Customer service takes Pilvia international
We live in a world without borders, and the Finnish family-run company Pilvia is a testament to that. It has found customers for its WordPress hosting platform from as far afield as Latin America without spending a penny on marketing.
Sami Niemi is not your typical tech entrepreneur. Besides a career in IT, Niemi has been an organic farmer, lived without running water, run a timber construction company and even built a sustainable timber house for his family. Now this same down-to-earth approach forms the core of Niemi’s latest venture, software company Pilvia. It is on a mission to simplify web hosting services.
“Our platform makes it easy to create and manage hundreds of WordPress sites with one account,” Niemi explains. “Instead of dozens of buttons and controls, we have focused on automation and created a very minimalistic user interface.”
The platform comes with a human touch. Pilvia is a three-person company and its engineers have doubled as customer service agents from the get-go. For the B2B-focused company, this has turned out to be a trump card.
“No matter how great your product is, what customers want is for you to be there for them,” Niemi says. “It is part of coders’ nature that when they are asked something, they don’t only answer, but tweak the product so no one has to ask the same thing again.”
And these tweaks have resulted in happy customers. In two years, Pilvia has gained over 10 000 users for its free and premium services. A surprise boost came in 2018, when the company saw a sudden rush of interest from Spain and Latin America.
Pilvia’s customer base doubled simply through word of mouth. Now the company is turning this early success into an internationalisation boost – with some actual marketing.
Upping the Tempo
Pilvia started as a passion project. In 2002, Niemi worked in server hosting and enjoyed it so much he began to build servers at home. Soon Niemi gained a steady flow of customers, including a few larger companies.
But Niemi cherished diversity. Cue organic farming, pigs, timber and starting a family. It wasn’t until 2015 that he decided to turn hosting into serious business. He formed a team and launched Pilvia’s platform a year later.
2018 turned out to be a game-changer for the company. As user numbers grew, Pilvia’s team moved from working remotely to an office space in Turku, Southwest Finland, and Niemi’s wife, Lotta Niemi, became CEO. Pilvia was also granted Business Finland’s Tempo funding. Aimed at companies looking for international growth, it helps Pilvia to renew its service concept and pricing and – maybe most importantly – forces the company out of its comfort zone.
“The Tempo programme supports us in marketing, branding and market research, which aren’t easy things for us coders,” Niemi laughs.
Pilvia’s new skills will first be put to use in Spanish-speaking countries as the company looks to build upon its success in Spain and South America. Pilvia is also preparing to offer customer support in Spanish.
“South America is a big market and English isn’t always a strong language there. Spanish is the second-biggest language in the world,” Niemi says. “We are also interested in the challenge that is the US. We already have users there and, if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere.”
The expansion presents a new customer support challenge. But Pilvia plans to tackle this by working with local resellers. They will be supported by Pilvia’s team and artificial intelligence (AI) customer service elements which the company has started to build into its platform. In future, AI will help customer service agents by following their conversations and offering relevant advice.
These moves are all part of Pilvia’s quest for ease-of-use and simplicity.
“Search engines used to be riddled with ads. It was hard even to find the search bar. Then came Google with one box in the middle of a page,” Niemi recalls. “We want to bring a similar user experience to web hosting and customer service.”