Customer Satisfaction in the Business Applications Segment: IONOS by 1&1

The number of fee-based contracts in the Business Applications Segment had risen to 8.45 million at the end of the reporting period (2019: 8.15 million; 2018: 8.06 million). Of this figure, 4.06 million (2019: 3.90 million; 2018: 3.82 million) were in Germany and 4.39 million (2019: 4.25 million; 2018: 4.24 million) were abroad. Following the relaunch of our 1&1 IONOS brand in 2018, we aim to position ourselves as a reliable partner in the digital space with our values of fairness and transparency and our individual consulting offerings. In our hosting business, the various Customer Experience Management teams work together to assess research results and market insights, collect customer feedback, develop training material for our service staff, and design clear, transparent, and attractive customer communications. This collaborative approach allows us to identify issues and processes with which customers have trouble, and rapidly develop solutions for them. Other units such as Product Management or IT are regularly involved in their implementation. Our enterprise-wide programs implement initiatives aimed at simplifying the use of our products for customers and hence avoid unnecessary customer queries.

We regularly ask our customers about their experiences with our products and customer service. One key performance indicator for customer satisfaction is the net promoter score (NPS). We monitor this on a daily basis and analyze the open comments (roughly 5,000 per month). Weekly to monthly reports (including recommended actions) are submitted to the COO, and measures agreed and priorities set together with all Board departments.

Our product and service quality is confirmed both by the various types of customer feedback we receive and by external awards. In 2020, these included prizes from the magazines “Chip,” “IMTEST,” and “PC-Magazin,” the Spanish service award “Elegido servicio de atención al cliente” in the “hosting” category (for the seventh time in a row), and the “Élu Service Client de l’Année” prize for the best customer service in France, also in the “hosting” category, for the third time. In Germany, too, IONOS’s customer service operations were awarded the brand-new accolade “Voted Customer Service of the Year 2021” in the “hosting” category. Research institute ISG labeled IONOS a “Rising Star in the Market for Infrastructure as a Service” and commended IONOS’s Cloud Division’s “excellent development over the past twelve months and strong future potential.”

STRATO was also honored for the quality of its customer service operations, being rated a “Service Champion” in the “web hosting” category for the seventh time in a row by “Focus-Money” and receiving the “Customer recommendation – highly recommended” rating. STRATO also obtained product quality certifications from a number of independent bodies. In 2020, the STRATO HiDrive received TÜV’s “Certified Cloud Security” certificate along with the “Trusted Cloud” seal of approval. In addition, the IONOS Mail Archiving and STRATO Mail Archiving products were certified as complying with the IDW PS 880 standard from Germany’s Institut der Wirtschaftsprüfer.

Transparency Initiative at 1&1 IONOS

  • GRI 417
  • GRI 417-1

We regularly conduct studies to ascertain, and respond to, customers’ current needs. Among other things, we have conducted a number of studies in recent years on the drivers for customer satisfaction. These show that, in addition to the product itself and our customer service, price is one of the main drivers for customer satisfaction. In other words, customers want to know exactly what product or service they are buying for what price.

In line with this, IONOS has worked consistently to enhance transparency in recent years. Since customer demands in this area can comprise a number of different aspects, we used a variety of methods to gain insights on price transparency:

  • Customer proximity: Employees from central departments such as Product Management and Customer Experience work closely together with Customer Service so as to understand in practice as well as in theory what motivates our customers and why they contact us. This ensures that all areas of our organization put our customers at the heart of what we do, and that we take them into account when developing products and services.

  • Active dialog with internal experts: We regularly hold round table discussions with customer service staff and specialists from the central departments to evaluate useful information from a large number of real-life customer conversations, and to use these to identify improvements to our products and customer service.

  • Being a customer ourselves: IONOS staff are encouraged to gain their own experience of our products by taking customer journeys, and to contribute ideas for enhancing our products and services.

  • Gemba Walk methodology: Gemba Walks are a way for management representatives or the COO to engage in regular, direct dialog with customer service agents on the ground (at present this is done via a video link because of the COVID-19 pandemic). In other words, these sessions take place directly at the employees’ “workplace.” The objective is to understand what improvements can be made to direct customer service processes, and what customers’ needs are. The discussions serve as the basis for identifying measures and recommended activities, which are then implemented. The aim is to increase customer satisfaction and make internal workflows more staff-friendly.

  • Customer community: We have launched an online customer community that provides customers in Germany with an opportunity to discuss relevant topics with us, and to participate in surveys and product testing. The results are fed directly into product development, customer communication, and process optimization.

These methods have allowed us to gain important insights and identify a number of issues and potential improvements. The following examples have been successfully implemented at IONOS:

  • Small print: Previously, a lot of detailed price information was given as small print in footnotes. This practice has now been abolished. In other words, we communicate prices and associated terms and conditions clearly and transparently. Prices are displayed directly next to the products in our online shop.

  • Contract renewal reminders: Customers may end up renewing contracts unintentionally if they forget to give notice of termination before the relevant deadlines. We help customers keep track of when contracts are up for renewal by sending them a reminder mail 45 days before the scheduled renewal date.

  • Rounded prices: Since some customers find non-rounded prices (e.g., €0.99) on invoices irritating, we have replaced them by rounded ones (e.g., €1).

Implementing these transparency measures has allowed us to consistently increase the NPS for new customers. In our core markets, this led to an improvement in the NPS score of 20% in 2020.

Personal Consultant

As the world becomes increasingly digitalized and more and more technical tools are deployed, a trend in the opposite direction is also becoming visible. Customers want to talk to real people – and not just with anonymous agents chosen at randomly by some call center system, but with someone they know, who recognizes them again if they come back, and with whom they can build up a trusting relationship. Our personal consultant system – which we launched in 2018 – is available to customers throughout the world and won a “Best Customer Engagement” award from ECCCSA (the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards) in 2019. Our goal is to ensure the success of our customers’ digital business by providing close personal contact.

Many IONOS customers are small enterprises such as crafts businesses that want to have an internet presence but do not necessarily have in-depth technical knowledge in this area. The goal of our personal consultants is to provide these customers with the knowledge they need and support them as their businesses grow. This is why IONOS has offered to assign a dedicated personal consultant to customers since the start of November 2018.

How are personal consultants assigned?
All customers can activate a personal consultant function in their control center or request this directly by phone in a support call. Within seconds, they are then allocated a personal agent whose skills suit their needs. They are also given the agent’s direct extension number and from then on can route inquiries to him or her directly via e-mail or phone, or in online chats.

What happens if my personal consultant isn’t there?
Naturally, personal consultants are human beings and are sometimes on vacation, sick, or in the middle of a discussion with another customer. To deal with this, we use table groups staffed by multiple personal consultants who know each other. When a customer calls, they are told that their personal consultant is unavailable. After this, depending on how urgent their problem is, they are either provided with immediate assistance by a well-informed team colleague or an arrangement is made for their personal consultant to call back.

How skilled is my personal consultant?
Our selection process guarantees that personal consultants have a high level of expertise and quality. Thorough training and CPD aim to ensure they can not only explain products and functions to customers and translate technical jargon, but also recommend suitable solutions and advise customers on online strategies.

So far, there are very few organizations in Germany that have consistently implemented this approach, making it a key USP for IONOS on the market. We have seen customers responding positively to this service since the program was launched, with satisfaction scores and NPSs rising significantly.