When someone contacts your customer service department with a question, complaint or suggestion, what’s the best possible outcome?
Most of us would say something like we’ll solve their problem and they’ll be a happy customer. But what if their question could also make thousands of other customers happy—and help bring new customers into the fold?
That’s the basic idea behind a great column by Casie Gillette about making customer service support SEO. Casie points out that customer service gets a lot of great insight into the sorts of problems and questions users have, and that it’s rare enough for this information to make its way over to marketing, let alone SEO. And yet this is the very information that can help you grab more search traffic.
The Value of User Intent
Parts of SEO are strictly technical, but for the most part it’s a human art. It has to do with understanding, and catering to, the needs of the people who peruse the web. We can think of these folks as users or potential customers, but ultimately they’re people with a question. If your site does the best job of answering that question, then all technical factors being equal, you win the SEO war.
The problem is it’s not easy to figure out what they’re asking. SEO professionals get a leg up by doing keyword testing and analysis, and we can lean a little bit on Google’s ability to link synonyms. But what we really wish is for users to just come and tell us exactly what content they’d like. And users don’t do that.
At least, they don’t do it with the SEO department. But they do it all the time with customer service. All of your customer support staff have a real time, broad cross-section view of the most common questions people are asking—people who use your products or services. And after the call is over, that information should be put to use.
The Customer Service Gold Mine
Let’s say your customer service staff get a lot of the same questions over and over. How does that translate to SEO value?
It depends on the question. The most valuable will be product questions from non-customers. For example, if lots of people are calling to ask if your newest tent model is waterproof, then you can assume that a blog post about finding a waterproof tent would do well. You might also review your product copy to make sure it states that it’s waterproof, and even create a video showing the waterproofing in action, which serves as double fodder for SEO and social media purposes.
Nearly as valuable are how-to questions from existing customers. If lots of people want to know how to use a certain feature, you can surmise that this capability matters to your target audience. You won’t go wrong by penning a how-to that shows how your product solves the problem.
Even customer complaints can inform SEO in the right context. If lots of customers are having a hard time with a feature, than an article about how it works serves as a customer resource and also attracts search traffic looking for that kind of feature.
Any time you solve a customer problem or answer a customer question, you should turn around and do it again in public, on your blog and social media. Even if only a small percentage of your customers—or future customers—want the same information, you’ve now boosted the chances that they’ll come to you to get it.