Client Communication: Strategy + 10 Best Practiceson 1 October 2020
Client communication is one of the most important aspects of client management and the overall customer experience.
A Gartner survey notes that more than two-thirds of companies compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, so improving your client communication practices can keep you ahead of competitors. But what can you do to optimize your communications? Below we walk through some strategic advice and several client communication best practices from leaders in different business sectors.
Client Communication Strategy
Jamie Irwin, digital marketing manager at Straight Up, says feedback is the name of the game when it comes to client communication strategy. You should see every touch point as an opportunity to collect client feedback and use it to tailor your communication efforts. Whether you’re emailing or talking to clients directly, a simple question at the end of your exchange can give you important insights on their experience and perspective.
“I’ve seen so many account managers neglect getting client feedback,” says Irwin. “Feedback gives customers a voice and makes them feel valued. You also learn more about them—perhaps they don't like your communication style, or they’d like more attention on a specific campaign. Inquiring about their client experience is essential.”
As a realtor with The Syroid Group, Brittany MacKenzie’s strategic approach is communicating often, through channels her clients prefer. She says that when clients are actively buying or selling, staying in touch with them goes a long way in making them feel supported. This extends beyond completion of the transaction, as well.
“I mostly use text and social media, as my clients are millennials and they’re most comfortable with those communication methods,” MacKenzie explains. “My flexibility and contact frequency show my willingness to connect and interest in their lives, which helps maintain our relationships throughout their real estate journey.”
Emily Lyman, CEO of digital marketing agency Branch & Bramble, follows a client communication strategy that echoes the sentiment, slow and steady wins the race. “Relationships aren’t built overnight. We believe every new client connection is unique, and it takes a little time to figure out how best to interact with them.”
Lyman notes how the first client touch point is typically a potential client reaching out to learn more about her company’s services. Her team crafts a short yet informative response that gives the prospect enough detail to understand what they do and how they do it. The response also suggests a brief, exploratory call. “On the call, we take the time to dive deeper into their goals, and learn more about their role and who they are as a person.”
Instead of hard selling to prospects, Lyman has her team focus on following up with additional information and relevant articles they think the prospect would appreciate. “It’s important to add value in your communications, especially with someone who is not an established client yet. Just remember that it’s ok to be pleasantly persistent, but not pushy.”
“Client communication should be easy for the client and seamless for the business,” says Brandon Lucius, owner of Concierge Creative. One solution doesn't fit each and every client, which is why he recommends offering clients multiple avenues of getting in touch.
Sometimes they prefer a more formal channel, such as email. In other cases, clients are in the moment and need help right away, whether they're in a meeting, traveling, or simply sitting at their desk—these instances may necessitate a text or phone call. “Giving clients the means to contact you in a way that suits them shows how flexible your team is, and places your team in a positive light,” Lucius explains.
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10 Client Communication Best Practices
1. Listen intently to client needs.
At every stage of a client relationship, pay close attention to the needs your clients express. If you aren’t clear on what those needs are, you can’t build a strong foundation for your business relationship.
Yi Ming Lai, Pinterest virtual assistant at Insane Freedom, says she focuses on listening from the first call. “I always set up a free, 30-minute video call with new clients to understand their needs. I focus entirely on them, giving them the floor to discuss goals they want to accomplish. After they’re done sharing, we discuss how we can work together to achieve those goals.”
2. Maintain boundaries.
“Professional communication with clients also means having boundaries,” says Lai. Although she makes herself available across multiple channels, including email and social media, Lai makes it very clear to clients that she doesn’t work on weekends.
The same goes for vacation—Lai doesn’t work when she travels or just takes time off to be at home. However, she makes sure to inform clients beforehand so they’re not surprised when she doesn’t reply. “I try my best to finish any upcoming work early, and I let them know I’ll only respond to truly urgent emails while out of the office.”
Mackenzie agrees that setting communication boundaries in the beginning is critical. For example, do clients want you to proactively check in with them? Do they want you to be available to respond within 30 minutes during business hours? “Unmet expectations are relationship-killers, so it’s best to know what your clients need from you from the start. At the same time, it is also important to communicate your boundaries with them. As long as both parties are clear on what to expect from each other, things should go smoothly.”
