5 Practical Client Communication Tips To Improve Your Business Relationships
Client communication is any type of communication you have with your existing clients, previous clients, or potential clients. We are talking about all the forms of communication from written to spoken, from formal to informal, and over any kind of platform.
It’s an existential component of your business because the way you communicate not only smooths the relationship but it also represents your business as a brand. It is so much more than just a transfer of information from A to B back and forth. How you communicate; the promptness, punctuality, tone, formatting, language, and content all contribute to your standing and help strengthen your relationship with your client. It is fundamental in displaying efficiency and effectiveness but it also says much about you and your values.
A growing business will benefit from great communication skills by helping you establish and maintain business relationships in the long term and winning you referrals and a classy reputation.
If you want to be a success, always work on improving your communication skills. Here are some practical client communication tips to help focus your skills.
1. Client Communication is About the Client
Yes, clients want to know about you but more importantly they want you to know about them. It may seem counter-intuitive surely potential clients need to know you, what you can do and can’t do, what you offer, how you work, etc but they can find out most of this by research. To confirm their thought they feed off what you give them. New clients want to be heard, want to be listened to. and if they have an idea or a problem they want you to be able to come up with a solution for them. Your focus should be on how you are going to work for your client not how the client is going to work for you.
Tips for Communication with Potential Clients
Research the client
It is easy to find information about clients these days, so taking the time to find out a little about the company you might be dealing with isn’t that big a deal. If possible try to find out who you will be communicating with and their position in the business. Also, getting an idea of the kind of field they work in helps you target your message. Doing and using your research shows that you care straight away, it shows you are conscientious enough to do your homework and it shows that each individual client is important. It’s a great first impression, and first impressions go a long way.
One of the best ways of showing interest is by asking questions. Not only can you show that you are interested, but you also get the valuable information you need and give the client the chance to talk. You can establish clearly what the client needs and if you are in a position to provide it, you can also make decisions about whether or not you want to work with these clients.
Think like the client. If you were the client what information and feeling would you need to make a decision about working with you. Plan your meetings or video conference calls. Be prepared for the questions they might ask. Read through their opening communications if possible, not what questions they ask. If money, budget, or time are mentioned then these are obviously priorities so don’t beat about the bush with answers. Be prepared and answer them as directly as possible.
Give your potential client your full attention. Take note of what they say, repeat it back, paraphrase, ask follow-up questions, clarify and give them the space to talk. Become an active listener. A good active listener can read what the client wants beyond the words, they can tease out information, they can read the speaker, and reflect the style back. An active listener can get all the information they need to put in place the strongest building blocks for a fruitful collaboration.
Tips for Communication with Existing Clients
Once you’ve got a client you want to keep them if possible or at least get a recommendation or referral from them. You want to leave an impression. One way of doing this is to make sure you personalize your communication. This absolutely does not mean trying to become their friend. This means tailoring your style and messaging to suit the client. Mirroring their communication style helps them feel comfortable, let the client set the tone, and adapt to it. It’s the same with the frequency of communication and even channel of communication, be prepared to adapt.
2. Easy Communication
Some clients will want to communicate with you every day, others will leave you alone to get on, it’s the way of the world. But what all clients want is easy, time-saving communication. They want you to be clear and brief even if their communication isn’t. If you are able to set the guidelines of communication early on in your relationship then it leads inevitably to more effective and efficient communication throughout.
Clients will often have preferred channels of communication be it email, video link, phone, or face-to-face. These channels are usually the ones they are most familiar with, rather than the most appropriate. At first, especially with potential customers, it’s probably better to go along with whatever channel they prefer. It’s easier and they are more comfortable for them and therefore more receptive and open.
Once you’ve got the relationship, it could be time to start guiding them into the channels that will be more productive. To do this you’ll need to be persuasive, illustrate to them how your way will make life easier for them, not easier for you. You’ll also have to make it as pain-free as possible, offer to guide them through setting it up, send direct links to enable them to do it simply, or do it for them. If you can control the information and communication from one area, you are saving time and minimalizing the chances of missing something. Client areas are perfect for this.
Suggest standardizing the communication so everybody involved in the project uses the same channels.
Try to get everyone to use the same tools. Presentations, messaging, and all forms of communication is more effective when people are familiar with the tools involved.
Assign a Communication Lead
When many cooks are involved the dish can easily be spoiled. If you have one person through which the communication flows at either end, this can save you valuable time and cut down on lengthy waiting. The right message gets directed to the right person at the right time.
Establish a Routine
If a client demands regular updates, try to schedule them for a certain day, even time of day. This way you and always giving updates, the person knows when to expect an update and you know when it is expected to be delivered.
A great way of saving time in meetings, face-to-face or virtual is to have an agenda and stick to it. Meetings that twist and turn in many directions are longer and less productive. Set an agenda, send it out before the meeting, be prepared to add to it on request, have clear goals and expected outcomes. It is better organized and works for both sides.
