/aptly/deft/ : Producing competent work whilst being skilfully neat and quick in one's movements.
[shared via Google Reader from CheddarGetter Blog]
CheddarGetter has long been a proponent of bootstrapped startups. In every single planning meeting, we talk about our core customer base as being the startup. This has caused some degree of trouble for us when talking to larger customers, as they don’t understand how a company like ours can grow and sustain itself by catering to what they see as a fickle, unprofessional group. In our experience, professionalism, talent, and potential have little or nothing to do with a company’s age. It has everything to do with a team’s integrity and standards.
In our search for balance between catering to startups with a low-cost offering, and servicing larger businesses with a powerful and flexible offering, we have made some pricing decisions that have negatively affected our ability to service either.
We currently charge our merchants for any transaction that results in a movement of money from the end customer to the merchant (you, perhaps). That works great if all end customers pay the merchant monthly. In that case, we collect $0.20/customer/month and that covers all of the expenses we incur to service that account over that month plus a little. Unfortunately in many cases, that’s not what happens.
Our current model does not accommodate for other hard costs or high levels of non-revenue generating activity. In other words, other types of services including web hooks and API calls cost money and our current model doesn’t cover for those costs when usage of those services exceeds the norm.
As such, we’re writing this post to start a discussion about pricing for a few valuable services.
In most cases, API calls to CheddarGetter occur fairly infrequently. Businesses who correctly integrate with our API, and use it as it was meant to be used, present a reasonable load on our server, and cause no problems. The cost of providing an API is just a cost of doing business, and we have no desire to charge any more than what is necessary to cover those costs. Most will never pay us directly for a single API call but in the case where a merchant’s usage of the API is significantly disproportionate to the amount of revenue we receive from that customer, we need to do something about it.
With API calls, there may be an additional charge for exceeding a set velocity or exceeding a set total number of API calls in a month. In each case, the limits will be set relative to, say, the number of revenue transactions in a month. We’re not yet doing this but plan to soon. First, we will begin tracking API call quantities and velocities to get a baseline measurement. Based on that data, we will determine what’s normal, then decide at what level to start charging. Our goal here is only to charge for usage well above the average so the vast majority of our customers will not be charged for API calls. Only those with an abnormally high usage will be charged. The fees, if any, will be nominal.
As with API calls, CheddarGetter handles your web hooks with ease in most cases. However when your services hits a snag (something hangs), our service retries that hook multiple times, for multiple seconds each time. This, of course, is a good thing because it makes the hook system tolerant of failure of the listener to process the hook. This can cause significantly elevated usage of resources by our background processes, which can delay other customers’ webhooks if there’s a backlog. This is bad juju, and we feel that good users should not bear the weight of those who are causing the problems.
Similar to API calls, we’re looking at setting some velocity and total limits as well as total time waited for listeners to respond. We’re not doing this yet but plan to soon. Again, only those with abnormally high usage of hooks will be affected.
As you know, transaction charges are a part of life. Some processors charge percentage fees, some charge flat rates, others charge both. We’ve always felt that a flat fee is the most fair method to cover these costs, because it puts a standard value on the process of transacting, rather than sliding number up or down to capture a larger piece of your higher-dollar transactions. In real terms, paying 3% of $100 is a lot harder to swallow than paying $0.20, compared to the difference between paying $0.20 on a $10 transaction vs $0.03. This varies of course depending on your pricing model, but in the end we determined that it was the most equitable model for our customer base.
Transactions are a hard cost for us as well. In the past, we have charged only for Approved (Successful) and Refunded transactions. These are $0.20 for the Blowing Up plan, and $0.25 for the Paypal Only plan. What you haven’t seen are the costs for other transaction types, like Declined, Failed, Authorization (Auth), and Voided. Approved and Refunded transactions are pretty straightforward but the others are not. I’ll explain.
Declined transactions may seem innocuous but these amount to a significant cost to for us. They occur more often than you might think. First, consider repeated failed signups, some are even attempts to fraudulently use one or more stolen cards. Second, consider dunning retries. CG by default continues to attempt to charge the customer 4 more times over 8 days before giving up. You can configure your dunning retry schedule here: http://bit.ly/XIs113
Failed is a special transaction that occurs when a transaction is first approved, then later found to be declined. This is typical of ACH (aka echeck) transactions. This mostly occurs when a PayPal payment is backed by a bank draft instead of a credit card. The transaction is initially approved but PayPal then later informs us that the money could not be taken from the PayPal account holder’s bank account.
Authorizations and Voids apply only to those merchants using a validation transaction on signup or payment method change events. When a validation transaction is configured, CG issues a small authorization transaction which tests the card all the way to the issuer including CVV verification (if applicable) and AVS checks (if applicable). This is extremely valuable for those who accept payment methods with a delayed initial bill and for payment method changes mid billing cycle. Without them, you have to trust the customer to enter all of their information properly without validation other than basic format checks. If the payment information is wrong at bill time, it will be declined. That’s a hassle for everyone.
