What is Reseller Hosting? Published: Oct 28, 2003
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Tripod Support is a highly acclaimed, global outsourcing company focused on delivering customer care solutions to web hosting companies. We had a chance to interview is Roj Niyogi, President of Tripod Support Solutions to find out more.

Tripod Support is a highly acclaimed, global outsourcing company focused on delivering customer care solutions to web hosting companies.  We had a chance to interview is Roj Niyogi, President of Tripod Support Solutions to find out more about what they can offer us.

Tripod Support Solutions
www.tripodsupport.com

What is your name and title?
Thanks for having me.  My name is Roj Niyogi.  I'm President of Tripod Support Solutions.

When did your company officially launch?
Our company officially launched December 2003.  We are a brand new company but already have a client base we wish we could publicly be proud of but can't due to non-disclosure reasons.  Most of our customers are happy with the transparency our service provides and therefore don't want their customers (or competitors) to know they are using us.  I don't blame them. :)

Tell us about Tripod Support and what you offer.
Tripod Support is an global outsourcing company focused on delivering customer care solutions to web hosting companies.  Over the past few years, global outsourcing has received mixed reviews in various industries and, most recently, in web hosting.  My personal observation, with my background in web hosting and systems administration, was that, while several companies in outsourced web hosting technical support exist, they weren't doing a good job of handling customer care for web hosting companies.  General complaints from early adopters of outsourced customer care pulled down the general sentiment towards outsourcing.  I entered the industry to turn this around because, being a born-and-raised American with Indian origin, I had the optimal balance necessary to put together American ideals with Indian work ethic in a happy, effective medium.  Though it's been an uphill battle facing the spoiled reception towards outsourced tech support, I see it as a time of opportunity and honestly believe that properly managed outsourcing under certain conditions can be fruitful for all. 

How did you get involved in web hosting industry?
My background with web hosting started in 1998 as a freelance web developer doing various web projects for local companies around the Austin area.  I spent a lot of time looking for a web hosting company that lived up to the promises of super-high uptime and quality support but was disappointed time and time again when these promises went under-delivered.  People who know me personally know that I am a extreme advocate of quality customer care in all respects – whether you are in the grocery store or getting your hair cut.  I wished to bring this to the hosting world and therefore started pgHoster, a hosting company catering to PostgreSQL database enthusiasts.  I managed pgHoster for three years and grew our niche customer base to one that was diverse and large – five-hundred customers from 40 countries.  The manpower necessary to support our clients was becoming unaffordable.  Turning to outsourced tech support companies was an option but after evaluating the handful that were out there, I didn't have the confidence necessary to proceed.  Instead, I went out and started my own as a way to supplement support for pgHoster and deliver the same for other hosting companies as well.  :)

What does your company offer over other support services like BobCares? How experienced is your staff?
Very good and popular question.  We are a new company, formed in late 2003 but have strong principles and a team-oriented staff (hard to find in areas like India) which keep us in a leading position over our competitors.  Tripod Support's mission statement is to deliver quality customer care.  How well we handle our customers (i.e. web hosting companies) is a testament and precedent for how they can expect us to handle their customers.  I do not know how BobCares or any other company operates but I can tell you how we achieve our cause: 
To deliver top-notch customer service to web hosting customers requires both excellent troubleshooting skills and effective communication skills.  Both work hand in hand.  You might be able to solve a problem but be extremely poor at letting the customer know what happened.  This doesn't work.  You might be able to write pages and pages to the customer about what might be happening on an issue but not solve it.  This definitely doesn't work.  So both are needed to produce the optimal customer care experience we think we deliver better than our competitors. 
Other outsourced tech support companies boast excellent English proficiency. My own cumbersome recruiting experience in relation to this issue makes this extremely hard to believe.  We have had to work extremely hard to get our guys typing and chatting (under pressure) just like somebody would in the US so that support seems transparent.  Queen's English (or British English) is the first giveaway that support is being outsourced – and is embarrassing to both the web hosting company and Tripod Support when caught.  So we make sure that this doesn't happen by using quality assurance methods such as employing US-based “proofers” to catch the little mistakes our tech guys can't see but are obvious to the customer. 
Finally, all our Support Engineers are RHCE-certified.  This, alone, doesn't mean anything since the real value behind a good Support Engineer is his ability to multi-task and troubleshoot effectively.  We have over forty years of combined Linux experience and are familiar with several control panel, chat, and trouble ticket softwares – all because I make sure they are well learned. With a staff of over two dozen working around the clock, there is always somebody with an answer to a hosting problem.  We have chat-handling specialists, server/security specialists, and network specialists that work in an extremely team-oriented setting to get each and every chat handled and trouble ticket solved. 

