TL; DR: With a staff that’s more like a technology enthusiasts’ club than a sales operation, Krystal believes customers are won and lost on service. CEO and Co-Founder Simon Blackler started the company as a web design business but quickly focused on just providing hosting. From the beginning, his goal has been to outdo companies that are more concerned with cutting corners and increasing revenue. Simon shared with us how that relentless approach of prioritizing customers over profits has satisfied the UK cloud hosting audience for more than 15 years.
In 2002, Simon Blackler and Robin Scott made a fansite for an upcoming computer game. While taking a break and bouncing on a backyard trampoline, they chatted about web design.
“My friend told me how much his dad had paid for his new website,” Simon said. “It was £5,000 or something crazy like that. I said, ‘We could have done a better job than that. Why didn’t he ask us?’”
From that moment, Simon and Robin set out to improve the industry and charge fairly for websites by starting their own business. Their first client? Robin’s dad. These were the beginnings of Krystal, where Simon now serves as CEO. The gaming fansite went on to become NexusMods, one of the world’s largest mod sites, with more than 14.5 million members — and it’s still hosted by Krystal.
After a few years of working with challenging design clients, the team pivoted to focus on hosting, which was more straightforward and appealing to the young entrepreneurs.
“People didn’t always know what they wanted with their website,” Simon said. “It just felt like a constantly shifting thing that was very hard to sort of pin down. As kids, particularly, we felt bad about saying, ‘Well, you’re moving the goal post, it’s going to cost you more.’ We moved onto something that was a bit more finite. ‘Is your website up? Yes? Well, then we’re doing our job.’ It’s either up and working or it’s not.”
As the company evolved, Krystal Hosting remained a tech-oriented work environment with no sales department and a focus on creating value for UK customers. After delivering robust cloud and dedicated hosting for more than 15 years, TrustPilot ranks Krystal Hosting as the top hosting company in the UK.
“We don’t care about money, we don’t care about profit,” Simon said. “We just want to be the best.”
Driven by Ideals of Value and Caring
As with any tech startup, Krystal Hosting faced plenty of growing pains associated with optimally configuring hardware and software. As the company grew, it went through the common progression of using a US-based reseller plan before moving to rented servers and finally standing up its own local UK servers in 2007.
“I didn’t have any previous experience configuring switches, firewalls, routers, or servers,” Simon said. “There was all this new hardware to get up and running. The hardware didn’t perform as advertised, and we had a lot of outages. It felt very much like the whole world was falling apart, really. I felt like I’d let down our clients in a major way.”
Having survived the early challenges, Simon and the Krystal Hosting team could focus on providing positive user experiences and performant web hosting.
“What galvanized us as a business was just how poor the service was that we experienced ourselves and just how much companies charged for what they offered,” Simon said. “I just thought, ‘I’m going to do a better job than you guys. The one thing you care about is making money. I’m going to force you to improve, or you’re just going to lose business to us.’ We really care. That was the idea: to create a business that just did the right thing, that was honest, reliable, and personal.”
To this day, Krystal’s top priority is bringing the most up-to-date and reliable services to web hosting clients. The company refuses to call itself a cheap hosting solution, instead choosing to emphasize what the client gets in return for the price point.
“We don’t put the word cheap on the site,” Simon said. “If the only thing you’re optimizing on is the cost, we’re not a good match. We aren’t just interested in how much something costs.”
Sales-Free Strategy Prioritizes Reliable Service
Without a sales team, the company puts all of its energy into making and supporting a great product. Simon describes the company as having an almost counter-sales culture.
“We were founded on quite altruistic principles,” he said. “So much so that I literally can’t tell you what our profit margin is off the top of my head. Everybody here is technical. If you ring up and ask for help picking a plan, we’ll put you on the smallest possible one.”
Nothing is more off-putting in the web hosting business than companies that “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” as Simon put it. Instead, Krystal stays on top of trends and the latest technologies to continually improve its infrastructure. The company was among the first in the UK to deliver SSD hosting as standard and is consistently improving server performance, backup reliability, and DDoS and firewall security. Krystal’s creed outlines the company’s business beliefs and industry perspective.
“We’re now in the process of deploying a new storage fabric that will be ridiculously fast, and we’re looking at deploying NVMe into our infrastructure,” he said. “We have a dedicated offsite backup location, so in the eventuality of a complete meltdown at our primary datacenter, we would be able to restore your data. It’s all really good stuff. It’s all just how you’d want it to be.”
The company’s investments may not always maximize profit, but its decisions continue to attract more clients and keep them happy.
“We don’t even ask if it makes economic sense,” Simon said. “We just ask, ‘Can we afford it?’ If we can, and it’s the best, we’ll do it.”
Hitting the Mark With Customer Needs
Krystal’s approach to rolling out new and improved services helps it stay on top of the fastest and most reliable technologies, Simon said. Team members are always listening to clients, but they try to stay ahead of the game with their own research into what works best.
“We’re certainly aware of what clients are after,” he said. “They talk to us all the time, but to a large extent, we’re kind of doing our own thing. We don’t normally miss the mark. Ultimately, no one complains when you speed something up or if you make it easier to use, more reliable, or add a feature.”
All of Krystal’s plans include free support through phone, email tickets and live chat. The team receives an average of 51 calls per day and solves more than 5,000 tickets per month. The recent addition of chat support came about from customer feedback, according to Simon. Emphasizing transparency, the company recently launched a real-time stats dashboard that details the traffic and support requests Krystal processes.
“Uniquely, we run our live chat 24/7, and we run it out of the UK,” Simon said. “Most other companies run support out of Bulgaria, India, or wherever. We actually have the same people who are answering a ticket or answering the phone also answering the live chat, which translates into fast and efficient support.”
Growing a Culture of Tech Enthusiasts
With no sales department and a passion for cutting-edge products, Simon describes Krystal as more of a “technology enthusiasts’ club.” Company culture promotes autonomy and initiative-taking so employees can effectively and efficiently support the platform and customers.
“Everyone we hire is technical and everyone’s based in the UK,” Simon said. “If you picked up the phone or you start a live chat or put in a ticket, you end up talking to one of our UK tech support guys.”
The support team answers sales questions from a technical perspective, Simon said, and can do so without consulting a different department.
“Even if you put in a sales-like query, you’re going to talk to someone who knows the platform,” he said. “They don’t have to say, ‘Oh, let me check with someone technical because I do sales here.’ They are the techs, and they’re all passionate about what they do.”