Five Nines Growth Rate for 2009

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Horror stories of unbelievably poor customer service are everywhere these days. And if your customers aren't buying, it may be tempting to cut back on your service levels to them. But a handful of IT solution providers have proven that exceptional customer service can lead to growth, even during the worst economic recession most people can remember.

And in a year when everyone else was saying, "Flat is the new up," Five Nines was on track to grow by 33 percent for 2009 to $4 million.

That’s because the relationship with the customers is the first priority at Five Nines, which began its life just over three years ago as many managed service providers were looking to add help desks to their businesses.

"We looked at that, and in the end we decided we weren’t willing to embrace a pure help desk model for our customers," Bock says. "We wanted to build the relationships.

"If we have a customer that has a problem that we traditionally would call the help desk for, we want them to call the primary engineer," says Bock. "He’s the one who knows when there’s an issue with this application; he knows what is going on with that."

The goal is for the primary engineer to handle 80 percent of the work from each of their assigned clients. If that primary engineer is not available for any reason, the customer talks to another engineer on the primary engineer’s service team who also must be familiar with that customer and account.  

Another difference: Bock believes that doing too much work remotely means technicians don’t spend enough time onsite, where they are able to provide more intelligent advice to customers, so technicians do more work with customers onsite than they do at some other managed service provider companies.

Because of this approach to technical support and customer service, Bock’s company spends more on labor than most, but he thinks it’s worth it, and his revenue growth numbers certainly back that up.

"Our service delivery model has been a huge part of what’s created our growth," Bock says. "It creates customers who go out of their way to say, 'You should use Five Nines because they are awesome. We never thought we could get this out of an IT company. We just thought that an IT company was someone to be annoyed with or didn’t call us back or made us stay on the phone with them for 5 hours or couldn’t fix our problems.’"

Five Nines now employs 13 engineers but only one sales development person. Most business comes from referrals, says Bock.

The I.T. Pros

Doug Ford, president of The I.T. Pros, says it was never a temptation to cut back on customer service or technical support during the recession, even though his business has stayed flat in 2009.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com