Update: This post was originally written back in 2014 and we have had no problems since. Check out how we’ve reduced credit card fraud by 98% using Stripe Radar.
We all make mistakes. We’re just a small hosting startup yet we make mistakes every now and then, I can imagine how hard it can be to look after hundreds of thousands of customers. That, though, is not an excuse, you have to be proactive and if you make a mistake you better own up to it and learn from it.
That’s exactly what Stripe did and I’m happy to say that we got our account reactivated and a lot of friendly people from the company reached out to us and made sure we don’t feel left behind. I even had the chance to chat with Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe and Andy Young, head of Stripe’s UK division. These guys are building a company that is valued well over a billion dollars yet still took the time to contact us personally, now that’s exemplary customer care.
What is one of the most critical thing startups lack? Time.
When you’re dealing with a lot of clients you have to have a (high) level of automation otherwise you’d have to operate a customer support team so large that it could fill a city. Automation is never perfect and as someone who spent five years in the search engine optimization (SEO) business I’m no stranger to getting screwed by an algorithm.
In Google’s case we were used to not being able to reach out to anyone and our only option was to dust ourselves off and start over. However I don’t expect the same from a company that we are a paying customer of. That’s what hurts the most in my opinion: not being able to get help for your problems and the lack of communication from your business partner.
If you’re dealing with customers directly, customer care is everything, even more so in the modern days of social media. Stripe is not the only payment processor online and just like they grew up in the shadows of PayPal (which didn’t provide adequate customer support and made it really hard for developers to integrate their services) they can be knocked out by a current or future competitor that may provide better support and/or a better product at the same pricing levels. In today’s all connected world giants are rising and falling every day.
It’s a fact that bad news and bad reviews spread much faster than good ones. You have to monitor social media as much as you can. The discussion about your brand is happening whether you like it or not, the only choice you have is to join or look the other way and pretend that social media doesn’t exist. Now if you’d like to build a longterm business it’s not really a choice.
In order to a startup to succeed, in my opinion you have to have three things: meritorious support, one of best products (or services) in your niche and competitive pricing.
Customer support is everything though. It is possible that the founders and the management didn’t even know about the issues customer face when trying to reach the support team. Or that overnight, immediate account closures happen at all. It’s important to directly ask your clients for feedback every now and then and work together with them to make your product better.
The industry Kinsta is in (web hosting) is infamous for abysmal customer care. I guess in the old days it was easy to put together an okay(ish) server box and put as many clients on it as possible, take their money and when they complained you made them feel like they aren’t really entitled for any support because the service is so cheap.
Even though Kinsta provides the best web hosting performance among all of our current competitors, that’s only 10% of the recipe to success. I’d say added value (backups, security, custom admin features, etc.) is another 10% and the other 80% is customer support. Everyone who knows Linux can put together a hosting server, some of them can even build outstanding servers, but if they don’t provide fanatical support (I hope RackSpace won’t sue us for using their trademarked term…) it’s simply not enough.
As I wrote in my previous post we really like Stripe. As the lead developer of our team I’d say it’s the best thing that happened to online payments since PayPal. They made a mistake, maybe a tiny one for them, but a huge one for us and when I called them out on it they owned up to it and did everything in their power to fix it. I’m happy to call them a business partner.