Usually my articles are directed at the search engine optimisation (SEO) customer, the entrepreneur or marketer looking to boost their online business through search.
Today though, I want to explore how we sector professionals interact with these customers, how we deal with them and how we can get the best out of our working relationships.
Here are five top tips for best customer service practice. Do add your own thoughts or let me know if you disagree!
Number One: Honesty is the best policy
While deliberately misleading a customer to make a sale or promote a product is obviously wrong, there is a more insidious practice – dumbing down.
The supplier of a product or service, whether it is butchery, bakery or brain surgery, is almost always more of an expert than the recipient. It can be frustrating to spell out what seem to you to be simple facts.
However, there is a danger that this will lead the provider to only offering half-truths or vague generalisations.
The danger here, especially for SEO, is that the customer will learn the whole truth from another source, like the web, and assume you are dishonest.
Number Two: The customer is not always right
Okay, maybe in a restaurant or hairdressers the customer is always right because there it is about how they feel about the service or product they are receiving.
In most sectors though, particularly in a B2B setting, a good provider will never simply allow an ill-informed customer to bulldoze through a bad idea.
Many customers have set ideas about SEO and these may be dated, inaccurate or even dangerously black hat.
By maintaining your cool and explaining the finer detail around the search service, it should be possible to explain why their preferences are wrong. If you simply follow their demands, you risk failing to deliver – and they will not blame themselves for being stubborn, they will blame their SEO provider.
Number Three: Care
As an industry we have moved on from being geeks in sheds. We may still be a little geeky in places (don’t take offence, I said may be. I am sure you are not) but we deal in a major sector and with major clients.
This means we cannot be standoffish, abrupt, uncommunicative or any other of the negative traits so many people associate with anyone who works with computers.
Now, I do not really believe that we are any ruder than any other sector of the UK workforce. However, because we work with computers and use strange words like ‘algorithm’, people are on the look out for us to fulfil a stereotype.
Caring for every query and staying calm, polite and helpful at all times is perhaps even more important in SEO than other sectors.
Number Four: Stay in touch
Whether your company is huge and snatches up all the best computer science graduates or small and essentially just you and your dog, make sure your customers can reach you.
If your client has a query and only an email address, they cannot know how soon to expect a response.
They may be upset, annoyed, curious, or wanting to compliment your work but whatever their reason for making contact, they want to speak to their provider as soon as possible, so make sure they have a number they can use if they want to speak to a person.
If you are a one-person SEO outfit, you do not have to be available on the phone day and night. Maybe consider investing in a telephone answering service or virtual office. Just leaving a message with a human makes all the difference for many customers.
Number Five: Be excellent
The SEO world is a competitive sector, filled with companies trying to outdo each other and prove they can go further for less.
Make sure your entire service is geared towards adding value to the client rather than meeting the basic level required, make sure you aim for excellence at all times.
Being excellent is about more than the service provided, it relates to the approach you adopt with the client too. If you need to arrange something, ring them in preference to an email. If you are excited about something, show them.
Ensuring this positive air envelopes your client whenever they deal with you will also help ensure your business and employees strive for excellence.
Kevin Gibbons is Director of Search at