefer to be addressed as "Mr" or "Ms", others as "Sir" or "Madam", still others by their first name. You might just prefer that an email begins with "Hi there". If you think that the email is too informal or impolite, move on. You do not want to find yourself irritated by the manner of support emails. Also, look out for offers of further help: if the email ends with something like "Do not hesitate to contact me again if you have any more questions", and especially if it comes from a personal email address (as opposed to a general support one), you may well be onto a winner. Building a good rapport with a particular member of the support staff can be invaluable, as they will get to know your situation and will be able to help you more efficiently.
Author: Natalie Catchpole