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Memoirs of a Gator, part II

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Please see Part I, right here.  As our story continues, I am now on the chat floor speaking primarily on the phone with Customers, though also taking random chats as well between calls.  Starting to get into the swing of things, but still not completely at ease.  I’ve managed to not break anything or anger anyone, so I figure I’m doing well enough. Many of our Customers are familiar with the feedback@hostgator.com email address, which is directly read by Management and is intended for use any time anyone has any complaints or praise about anything at all related to their HostGator account or the related support they’ve received.  Thus far, I have assisted a few Customers who took the time to email in to let my Supervisor know about the quality of my work.  It’s always nice to have nice things said about you by strangers.

Having never provided technical support to the general public in any capacity before, those first few days were interesting and full of constant learning.  I wanted to do the best I could and maintain HostGator’s stellar level of support, but at the same time I lacked the actual experience which is what ultimately leads to complete confidence.  Time would solve this circumstance, but time takes time.  I can honestly say that working on the chat floor was fast-paced and exciting and there was truly never a dull moment.

I decided to query some veteran Gators on their initial impressions from when they were brand new Hatchlings, fresh out of training.  The consensus seems to be pretty similar to my own experience.  Presenting, in alphabetical order, some initial impressions from my fellow Gators:

Cody (presently a Linux Admin): “When I first started as a Chat Tech, I was kind of overwhelmed by the huge amount of information, but very excited by the huge learning opportunity in front of me.  I did all I could every day,  studied the KnowledgeBase, and life got easier and easier each day.”

Dominic (presently a Sales Representative): “It felt like my first time swimming.  I was scared, splashing around trying to quickly find answers to questions I just learned.  As I was flailing wildly, I held on to whomever was there: Quality Assurance, Level 2 Chat Agents, Supervisors… whoever didn’t mind that I had a deathgrip on their arm”

Kristi (presently a Retention Specialist): “I was so nervous.  Fortunately the resources, tools and overall assistance provided allowed me to quickly grow to where I became much more confident and comfortable working directly with the Customers.”

Russell (presently a Linux Admin): “I felt overwhelmed at first, but the more I worked with customers, the more knowledgeable I became and the easier and more enjoyable the job became to me.”

Zach (presently a Linux Admin): “It was like playing that lightening reaction game: each time you start a new chat it’s panic until the Customer describes the problem… and then you realize that yes, you can actually fix this.”

It seems that almost all of us start out with a certain degree of cold feet, but ultimately we have all risen to other positions within the company and made room for dozens and dozens of new Hatchlings that will follow in our paths. Speaking of new Hatchlings, this is a picture of our Austin Training room on the day this post was written. Behold, the future generation of HostGator, likely presently feeling that initial nervousness of which we’re speaking:

atx_training_room

 

It should truly go without saying that most of our interactions with our Customers are overwhelmingly pleasant, but  anyone providing front-line support will always have an interesting or unusual interaction.  One of the Customers that sticks out for me was an individual who initially took a shine to me and began requesting me each time time they called.  This particular Customer wound up calling up to discuss a myriad of topics, including their recent doctor appointments and on-going health issues.  Another call was to request my assistance in repairing a hardware issue on their home computer.  We have a very soft “scope of support” here at HostGator, but troubleshooting home PCs (or doctor appointment visits) is simply not a service we can really provide, with our apologies.

Before too long, I would be promoted to a position where I no longer actively accepted telephone calls, thus was the end of my interactions with that particular Customer… at least as of this writing, but one never knows.  As for the position to which I was promoted, we will certainly come to that as we further speak on this topic.

Once again, if you have any questions at all about our front-line Agents, or anything at all that has been discussed up to this point, please leave your question in the comments section and I’ll be happy to elaborate.

A Question of Monetization

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Monetization of a website can be tricky business.  Some individuals seem to have the golden touch, while others simply can’t manage to profit the proverbial two pennies to rub together.

