“If you are in advertising, you know that the only thing that really matters is the work.
…It’s no surprise that most agency people figure that if they do great work, everything else will take care of itself, including the relationships they build with clients. When I joined the advertising business, that’s pretty much what I thought.
There’s just one problem with this assumption: it’s wrong.
Great work does not shield you or your agency from client loss. You can do great work and still get fired.”
– Robert Solomon, The Art of Client Service (emphasis added)
The quote says it all – simple communication breakdowns can undermine all the sweat and determination you’ve put into an SEO project. In many cases, you can forget about the success you’ve achieved, because your client (or superior) won’t see it hiding behind your mistakes and their frustration.
Exceptional customer service is critical for all advertising and marketing professionals, but the bar has to be even higher for SEO agencies and in-house SEOs. Given the evolving and intricate nature of SEO, we have quite the communication challenge on our plate.
Whether you’re in an agency or in-house setting, extraordinary, unfailing communication is one of the most crucial and rewarding skills you can develop in your day-to-day work.
Rather than getting into the conversation of how to master the art of customer service, I want to share some incredibly powerful and handy online tools that can take your customer service, inter-office communication, and productivity to the next level.
Here’s my top 10 list – if I’m missing anything, hit me up in the comments below.
I’ve seen Rapportive all over the place lately, and for a good reason. In their own words, Rapportive “shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox.” This one is Gmail only – sorry Outlook users!
As I write, I’m looking at an email from a coworker in my inbox, where I see his Twitter, LinkedIn, and Plancast profiles, followed by his latest tweets, recent emails, and even a list of Google Docs we have collaborated on recently.
From a customer service standpoint, this app gives you a closer look into what’s currently happening in your contact’s life and how they interact online. You can also save notes to remind yourself of things like contacts’ kids names, hometown, etc. Rapportive just got bought by LinkedIn, but company says it will continue to support Rapportive.
Gist is fascinating – one look at my “People” and “Companies” dashboards and I was hooked – thanks to instant visibility into frequency of contact with people in your network, and how recently you have been in touch. It’s basically a communications analytics dashboard – a great tool to make sure you’re reaching out to clients promptly and frequently, and that you are using every possible channel available.
(Editor’s Note: This one is no more, sadly!)
I use Boomerang every single day. I remember signing up for Boomerang when it was first launched in 2010, but I hadn’t really put it to use until the new year, when I needed it to facilitate a personal New Year’s resolution to be better at following up with clients and coworkers.
Boomerang schedules emails to be sent later, and you can also set emails to be sent on a recurring calendar. Personally, I love the setting that sends an email back to you if you haven’t received a response within a specified period of time.
Now thanks to Boomerang, if I haven’t heard back from a client or coworker within the expected amount of time, the email returns to my inbox so that I can follow up and remind that person of the task at hand.
Followup lets you include a dynamic email in the CC or BCC fields, and then the service will send the email back to you on the date specified.
If you send an email and BCC firstname.lastname@example.org, that email will bounce back to your inbox the following Friday. Send to email@example.com, and an email will bounce back two days after sending – firstname.lastname@example.org will send it back in five hours.
These handy reminders presets are also present in every email, to push it back an hour, a day, a month, etc.
I’ve been using Followup.cc in step with Boomerang since the new year, and I still can’t decide which I prefer.
Taskforce is a brilliant productivity app for Gmail and Google Apps email, allowing you to convert emails to tasks, invite collaborators, and set recurring tasks. It even syncs with your Google Tasks and Calendar.
A few notable functions include the ability to create “actions” (tasks) from emails, manage them in a sidebar widget, save private notes in conversations, and move around your inbox faster with some fancy shortcuts.
IFTTT is awesome. Short for “If this, then that,” IFTTT taps into Gmail, Dropbox, Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, and probably just about every online service you’re connected to, and allows you to create rule-based tasks.
The most popular IFTTT “recipe” takes every photo you’re tagged in on Facebook, and copies that photo to Dropbox.
Another watches Amazon’s 100 free Kindle eBook’s list, and sends you an email every time that list changes.
Here are a couple applications for customer service with SEO clients, or for staying on task with superiors:
- Replicate Gist’s ‘frequency of contact’ dashboard analytics
First, set up a filter in Gmail, labeling all emails to and from clients as “Client” (of if you’re in-house, then label them by your supervisor’s name). Then create an IFTTT task that adds an event to your Google Calendar every time an email is sent to or from your clients. Take a look at your calendar every week or so and find out who you haven’t talked to in some time, and make an effort to reach out.
Automate copying all project or client-related attachments to Dropbox
Set up a filter in Gmail, labeling all emails related to clients and/or projects with attachments “Attachment.” Activate this preset “recipe” (or build your own task if you have a custom label). Now IFTTT will take care of saving every attachment with your label into Dropbox.
8. Gmail Labs
If you haven’t taken a look at Gmail Labs recently, log into Gmail, click your “Settings” gear on the right, click “Settings,” then click on the “Labs” tab and start enabling things!
A lot of Google Labs are extremely handy – here are a few of my favorites:
- Canned responses: Canned responses lets you save email ‘templates’ in Gmail to make re-using frequently used language simple to do. Great for recurring weekly or monthly emails.
- Sender Time Zone: If you work with businesses or coworkers in separate time zones, this lab saves you the hassle of calculating time zone differences in your head.
- Inserting Images: This lab lets you insert images into your message body, or by URLs. Great for sprucing up boring emails with screenshots and images.
- Video chat enhancements: If you ever use Google’s video chat for communicating with clients or coworkers, this Lab is a must.
9. Screen Capture Chrome Extension
In our line of work, we talk about websites. A lot. Use this screenshot extension for Chrome (by Google) to capture regions of web pages – or entire web pages – for emails and reports. You can even mark them up with circles, arrows, text, etc. without Photoshop or a photo editor.
10. Greplin Chrome Extension
The Greplin Chrome Extension makes it easy to find that conversation you had, or the link you can’t remember, whether that conversation happened on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Basecamp, or through Gmail (that’s just the short list).
Basically, you can search through most your social networks and web apps straight from your browser.
Claye Stokes is a Director of SEO at SEO.com. He has an extensive background with full service and SEO marketing agencies and a passion for web technologies and creativity. You can connect with him on Twitter and Google Plus.
Photo courtesy furryscaly on Flickr