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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 SEOptimise

Kevin Gibbons

Published 1 December, 2008 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

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Zulu Digital - Internet Marketing

This is a great article with some 'top tips' regarding SEO. We pride ourselves on the great relationship we have with our clients, and so, I completely agree with points 3, 4 and 5 in particular. We also adopt the approach of explaining the techniques we use to our clients in a clear and concise manner, removing any jargon.

Anyway, great article!

over 7 years ago

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WilliamSusan - Online Business

Hi Kevin,

I wouldnt agree more with your article especially the honesty part. This does relate to all business dealings as a whole and not just SEO.

From time to time I offer SEO service and find that also educating the person who contracted you for the job helps a lot.

I'll keep in mind the other points you made that werent that obvious to me.

Thanks

William

over 7 years ago

Chris Turberville-Tully

Chris Turberville-Tully, Managing Director at Inspiration Inc

Can I add one more?

Think big picture for the client.

SEO needs to be (and can be) more than just getting to the top of a Search Engine. It should also allow you to explain Internet Marketing and how it is literally inter-linked (no pun intended - honest!).

If we all educated a client a week on how it all needs to work together, our lives would be so much easier.

over 7 years ago

Robert Faulkner

Robert Faulkner, MD at Datadial

good article. I find that advising on SEO is rather like being a management consultant. You often end up telling the client how to run their business and just some of the time they listen they see the light but it's difficult as SEO requires a total relearning of the way businesses traditionally market themselves.

over 7 years ago

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Justin Parks

Good valid points made, each and every one. SEO is so important to clients I talk to that they begin talking about it before the website has been built or the domain name acquired.

I spend some serious amounts of time talking and explaining to clients the various options and marketing channels available to them as honestly and concisely as possible and after the 500th time it really gets annoying when you realise that they still dont understand, appreciate or actually listen to anything your saying. I even resorted to trying to condense SEO in 15 bullet points onlt to be asked by one smart alec why he should bother paying for it if it was that simple! You cant win sometimes.

Also I truely believe that the smaller the budget the more hassle the client.

In regards actually approaching clients I also am continually being undercut by other companies who may not be so prepared to follow the "honesty" line. Sure, eventually they mess up but by then I have lost the deal, the client has no budget left and the unethical guys are already onto the next victim. I have had numerous "potential" cleints come back to me after such an episode and expect me to be able to do something for nothing.

As has been mentioned, if we could train a client a week on the world of SEO we would all be much better off, but would they really be interested?

over 7 years ago

Chris Turberville-Tully

Chris Turberville-Tully, Managing Director at Inspiration Inc

Justin,

It's worth it in the end or so I believe.

The being honest about SEO spins off into all areas of Internet Marketing and as SEO is the most difficult for clients to grasp, if they can learn to trust you on this, they will trust you on most things.

75% of our clients have been somewhere else first. Makes me annoyed but I look at it and see that we can do some good, helping people and get on with it. Sure the money counts but if you build that trust and relationship, the clients will spend with you once they get some money.

They'll also tell people they know good things about you, so it ends being a win/win, the best kind of deal.

over 7 years ago

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Seo company

Nice tips, but all the client cares about is result and roi.

about 7 years ago

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AceFlex

Great article... I agree with all points, but I'd like to highlight especially the 2nd one. Fortunately, our AceFlex e-commerce software is used in many custom ecommerce solutions worldwide, and our teams have learned alot from practical deployments. Very often, customers come up only with a general project idea but always want to have successful implementation. Hence, it's very important to plan a project and assess its specific needs before the start. It's also necessary to consult the client upfront how such solution might benefit his business. Otherwise later, the client might blame you for lack of appropriate expertise if something goes wrong. And, of course frequent communications with the client to keep the project up-to-date with the latest market technologies and trends. Such cooperation is proved to be win-to-win for both parties indeed.

almost 7 years ago

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