Fundamentally, monetization is the process of converting website traffic into revenue.  Theoretically, there are many ways in which to accomplish this; we’ll discuss a small number of them.  Be aware that the stories of failure, on the whole, outweigh the stories of success.  Without risk though, there is no reward; some people are able to make their living entirely by the means mentioned below.  At the very least, perhaps you can end each month with a few more coins in your pocket.

 

Google Adsense:

Clearly one of the most popular means of generating revenue with your existing website it to sign up for a service like Google Adsense, whereby you add additional code to your website that facilitates the placement of contextual ads within your site, in hopes that your visitors will click on them.  How much money you stand to make depends on how much traffic your site generates and how many of your visitors do actually click on any given ad.

 

Banner Advertising:

Banners are essentially clickable graphics that you place on your website that advertise and link to another site, which then generally pays you for each visitor that clicks the banner.  Conversely, some agreements are contingent upon the person not only clicking the banner, but then also making a purchase on the target website which could then potentially earn you a commission for that sale.

 

Affiliate Programs:

Essentially what affiliate programs do is to pay you to refer people to them.  As an apt example, HostGator has a rather successful affiliate program whereby we pay you to refer Customers to us: http://www.hostgator.com/affiliates.shtml  …you simply place a link on your website that someone then clicks on to sign up with HostGator, and we then pay you.

 

Donations:

If you feel the quality of your website is worthy of people simply handing you money, then by all means you may certainly ask for donations.  Paypal makes it incredibly easy for people to give you money with the simple click of a mouse.

***

There are numerous other means of generating revenue online, some more respected than others.  For example, you could run pop-up/pop-under ads, but those are generally considered a more of a nuisance than anything else.   You can offer memberships to premium content, if that is applicable.  Offering something for sale is always an option; perhaps even an ebook on how to monetize websites.

An Intruder, part II

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Several months ago an intruder made an attempt on the life of a Gator. Before we continue, I want to alleviate any concerns and assure you that despite the fact that another attempt was made to harm a Gator, that the attempt was once again thwarted.  Don’t be worried, there’s no reason to make the children leave the room.  Please continue reading.

As the sun rose on Halloween 2012, there was no idea the horrors that would manifest before sunset.  It would be none other than our fearless leader, CEO Adam Farrar, who would come under attack on this day.  The beast sent to destroy Adam would not have teeth, as our last intruder did, but would be of the winged and stinger variety.  Fortunately for all of us, Snappy would be there to save the day… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

If you recall from the blog addressing our prior attack, we are equipped to immediately dispatch a black ops-style task force to handle virtually any situation.  Much to our dismay, it seems that our emergency response tactics have been studied!  This time the attack was launched from within Adam’s own vehicle, effectively rendering us unable to dispatch our emergency response team!  This ninja style attack was simply unprecedented.

There’s no telling how long the enemy laid in wait: hours, weeks… months?  It’s clear that the attack was well-planned and slated to take place specifically on Halloween.  See, one detail that has not yet been revealed is that, on this day, HostGator CEO Adam Farrar was dressed as a yellow Angry Bird:

 

What does Adam’s costume have to do with this story? Well, on one hand how many people get to see their boss dressed as an Angry Bird?  On the other hand, it is quite clear that the enemy had been conducting intelligence gathering operations for quite some time; they knew that he would be in costume on this day and therefore somehow more vulnerable to their attack.  Seems legit, right?

Where were we? Oh! So, there’s Adam driving himself home, surely obeying all local traffic laws; yielding the right-of-way as needed and so forth.  Probably listening to an audio book while whistling a soft tune to himself.  He’s completely unaware that his life is presently very much in danger.

The enemy attacks!  There is a blur of yellow and black, immediately followed by a blur of blue!  Blue?  Where did that come from, what’s going on?!