Do you provide server admin services as part of the support?
Yes.  We will do kernel upgrades/recompiles, security upgrades as suggested by Red Hat Network (RHN), datacenter-handled reboots if needed, and other server maintenance tasks as requested by our clients. 

Are you kept anonymous from my hosting customers and what type of support is offered? EG: Instant messenger, support desk, telephone
Absolutely.  All of our Support Engineers have pseudonyms that they address responses with.  In some cases, our customers have requested that we not use names either and go by a numbering system.  For example, instead of signing a trouble ticket with “Mike”, it would be signed with “Hosting Specialist #32”.  It's all up to the customer – and we sign any non-disclosure agreements our clients bring to the table.  They are enforceable too since we are an American company. Our service is transparent – customers never know they are working with Tripod Support. 
We handle support issues by Live Chat, Trouble Ticket, and E-Mail.  Most of our customers already have third-party applications for the live chat and trouble ticket system which we have no problems working with.  Some that come to mind are PHPLiveHelper, PHPLive Support, BoldChat, Stardevelop LiveHelp, LivePerson, PerlDesk, Kayako, and Support-Logic.  The fact is: using trouble ticket and chat systems isn't the challenge; responding to customers with solutions to their problems is.

How easy is it to integrate Tripod Support into my existing company and software?
We make the transition to Tripod Support as painless as possible.  In our most complex case, our longest rollout took about three weeks from gathering information about the client to delivering support to their over twenty thousand customers.  We ended up doing a pilot program using a subset of their complete customer base and, soon after, were handling 100% of their web hosting support issues.
The process is much smoother and easier for smaller companies that have only a handful of servers that they need supported.  In this case, they give us their server details (OS type, control panel, etc), a  spreadsheet of their customer data, access to their trouble ticket and live chat platforms and we are in good shape to begin offering support to their customers.  For fine-tuning, we send a questionnaire to the client asking questions like “How do we handle cancellations?” or “What if a customer complains about a server.” so that we can work more effectively.  Overall, we work extremely close with our clients during the first two weeks after launch to understand their approach to customer handling.    

What kind of security measures are taken to ensure my clients info and server info is kept safe and confidential?
Your server information is extremely sensitive – effectively a set of keys to your business.  Handing over your root passwords to anybody can instantaneously make you feel vulnerable.  What can make cause even more nail-biting is that you are giving the data to a foreign company.  What kind of legal action can you take against them should your information be compromised?  Our goal isn't to get sued but to allow you to sleep well at night without sweats and worries over where your passwords are going.  To keep your server information contained, this data is given to a specific “cluster” of Tripod Support Engineers that actively need it.  Nobody else in the organization has access to your passwords.  Prior to employment, Tripod Support Engineers sign extensive non-disclosure agreements enforceable by Indian law.  Other outsourced tech support companies tend to disseminate server data into the complete organization – an accident waiting to happen. 

How fast are your response times?
We aim to respond to and resolve all trouble tickets within 30 minutes or less.  However, our guaranteed resolution time is two hours.  Naturally, all live chats are handled within minutes of the request for chat being placed.  I've heard many complaints that to meet these limits, outsourced tech support companies tend to issue a generic “We are working on your problem.” response.  However, we do not use these extremely cheap tactic for two reasons: a) It would become blaringly obvious to the end customer that we are buying ourselves time without actually looking into the nature of the problem b) It would lower client confidence in our ability to actually solve problems swiftly.  Instead, our initial response is to shed some direct light on the problem should it require considerably more attention.   

What is your day to day role like at your company?
Day to day role is hard to say – although it has everything to do with keeping our customers delighted and their customers happy.  I'm flying back and forth between Austin an Kolkata regularly to see that things are running effectively, new recruits are being trained the way I want to, and for general meetings with my managers.  I end up toggling between life in Austin and life in Kolkata – three months in the US and then three months in the South Asian sub-continent.  I am currently in Kolkata overseeing the expansion of our new office and cultivating a emerging relationship with a large US customer. 

Do you have any final comments?
Once again, thanks very much for this interview.  I acknowledge that making a decision about whether or not to outsourcing your customer support is a difficult one that takes time and necessity.  Almost daily, there are both online and offline discussions taking place about opinions on this issue.  I sincerely hope that your readers will re-consider outsourcing in general after having glanced over my personal commitment to re-establishing its benefits.  All it needs is to be done right.  :)

What is your company’s location and contact information?
Our main offices are located in Austin, Texas.  Our customer support center is located in Kolkata (Calcutta), India.  You can reach us toll-free at 866.544.4131.  Or, if you'd like, you can reach me directly at 512.692.6297 or niyogi@tripodsupport.com.

Roj, Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview with WebHostGear.

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Comments (1)

  • Gravatar - ask webmaster
    ask webmaster 23:58, November 4, 2003
    Great article

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