Voids are related to the Authorization. When an Authorization is successful, we need to issue a Void to indicate that we never intend to capture that small Authorization. If this isn’t done, the Authorization will remain on the cardholder’s card statement for several weeks. Hanging Authorizations are a no-no for that reason but also because the banks consider them to be a liability when there’s a large quantity of hanging auths.
In order to continue providing a great service, we felt that it was necessary and fair to pass these costs to the people who are using them.
For most of our customers, these costs will amount to a very small increase on their monthly bill.
For CheddarGetter, the sum of these costs across our entire customer base accounts for a very significant expense each month. That is money that we could and should be using to shore up our service, provide higher availability, and generally make our system stronger and better.
We know that this is a touchy subject.
We know that people don’t like to pay for something that they didn’t realize they were getting for free.
We also know that our competitors already charge for these things, and it is possible that some of our customers made the decision to use CheddarGetter because we did not.
To alleviate potential future discomfort for all involved, here is our plan.
As of yesterday, we turned on the charge system for these “other” transactions (Auths, Voids, Declines, and Failures) on the PayPal Only and Blowing Up plans (legacy plans are not affected). Everyone is able to see these pending transaction charges, if any, on the Billing page: http://bit.ly/12WtpLA.
As promised, we are giving all of you the option to tell us you don’t want to pay for them. If you are on a super-tight budget and simply cannot afford the extra charges, we understand. Or maybe you don’t think that these charges should be passed on to customers on principle. Either way, let us know and we will adjust your account so you will not be charged for those transactions.
Now: No change
Soon: Plan to charge for extreme usage / Costs TBD but will be minimal
Take action: This topic is open for discussion here (http://bit.ly/12WtnDB).
Now: No change
Soon: Plan to charge for extreme usage / Costs TBD but will be minimal
Take action: This topic is open for discussion here (http://bit.ly/12WtnDB).
Now: Charge for all transaction types on current plans (legacy plans, Basic, Advanced, Premium, etc, are not affected)
Soon: No further changes
Take action: Review your charges as they accrue here: http://bit.ly/12WtpLA. Evaluate how they affect your budget in relation to the benefits to the health of CheddarGetter’s system. If acceptable, no action needed. If you choose to opt out, let us know here (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[shared via Google Reader from The Art of Manliness]
Reddit. You’ve probably heard of it. The mega-site has a cult-like and ever-growing following, especially among twenty-somethings. If you aren’t familiar with it, reddit is a social news website where anybody can submit links to interesting stuff they find around the web. Users (called “redditors”) can also ask questions of the community or share experiences in simple text submissions. These submissions are organized into categories called subreddits. You can find subreddits (shown as “r/___”) for just about any topic. And I mean anything. As of this posting, there are over 205,000 subreddits.
After someone submits a link or publishes a post, the reddit community “up votes” or “down votes” it to determine its position on the subreddit where it’s categorized and the homepage — the more up votes a submission gets, the higher its position on the site. Since its founding in 2005, reddit has become one of the most trafficked websites on the internet and has garnered attention for its community-driven “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) interviews, as well as for its involvement in last year’s anti-SOPA campaign.
As for myself, I have a love/hate relationship with reddit.
I love reddit because it does send AoM quite a bit of traffic. Last year alone, nearly 1 million of our visits came from links submitted on the site. (Thank you to those who submitted AoM links! Much appreciated!)
I also love reddit because you can find so much interesting stuff there. Ask Me Anything interviews are amazing. My favorites in the series are Nick Offerman, Ken Jennings, and Dale Murphy. Check them out when you get the chance.
But, I hate reddit because it can be a terrible time-sink if you’re not careful. That’s what happened to me. A few years ago, I was a reddit fiend. I’d check the front page every 30 minutes to get the latest news and Scumbag Steve meme. Alarmed by the amount of time I was wasting on reddit, I took drastic measures by modifying my computer’s host files so that I could no longer access reddit.com. For nearly a year, I didn’t visit reddit at all.
That changed last October when Kate and I visited the fine gents at Huckberry. Somehow reddit came up during my conversation with its founders, Richard and Andy. I mentioned that I hadn’t visited the site in over a year because I was wasting so much time on it. Andy said I was missing out on some good stuff, especially in subreddits like r/history. The trick, he said, was to be deliberate about how you used reddit. Don’t just mindlessly surf. Have a purpose and stick to it.
After my conversation with Andy, I slowly began browsing my one-time nemesis again. Only this time I was more intentional about it. Instead of mindlessly surfing the homepage, I now only check a few subreddits that have the purpose of helping me achieve my goals. Using Chrome Nanny, I blocked reddit.com, but have whitelisted the subreddits that I actually want to read. Result? I no longer waste time and I’ve discovered some great content to help improve my life. Boom!