Let’s slow down for a moment and view this event Matrix-style.  As the (ya know… probably) killer bee finally reveals itself, his tiny bee eyes focused on Adam’s jugular and a single bead of sweat on his itty-bitty bee eyebrow, time has slowed to a crawl.  Nothing but wicked intent reflects off of his wings as he moves in for the kill.  This bee has trained since birth to accomplish this single goal.  The brotherhood of bee assassins is no joke, their sworn oath is something to the effect of, like, “buzz, buzz-bzzzzzzzzz!”

Adam, being highly trained himself, immediately senses the danger and begins to flail his arms about uncontrollably.  A single high-pitched shriek may (or may not) have been about to escape his lips when from the depths of the back seat Snappy leaps into action.

Unbeknownst to Adam, we have him under a 24-hour guard of an undisclosed number of elite Snappys, sworn to protect him at all costs.

It all happened so fast.  As Snappy caught the intruder in his jaws, crushing the would-bee assassin… would-bee, get it?…he turned towards Adam, still mid-flight, the sun catching Snappy’s eye perfectly as he gave his boss a single wink and a thumbs-up, before landing on the dashboard as shown below, a hero:

Memoirs of a Gator, part I

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Please gather ’round as I tell a tale to rival the greatest tales ever told!  Think of it as Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies mixed with Don Quixote with a hint of Robinson Crusoe and a splash of Gulliver’s Travels.  Pretty much exactly like that, anyway.  More or less.

Our story begins, not unlike The Canterbury Tales, with a job interview in early February of 2010.  Was that The Canterbury Tales with the job interview thing?  I forget.  At any rate, I have a discussion about websites I had previously built, the related technologies, and how I might handle different interactions with different types of Customers… things of that nature.  I pass the interview and am informed that I would begin training the following Monday.

So on that sunny Monday morning in February of 2010, I began my career at HostGator as a front-line Technical Support Representative; officially referred to as a ChatTech at the time.  ChatTechs no longer exist, they have gone extinct and evolution has provided us with Jr. Admins to fill that role.  Granted, this may just be semantics, but I was hired and spent my first seven months at HostGator as a ChatTech.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I had virtually no real webhosting experience at that point; I’d never heard of cPanel, WHM or WordPress.  I have now grown to become a huge fan of all three of these fantastic tools; a process which began on that fateful first day of training.

Training was very educational; it’s a ton of information in a relatively short amount of time and serves the dual purpose of ideally teaching you, if not everything you need to know then at least a solid foundation, while also conditioning you to most effectively find answers to the questions that you don’t know.  As an aside, our training program is constantly being refined and improved upon and remains very dynamic in terms of staying abreast of the constant change that is fundamental to this industry.  Our trainers are like highly skilled knowledge ninjas who judo chop knowledge into all those who would join their fellow Gators here in the swamp.

Or maybe they’re more like Jedis… though Jedis are kind of like just fancy, space ninjas.  Please don’t barrage me with emails about how I misrepresented Jedis, I know how territorial you Star Wars fans can be.  I digress.

I remember a distinct feeling of needing to absorb all this new information as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  We are not only taught general troubleshooting for a myriad of technical issues, but also the ins and outs of HostGator policies, procedures and Terms of Service.  Truth be told, I did a fair amount of studying over the weekend between the two full weeks of training.  Ultimately I completed training and found myself on the chat floor taking real live calls and chats from real live Customers.

When next we speak on this subject, I’ll talk more about my early days at HostGator and some of the more interesting Customer interactions I had at the time.  Also, the path I’ve followed since those early days and hopefully share a lot of what the actual experience of being a Gator is all about.  Perhaps, along the way, I can talk some genuine brand new Hatchlings and some other veteran Gators into sharing their thoughts about their first few days as well.

I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments section about our Jr. Admins or the hiring/training process, really anything at all related to what we’ve addressed thus far.  Also, if there is any aspect of HostGator that you would like for me to expound upon as I tell this tale throughout additional posts, please leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to oblige.