3. Reply to emails at set times.
Irwin recommends being conscious about when you’re responding to a client. You may be tempted to stop whatever you’re doing when a client emails you, but this can be disruptive to your work and set an undesirable precedent.
“Don't fall into the habit of replying straight away,” says Irwin. “Your client will expect this going forward, and you may not always be able or want to respond that quickly. Instead, condition them to your working style, such as email replies once in the morning and late afternoon. You’ll be more productive, and they’ll know when to expect your responses.”
4. Be upfront about failure.
“Don’t hide your mistakes,” says Irwin. While no one likes to be wrong, he advises you to fess up about any failures on your or your team’s part. In most cases, the client will find out anyway, so it’s best to bring it to their attention first so you are seen as professional and honest. “You want them to think of you as a problem solver, not a sugarcoater. Address the mistake head on, and come to the table with a solution.”
5. Determine your client’s communication style.
Knowing how your client prefers to communicate is important, as they are more likely to pay attention to and absorb your message if it’s in a format they like. MacKenzie says to learn this preference as soon as possible. “Ask them at the very beginning of the relationship. Some clients prefer speaking over the phone, some prefer text, some prefer email, and others want to deal with matters they deem critical only face to face.”
6. Be genuine.
“Show that you care about individuals from the client team and their lives,” says Lyman. Take the time to ask how things are going and remember the little details about them. Do they talk about their family or express certain interests? Understanding what drives them will also help you better understand how they look at the world. “You'll be better able to tailor communications that resonate with them.”
7. Answer all posed questions.
Oftentimes, clients ask multiple questions when they reach out via email or text. In your haste to respond back quickly or move on to other action items, you may only respond to the first question. Coach and author Suzanne Wylde recommends taking your time to carefully read and respond to client questions to avoid aggravating them.
“As a client myself, I can’t count the number of times someone has quickly replied to my email and only answered one out of the three questions I posed,” says Wylde. “I’m then forced to resend my remaining questions and wait for answers I should have already received. Sometimes it’s important to slow down to ensure you do it right the first time.”
8. Pause before reacting negatively.
“When you’re faced with an email or text from a client that angers you, don’t respond immediately,” Wylde advises. Reread the email to ensure you’re interpreting it correctly. If you have any doubt, close the email and return to it after you’ve calmed down. “Responding defensively only fuels a fire that could burn the relationship. Take an hour, then read the email again. If needed, call the client to clarify what they wrote. It could be a simple misunderstanding.”
9. Personalize your communication.
Lucien notes how clients appreciate when you pay attention to the smallest details. For example, you may have picked up a tidbit about their personal life from the initial onboarding process or a recent client meeting. Recalling that detail during a conversation with the client will help personalize their experience. “While I wouldn't advise doing this for every conversation, adding this information to key moments such as client anniversaries, birthdays, or holidays can certainly make a difference and positively impact their perception of you.”
10. Implement cloud communication tools.
“In this digital era, cloud technology has become a workplace staple for effectively getting through the workday,” says Lucien. Using cloud communication tools in concert with other available integrations will keep business on track and give your clients a seamless way to keep in contact with you and your team. For example, many solutions offer automation capabilities that take care of repetitive tasks, giving you more time to focus on communicating with your client.
Professional communication with clients starts with Glasscubes.
Whether you work with a single point person or the whole client team, you need a solution that keeps your team and theirs in the loop. Glasscubes is a collaboration tool that gives you the means to communicate, share information, and more with your client—all in one place.
Work with multiple clients? Great! Glasscubes has you covered with customizable workspaces you can spin up as needed. Create a workspace for each client account, or have multiple workspaces for different projects with each client. Your options are endless.
Whether you work remotely or in the office, with Glasscubes, you can:
- Store and share files in a secure location, complete with automatic version control. You can even create approval workflows and view clear audit trails of user actions.
- Assign and manage tasks for different members of the team, and track them to completion.
- Create customised workspaces for different clients or purposes. Team members can share resources and communicate with one another in their specific workspace, and you can access them all for easy oversight.
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