TL; DR: Boasting the resources of one of the world’s largest network of hosts, A Small Orange emphasizes high-class service and support as it aims to give customers a boutique web hosting experience. We trace Product Owner Aimee Beckwith’s journey from customer to leader of the company’s renaissance, as Endurance International Group Vice President Beno Chapman describes the brand’s positioning and new paths forward. With tailored hosting solutions aimed at helping customers scale, A Small Orange deploys agile development practices to match users with exactly the right solutions.
When Aimee Beckwith was looking for hosting, the younger web hosting market was used to serving more experienced customers with the technical chops to take care of themselves.
“There were a lot of web hosting options, but there wasn’t a lot of support for you once you were onboarded,” she said. “The goal at that point was to get you server space, to get you the means to create your website, but not necessarily to help you in the creation of it.”
Aimee, however, found the one company doing things a little differently. From the beginning, A Small Orange sought to build the support relationships other hosts largely avoided. She appreciated the company so much she began answering other customers’ questions in the support forums.
“When I joined, I would talk to the same folks almost all the time,” Aimee said. “You’d know folks by name, you could have a conversation with someone. It was just such a unique and personalized experience unlike other hosts, where you just submit a form and hope you get a response.”
Now, she serves A Small Orange as the Product Owner, representing the brand’s interests in the Endurance International Group family of hosting providers. As A Small Orange sought to evolve its niche in the market, it strayed from its roots of offering a boutique, personalized experience — and Aimee is looking to bring that back with her invaluable perspective that EIG Vice President and General Manager says makes her the brand’s most valuable asset.
“That she is with us after being a customer, working up through support, knowing what it feels like to use our product and knowing what it feels like to help other people use our product, I don’t think a lot of companies have that,” he said. “I am truly serious that having someone like Aimee as part of our team is a true differentiator. We are user-operated.”
A Small Orange’s Role in Helping Customers Find the Right Solution
Aimee and Beno take a refreshingly nuanced, honest approach when examining what A Small Orange has become as the company sought to maintain a niche in the evolving hosting market. As A Small Orange tried new products and technologies available within EIG, it began to lose focus on customer-focused relationships.
“Sometimes I think we try to be too many things to too many different people,” Beno said. “Too many hosting companies — and A Small Orange is not immune to this — spend too much time getting people into the system.”
Part of the company’s mission to provide personalized service entails matching customers with the perfect services for their web hosting needs — with A Small Orange or otherwise. Given the numerous sister companies within the EIG family, Beno said the company is uniquely positioned to point potential customers to a network of additional resources. For example, advanced WordPress users looking to tweak and scale a new website will excel with A Small Orange, but beginners may be better served with the WordPress-approved offerings of Bluehost.
“We want to be there for you as long as you need somebody that is ready to be there,” he said. “Some people get to an autonomous situation where they don’t need all that extra hand-holding or chitchat. They want to get in and get out. We’ll help you find that solution. It could be with us, or it could be with someone else.”
For those application developers or more technical users who are best suited for A Small Orange, the process of finding exactly the right hosting solutions continues throughout the life of their account.
“We want to proactively go to our customers and say, ‘Looks like you have a shared product with us, and there are limitations on what you can do with that. Because we’ve gotten to know you, because we are partners of yours, we’d like to make sure you are plugged into the right solution,’” Beno said. “It’s that type of custom experience that we are targeting to move A Small Orange back into.”
Looking Ahead While Delivering What Customers Need
Comparing A Small Orange to another fruity company, Beno equates customer influence on product development to the pencil Apple recently rolled out that enables users to draw, take notes, and mark up documents on their iPad Pros.
“Apple showed everyone what they could have a year ago, then they listened to the customers’ experience and expectations and took it up a notch,” he said.
The same can be said for the relationship between A Small Orange’s customers, support teams, and developers: “There’s what the customers are asking for right now, and there’s us needing to be in tune with what the customers don’t know they want yet,” Beno said.
As big advocates of scrum development and project management, A Small Orange concentrates on a development lifecycle focused on building value for specific audiences with speed and agility.
“We have an iterative process that involves direct communication with our support teams, our infrastructure teams, and our engineering teams,” Beno said. “Because of our process, we can get to the things they want much sooner. The voice of the customer is a big part of that.”
Much of the customer voice is attained through support tickets and chat sessions; the company disbanded its well-regarded phone support because of lagging usage. In addition to focusing efforts on improving customer experience via fewer support channels, the emphasis on tickets and chat enables A Small Orange to more quickly analyze the feedback.
“Attaining that collaborative experience is easier for us via chat because we can quickly see that a lot of people, for instance, are talking about billing from this certain package, Beno said. “We can figure out what’s going on there and fix it. Or, if we can quickly detect that a lot of our users are interested in supporting Go as a language, then maybe there’s something we should prepare to help acknowledge that.”
Emphasizing Fun and Personalized Hosting Experiences
In the coming months, A Small Orange is exploring ways to leverage datacenters in Dallas and Dearborn, Michigan, in more dynamic ways that better serve specific customer groups. Cloud-grade scalability ensures the spark of a site owner’s new idea has the resources to take hold — or the option to fizzle.
“While your idea is a spark, here are the resources you need. We’ll figure out which ones are working well, down to the hardware level,” Beno said. “Most people start a web presence and don’t do much with it. If your spark diminishes, let’s see if we can tailor those resources down, so we don’t overcharge you or make it harder for ourselves to support the customers who do need more attention.”
As A Small Orange shifts its focus back to customer-centric services and support, Beno and Aimee eye a return to the company’s original strengths of individualized relationships, silly job titles for employees, and a renewed energy about web hosting.
“It’s a healthy culture of making it more human to have a website instead of just dealing with machines and boxes and servers,” Aimee said.
For Beno, the strategy means bucking industry trends where providers scramble to attract and onboard new customers. Instead of acquisition, A Small Orange is focused on retention.
“We know we have great customers, and we would like to help them stay great customers with us and on the internet forever,” he said. “A Small Orange is a fun place, and it should be an enjoyable place to have your hosting. There are a lot of places you can go and just get hosting. We like to say you’ve only got so many trips around the sun, let’s make sure you can enjoy as many of them as you can.”