How we Scaled 1100% in 6 Months, without Degrading Client Service

A Googler by the name of DeWitt Clinton posted an interesting thought on Google+ that really got us thinking about how scalable LoveClients is as a business.

If you have a billion users, and a mere 0.1% of them have an issue that requires support on a given day (an average of one support issue per person every three years), and each issue takes 10 minutes on average for a human to personally resolve, then you’d spend 19 person-years handling support issues every day.

If each support person works an eight-hour shift each day then you’d need 20,833 support people on permanent staff just to keep up.

That, folks, is internet scale.

We are often asked in our Live Support ChatDo you guys ever sleep?‘ or ‘How can you afford to offer 24×7-365 live support, as a start up?‘. The answer is simple really, and it all comes down to the foundation of this very business.

To put it bluntly, the SEO industry for the most part totally sucks when it comes to client service and accountability. Agencies and ‘celebrity’ (spew) SEO consultants that work the speaking circuit tend to spend more time promoting their capabilities, their new book or their personal brand, than they do focused on delivering value to their customers. Which is where LC is a little different.

In short, we are well aware that this business is nothing without our customers. Evidently so, as we named the company LOVEclients. So how do we keep up with the demands of 24×7-365 live support, scale the business, and still deliver a quality service that our customers have become accustomed to?

It is a mix of the following:

Technology (The HUB)

Every LoveClients campaign is managed within a custom built application that acts as a central communication tool for everyone working on the campaign.

The hub, which is what we call it internally, is a place where clients can login to track progress, provide their input, approve process elements, and communicate directly with the team 24×7-365. It keeps everyone accountable, and campaigns on track.

All reporting, communication, trackable metrics and and site analytics are conveniently located in one place, so as to make daily decision making an informed, and simple process.

Multiple TimeZones

When LoveClients first started trading, we opened a 24×7 production facility based out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We thought we would take advantage of the low production and operation costs, and access to great talent. It didn’t work however, here’s why:

In under 12 months, we came to realize that the type of people that were willing to work the ‘late shift’, really were not suited to the level of fanatical support that we have for our clients, and their respective campaigns. To add, due to the timezone difference our best team members were working the day shift; while our clients were sleeping. When clients awoke, they were then dealing with the team on nightshift.

We are still paying for that mistake, but it taught us many, many valuable lessons. We adapted quickly by opening offices within the TimeZones our clients trade in, and scaled KL down.

Now we operate separate offices and production facilities in Vancouver, London, Riga and Melbourne, taking advantage of the differences in timezone to offer a true 24×7-365 service offering. Each office now has an overlap, of a few hours, so as the team in London is coming toward the end of their day, the crew in Vancouver takes over, and as Vancouver is calling it quits, Melbourne is fresh and ready to be of service.

To add, our production facility in Riga, Latvia works 2 shifts which covers 70% of the day, allowing us to take advantage of the production costs and amazing talent surfacing from that part of the world.

So.. No, our clients are not serviced by half-asleep crew in stale offices that stay open 24×7-365 – but instead by opening strategically placed global offices, and a custom built central communication tool (The hub), we are able to offer 24×7-365 live client service & support, by mother tongue, english speaking professionals who keep normal hours!

Mother Tongue client service

When I called to query a charge on my AMEX bill last month, I was routed from Vancouver (Canada) to Bangalore, India. The representative that took my call was helpful enough, and for a task as simple as checking a transaction on my statement, I completely understood why AMEX would use a facility in India to cut down their customer service costs.

Though when it comes to providing high-level, often culturally sensitive, marketing advice; the timezone and cultural differences between say Birmingham, Boston and Bangalore can play a massive role in the quality of advice you receive from your SEO Agency. Even though the human resource costs are high in cities like Vancouver & London, we have found that keeping customer service, strategy planning and research on-shore has played a massive role in the overall experience for our customers.

There are many great SEO companies that operate throughout places like India and the Philippines, though there is a notable difference between simply delivering a shopping-list of tasks for a customer, and actually getting involved in a clients business, understanding their objectives, the cultural sensitivities and their specific audience requirements.

Don’t try to be Everything to Everyone

Love the clients you have, and service them well, but don’t try and tackle tasks that are way out of scope of your offering. If you were to walk in to a McDonalds Restaurant, and order a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese, they are not going to hop out the back and do their best to whip up the sauce, to keep their customer happy. On the contrary, they stick to what they know best & deliver what they know works.

As a small business providing a professional service offering you can’t be everything to everyone. Know your limits and deliver a brilliant customer experience to those customers that suit your service or product offering, trying to deliver something that is way out of scope or simply not part of our core competency will only end in tears.

Manage Client Expectations

For starters, don’t even begin to promise #1 rankings as a reputable SEO Agency. A sure fire way to lose a client is to promise deliverables that are out of your 100% complete-control within a timeframe that is totally unrealistic.

Not only will you not keep your customers happy, you will lose them for good. Prior to building LoveClients the founders of this company worked in the web design & advertising space so we are all very well aware of how the promise of a deadline that is not met, can ruin a working relationship in less time that it took for you to read this blog post.

As a service provider, if you provide realistic expectations from the outset and explain your channels of communication, then life will be a great deal easier for all parties concerned.

In our instance, we have three very specific forms of communication. Live Chat, The Hub & a 24×7-365 Live Call Back service. No power-point presentations, no long-winded lunches & no, we will not write you a proposal. As outlined on our Contact Us page, we simply don’t do meetings.

Although DeWitt Clinton makes a valid and interesting point about the true human cost of scaling client support, it is still arguably possible to manage at scale if expectations are managed correctly, the technology is in place to communicate efficiently & of course if the company has hired the right people (in the correct timezone) that are dedicated to client satisfaction, & not just client service.

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