SEO, pay-per-click, and social media activities are all geared toward driving traffic, with the assumption that higher traffic will generate more new business opportunities.
Many businesses suffered drops in their rankings with the most recent Google update. While some customers still have healthy organic traffic, others have seen a decrease in leads.
Find Another Way to Skin the Cat
In the aftermath of Penguin and Hummingbird, people want answers. But the reality is that it takes months (sometimes quarters) until the full impact of a Google algorithm update is widely understood. Even after findings are uncovered, it takes a while for the SEO community to decide what changes in strategy to recommend.
As many small business owners know, income comes from many sources. It follows logically that the period directly after an algorithm update is an excellent time for small businesses to examine other areas of their business for returns while the SEO community sorts out the data.
Improvements in Customer Retention Diminish the Importance of SEO
It’s more costly to acquire a new customer than most realize. Many studies have demonstrated it is 5-10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
And the problem of customer retention can often be masked. Companies usually only hear from about 4 percent of customers who are dissatisfied.
Diagnosing Customer Service Problems
Eighty-six percent of consumers have ended a business relationship with a company due to a negative customer service interaction. The interaction with a customer service agent, receptionist, or employee leaves a lasting impression. Nine out of 10 unhappy customers will look to a competitor to replace the services.
What Should Small Businesses Do?
First, owners should recognize that one bad interaction doesn’t kill a relationship. Fifty percent of customers will allow up to one week for a response. But that leaves 50 percent that will not (we all know who they are).
Slow responses can lead to negative reviews, which 25 percent of consumers have posted. The importance of online reviews has been well covered.
What Do Customers Want?
Recent surveys (here, here, and here) outline what customers feel are the most important attributes in service, which can serve as a guide for small business:
- Professional and friendly staff: Interestingly, this outranks knowledge, timeliness, and thoroughness. People want to be heard. They need empathy and someone to care.
- To get the information and resolution they seek: Not surprisingly, actually getting the service the customer is after is important. Small business needs to invest in documentation and training to make certain staff can achieve this goal.
- A personalized experience: Ranking much lower than the top two, customers indicated they don’t want to feel like a number.
- Companies with good reputations: While ranked lowest on this survey, the issue of reputation highlights how SEO, social media, and customer service intersect.
After a major Google update, like Penguin 2.1, it’s easy for small businesses to obsess over lost rankings and SEO strategy decisions. However, this is perhaps the worst time to expect absolute certainty as the dust needs to settle and new best practices emerge.
Smart businesses redirect their energy into activities that are known to have a positive return. Customer service is an area many small businesses do poorly. Investments in training and staff, guided by research, will help retain more customers and decrease the relative importance of SEM during difficult times.