3. Professionalism and Respect in Client Communication
Don’t let stress get to you. Every client deserves to be treated with respect and a professional approach, treat them how you would wish to be treated. Without your clients you are nothing and so being polite is the least you can do. In your communications, it is important to be consistently positive, friendly, open, and polite. Without these cornerstones, communications can at the very least become a dreaded running battle and at worst your clients will just go elsewhere. There is plenty of competition breathing down your neck, so how you treat your clients isn’t just good manners, it makes vital business sense.
Simple words such as please and thank you go a long way towards setting the tone of a relationship and improving your client communication skills. But politeness comes from your overall tone, and mannerisms. Listening is polite, punctual responses are polite, greetings and farewells set the tone, correctly addressing the client is important. The seemingly little things matter and politeness will win you a lot of friends with a minimum of effort. And you get that effort back many times over.
You know how it feels to be on the receiving end in business, so show some understanding. If you fail to deliver what is promised, if you miss deadlines, if you ignore messages or disregard instructions, then the client has every right to be angry. How would you feel? The key is to diffuse the situation, not with excuses but with empathy. You understand and you know how the client feels. You can give explanations, sometimes valid reasons but without empathy, they won’t be heard.
Consistency in the way you communicate is often an undervalued factor. A consistent channel and flow of communication, the tools you use, and even in your response times are important, but it is also important to have the consistency of style and service. Clients should be able to expect the same level of attention whoever they are. If you go all out to impress a potential client and then lose focus once you’ve landed them, it is very noticeable indeed, so keep the standards high.
There should also be a consistency to your language style, you are not writing a potential prize-winning novel or a great poem. You don’t have to impress with innovative words and fancy language. Use functional language that does the job required. And if you repeat phrases and follow a blueprint with your styling, then, in this case, it’s all well and good. Client become familiar with your style, they get used to, and feel comfortable with it -this should be encouraged.
Check, check and check
When you are using written client communication it is so easy to forget to read things through before you send them. Understandable, you are busy, often rushed, sometimes stressed -actually for these exact reasons, it is more important that you proofread everything carefully. If you are rushing, you are much more likely to make errors and mistakes. Sometimes these can lead to serious misunderstandings but even if they are just typos and small grammatical errors they have an effect on the recipient. If you neglect your communication, how careful are you in other areas? If you are sloppy with your writing, why should I believe you take my project seriously? When you don’t have time to check your writing, how valuable am I as a client?
It’s a good idea to get someone else to have a quick read through your communications too, especially the really important ones. Sometimes even when you check through a piece, you read what your head tells you you have written, not what you’ve actually written. A fresh pair of eyes spot these mistakes. Use spell check and grammar check, but don’t rely on it 100%.
4. Honesty is Key in Client Communication
Honesty is the best policy, even in business. With a potential client, you really should be clear about what you can and can’t do, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. In the short term, you might lose a few clients, but you’ll lose many more if you fail to meet expectations. and not only will you lose clients but you lose your reputation too.
- Give clear expectations about what you can’t and can’t achieve.
- Set realistic deadlines to give yourself a buffer, it’s better to extend the deadline from the start and meet it early than to push everybody to the limit trying to achieve the impossible.
- Say no if you can’t deliver say no, say it politely, say it with respect but say it. . It’s better to lose a project than disappoint, and it’s much better to lose a project than to overstretch yourself and then disappoint. If you say no in the correct way – giving valid reasons, offering alternatives, providing different options, then the clients may be happy to negotiate. Even if you lose the clients this time they often remember that you didn’t waste their time and will come back to you in the future.
- If you can’t deliver on time, don’t offer excuses. Let the client know in good time and be honest about the reasons. Clients don’t like being let down, but they really don’t like being let down at the last minute. If your failure to deliver means their failure to deliver, they are not impressed at all. If you give them advanced warning they can plan around it.
5. Meet Expectations
Finally, probably the best advice in business is to meet the expectations of the client. This is true of the product, this is true of the service and this is also true of the communication. The combination of all three will make for a very healthy business indeed. A happy client will come back for more, the news will spread, and business will take off. At the end of the day if the client has got what they wanted, then they will be pleased. If they’ve got what they wanted and the process went as smoothly as clockwork, they will be very pleased. This is a key element in client communication.
Client communication should clarify your position, should create a relationship, should soften the edges, should add to the business, should lead to longer-term business relationships – it should do many things. Most communication comes naturally, often what we see as tips are downright obvious to most people. But this can be a dangerous trap to fall into. What seems obvious can easily be neglected. Client Communication is of vital importance, you need to work on it, you need to prioritize it, you need to reflect on it and refine it. Without your clients your business dies, without good communication, your clients start saying their goodbyes.