(Gawkwire.com) Web sites tend to be managed by a lot of people. They’re important to a lot of businesses, so most of those businesses tend to involve a lot of people in the web site process: marketing people, designers, programmers, and of course, the executives. The pure extent of people involved with managing a given web site presents a problem for the average web host – how to support all of those people.

Many web hosts have a policy of only supporting the designated account holder, but more flexible hosts allow the account holder to designate a series of “alternate contacts,” that is, people authorized to act on behalf of the account holder.

The alternate contacts are pre-authorized to manage the account, ask questions, make changes, and, access records. Some systems even let the main account holder decide exactly what the alternate contacts can and cannot do (i. e. they can only contact support, not change billing options).

The benefit to the customer is apparent: the process of allowing alternate contacts allows more people than just the account holder to securely access and manage the company’s hosting account.

For example, in smaller companies, the “account holder” is often the owner of the company, but chances are that the owner is not involved with the web hosting account on a day-to-day basis. In bigger companies, the actual “account holder” is probably the company itself or maybe an executive within the company. Again, there is a need to have other people manage the account.

While web hosting companies that provide the option to have alternate contacts are saving their “actual” customers time and effort, they are making their own jobs slightly more difficult. With a system that allows alternate contacts, the hosting company has to impress more people than just the account holder.

Depending on the company’s current level of service, this additional communication can either be a blessing or a curse. If the company is skilled enough to provide great service on a consistent basis, it’s an opportunity to show off to even more people. If the company has yet to master customer service and provides terrible service at least some of the time, there are going to be even more people who will eventually be disappointed.

If your company allows your customers to assign alternate contacts (which you should do, especially if you deal with a lot of businesses), try to do these things:

Get in touch with the alternate contact directly. This way, you can explain procedures, answer questions, and help the alternate contact right from the beginning. You should send a welcome email to new alternate contacts in the same way that you send a similar email to new customers. If alternate contacts know what you do and don’t support and how your support organization works right off the bat, the potential of problems occurring down the road is greatly reduced.
Clearly outline what can and cannot be done. Policies regarding what alternate contacts can and cannot do vary greatly from company to company. It is your responsibility to clearly articulate these limitations (if such limitations exist) to any new alternate contacts. That way, the alternate contacts aren’t surprised when you explain that only the primary account holder can authorize what they’re asking you to do.
Treat them just like your customers. Just because the alternate contacts are not paying the bills themselves does not mean that they’re second-class customers. In many cases, the alternate contact has just as much say in whether or not they will be renewing their hosting account next year as the actual account holder does. You never know who the alternate contacts are (it could be the company’s CEO), so be sure to treat all of them just like you treat all of your other customers (which is hopefully great).
Writer’s Bio: Douglas Hanna is the Customer Service Editor for Ping! Zine.

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