Much of my time since being on the road for almost all of October has been locked into Reclaim Hosting support (oh yeah, there’s also been conference planning and a new office as well). It’s been a fairly intense Fall, and Lauren, Tim and I are not letting up as the next few months will surely attest to. That said, it’s worth taking a moment to point out the reason we have been fairly successful thus far: stellar support.
I like to remind myself of this because it’s grounding. From the very beginning Reclaim Hosting benefitted greatly from the work we did at UMW, an awesome community (hi ds106!), and a broader need in higher ed for web hosting. But at the end of the day, no matter how much people want to help—and believe me they do—when you’re hosting their personal, course, or institutional sites they just want them online. They also appreciate a heads up when they’re not, because at some point they won’t be. But more than anything they want someone to finally say yes and offer to help them when they’re trying to teach online. I think this last part is where Reclaim has nailed it. While we’re only 3 full-time employees (smaller than most ed-tech groups), I would be so bold to suggest we provide better support than hosts with 10x as many people working for them. The proof is in the pudding, check out the stats from the last 30 days in Zendesk:
Almost 90% of all tickets were answered within 45 minutes as opposed to the industry average of 16 hours! Additionally, we have almost 5x as many tickets as the industry average. Earlier this year we got rid of chat support which became onerous, even for a company that responds as quickly as we do. We moved from Intercom back to Zendesk in the Spring. On top of cutting our monthly support software nut in half, we lost nothing in the way of response time after entirely to email. We have discussed possibly offering phone support in the future once we settle into the Reclaim office, but that remains a question mark. And while there are few folks who missed chat, and a few who would appreciate phone support, by and large folks are happy after dealing with us because email doesn’t seem so bad when responses are lightening fast and they solve your issues. Additionally, a move to email-only support forces people to spell-out their issues in more depth which cuts down significantly on the one word requests like “HELP!!!” we would often get in chat.
Now that we’ve been doing this for a few years we also have a sense of the flow of the work. Things slow down significantly around Thanksgiving, but steadily pick up over the last few weeks of the semester. In fact, in the chart above you can see the spike over the last week which tells the story of a semester wrapping up. We will fall off a cliff here pretty soon as classes end and schools break for the holidays. Late December and early January is our window to turn to infrastructure and add new servers, retire old ones, as well as for getting new schools up and running.
I’ve really enjoyed doing support fairly intensely the last 6 weeks, there’s no question Tim is still the master, but I think I’ve become pretty competent in most support issues and migrations—and I’m also studying and employing his method closely. Tim always goes the extra mile for folks, and that has made all the difference. I am also doing a lot of the lower-level server maintenance and support. I’m nothing to behold just yet, but I am building a fairly solid base-level competence as server admin. It’s gotten to the point where I work as much from terminal as I do in the cPanel web interface. Also, StackExchange has become my best friend.
But all of our jobs right now consists predominantly in supporting Reclaimers, and we do it a lot and we are getting even better. A year or two ago it was all Tim, but Lauren and I have been working hard this past year, and I think the load is beginning to be a bit more evenly distributed—which allows us all to do more. We are being deliberate about our growth, and part of that is to make sure we don’t forget why people are excited about hosting with us. We help them do cool things for their day job. We point them to useful WordPress plugins. We’ve been known to recommend a theme or two. We help them setup beta versions of Omeka-S. We experiment with self-hosted instances of Mastodon (nightmare!). We point them elsewhere if they need something beyond a shared hosting environment (their own VPS, a Docker container, Sandstorm.io, etc.). And on and on.
I’m proud of the work we do at Reclaim, and 99% of it is supporting students, faculty, and ed-techs-not that much has changed 🙂 Tim hates my braggy support posts because I think he believes it’s bad form, but this is the internet and Donald Trump is soon to be the President of the USA—bad form is all the rage!