Below I highlight 25 subreddits that I think can help you become a better man. Some of them are subreddits that I regularly read myself, while some of them are just ones I thought might be helpful for a young man trying to improve himself in various aspects of his life.
r/malefashionadvice - If you’re looking for advice and feedback on how to dress better r/malefashionadvice is your subreddit. These folks are really passionate about style and happy to help other men who want to dress better. We’ve had several of our style articles featured on r/malefashionadvice. You’ll likely see stuff from Antonio’s website, Real Men Real Style, there too. Users typically post pictures asking for feedback on their different outfits. If that’s not your thing, at least check out the links in the sidebar to their various guides on style basics. Great stuff.
r/wicked_edge - Subreddit dedicated to classic wet shaving. You’ll find reviews of shaving products and tips on how to get a better shave. If you have questions about wet shaving, feel free to ask away.
r/beards - A subreddit for bearded men and the women who love them. Post pics of your beard progress and get advice on how to take care of your manly face sweater. Also, throw your hat into the ring for their bimonthly beard contest. Winners receive a free bottle of Bluebeards Original Beard Wash.
r/personalfinance – Get your personal finance house in order with the help of this community. Trying to figure how to pay down your student debt? New to IRAs? Inherited some money and don’t know what to do with it? Post your questions to the 52,000 friendly subscribers at r/personalfinance to get some insight on what you should do.
r/frugal – Great collection of user-submitted tips and links on how to be more frugal and economical with your resources. I wish I knew about this place when I was in college and law school. Highly recommended for folks trying to rein in their spending and pay down their debt.
r/jobs – Looking for advice on how to improve your resume or job interview skills? Look no further than r/jobs.
r/entrepreneur - Go-to subreddit for the man starting his side hustle and has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. You’ll find inspiring links about other successful entrepreneurs and great discussions on the problems facing small business owners.
r/fitness – Find motivation and advice on how to get in shape in r/fitness. Most people use this subreddit to ask questions. Users are friendly and encouraging.
r/paleo – If you’re a fan of the paleo diet, you’ll find lots of recipes here. You’ll also find links to paleo related news and blog posts.
r/GetDisciplined - A subreddit for folks who want to be more disciplined so they can achieve their goals. Most of the submissions are questions about becoming more disciplined. You’ll also find user-submitted success stories.
r/productivity - Lots of links to interesting articles on increasing your productivity. Just limit the time you spend here or else you’ll defeat the purpose of reading r/productivity!
r/psychology – Links to articles and studies on the latest advances and insights in psychology. Many of the articles have practical advice that you can use to improve your life today.
r/GetMotivated – You’ll find success stories and images designed to motivate the crap out of you. I’ll browse r/getmotivated when I’m feeling discouraged, and I typically find something that has just the message I needed to get me pumped up again.
r/socialskills – I know lots of AoM readers are looking to improve their social skills so they can have more success in their careers and their romantic lives. r/socialskills is a great place to look for advice, tips, and encouragement. Very friendly and encouraging folks there.
r/nofap – Similar to r/pornfree is r/nofap. For those of you who don’t know, ”Fapping” is internet speak for masturbating. r/nofap is a support group for men (and women) who are wanting to abstain from masturbation for whatever reason. Some are trying to abstain because it’s become an addiction that’s gotten in the way of their life, while others are taking the nofap challenge simply as a test of their self-control and willpower.
r/malelifestyle – Collection of general men’s interest links from around the web.
r/everymanshouldknow – “You know that thing your dad was suppose to teach you but never did? This is where you may learn a ton of interesting things, that will help you everyday.” Awesome collection of man skills, from how to sharpen a knife to how to ask a woman on a date.
r/lifeprotips – This is one of my favorite subreddits. Crammed with easy to implement tips that can improve your life by leaps and bounds. r/lifeprotips is where I learned to fold a t-shirt like a pro in less than a second.
r/survival – Subreddit dedicated to discussion, articles, and videos on wilderness survival. Make sure to check out r/survival’s handy resource guides in the sidebar.
r/mechanicadvice – Experienced mechanics field questions on how to fix your car in this community. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to fix your own car, this is the subreddit to read.
r/homeimprovement – For men tired of having to call the handyman to fix stuff around the house. Ask your home improvement questions here.
r/history – Subreddit for the history buffs. I’m amazed by the cool, in-depth history articles users submit here. Make sure to browse through the links to other historical subreddits. A few of my favorites include r/propagandaposters, r/wwiipics, and r/thewaywewere.
r/philosophy – Great philosophical discussion in r/philosophy. Even if you just lurk and read the discussion, you’ll get something out of it.
r/todayilearned – Looking for cocktail conversation fodder? r/todayilearned is your place to go.
Do you use reddit? What are your favorite reddit subreddits? Share them with us in the comments!
[shared via Google Reader from LaunchRock]
Lean Customer Support does not mean lower quality support, it means maximizing the benefit to your customers with a minimum of resources. Here are 5 proven strategies for providing customer support that is outstanding and lean based on the LaunchRock’s experience supporting 50,000 customers with one full time customer support position. Continue reading →
The post Lean Startups | 5 Keys To Outstanding Lean Customer Support appeared first on LaunchRock.