Transparency in Numbers

HostGator is a relatively large web hosting company that has been experiencing rapid growth for a long time. They recently moved to Houston and hired 50 new employees, bringing their total headcount to about 100 or so. They plan to grow much larger in the next year or so.

I was happy to see that the company started a blog. They posted a letter from the CEO, a tour of their new office, and some of the standard promotional things you see on a blog. Not a bad start. Recently, though, a post about their live chat numbers sparked my interest.

June 1 to June 14, 2007

Total Number of Chats: 13,355
Total Surveys Returned: 4,170

Overall HostGator Experience
Excellent: 1,895
Very Good: 984
Good: 784
Fair: 378
Poor: 129

Chat Technician Rating
Awesome: 2,301
Good: 1,464
Needs Improvement: 396

As you can tell from looking at the numbers (reposted above with permission), HostGator has a lot of volume: 7,000 chats a week. The stats given don’t show the total amount of tickets or phone calls (maybe someone from HostGator can send them our way?), but 1,000 chats a day is quite a lot. HostGator has been growing very fast and it is quite obvious they are doing something right just by the number of customers that they have.

Something that is interesting is the return rate for the chats. It’s over 30%, which is really good. This gives HostGator a lot of data to work with and probably a fairly diverse survey base.

Customer service know how (and more scientific studies) say that unless people give you one of the top two ratings (Excellent and Very Good or some variation thereof), they are just as likely to defer to the competition as those who rate you as poor. For example, if a company rated HostGator’s service as Good (say a 3), they are just as likely to go to a competitor as someone who rates HostGator’s service as Terrible (say a 1).

More customer service know how tells us that people who are unhappy are more likely to fill out the survey than those that are happy. Furthermore, if someone just closes the chat window, they aren’t shown a survey. Therefore, the people filling out the survey are the most savvy and unhappy of the bunch, which is worth noting.

With that in mind, HostGator’s satisfaction rating for the overall experience (from the chat) is like 69% or so. That means most people think their service is between Very Good (80%) and Good (60%). The 69% number shows that a majority of customers are generally happy, but chances are that an employee going above and beyond and providing really great customer service is not super common. In layman’s terms, HostGator is providing customer service that is definitely acceptable, but they haven’t gotten it to the “next level” just yet.

The chat technician rating is interesting as well. Assuming that “Awesome” is the top two grades, the chat technician average rating is about 55%. That is a bit low for comfort. However, I’m pretty sure that if HostGator expanded it to Excellent, Very Good, Good, etc., that the numbers would go up quite a bit. Awesome is a strong word, and as such, people who weren’t supper happy (i. e. the top rating) are less likely to rate a tech as awesome.

Some numbers and exercises for HostGator to consider crunching/doing:

  • Are the number of live chats and the satisfaction score a representative gets related? (Does more chats = less satisfaction?) (How many chats did Kevin N (who get the highest satisfaction rating) do?)
  • Has that satisfaction number increased over time? By how much?
  • Have an employee only do one chat a time for a day. See how his or her numbers do compared to other days.
  • Don’t base “top scores” purely on volume. Come up with a combination of volume and quality. Maybe 50% volume, 50% quality.
  • Send out a similar survey after tickets and see what the results are.
  • Research some alternative wording to Very Good, Good, etc. that is more “harsh.” (Example: Completely Unsatisfactory, Needs improvement, Acceptable, Good, Very Good or a variation of that).

Today’s post talked about what the numbers mean and how to get more accurate numbers. More on how HostGator can improve the numbers tomorrow.

Disclosure: I know and have worked with some of the executives at HostGator on both customer service and other projects. HostGator did not pay for this post.

Interested in having your numbers analyzed like this? Let us know!