Client communications are the foundation of a successful business. The way you communicate starts impacting you and your clients’ ability to understand each other’s goals, strategies and challenges before the ink on the client contract dries. Choose communication styles that your clients don’t like or don’t understand and you could spend hours, perhaps days, working on a project only to discover that your final effort is not at all what the client wanted.
Start “really” hearing your clients
To steer clear of this, practice the art of active listening. You’ll know you’re listening actively if you focus on what your client is saying, keep an open mind and avoid interrupting your client. Practice this in your personal life and it’s bound to expand into your business affairs as well.
In today’s advanced technological world, you also need to pay attention to the communication method or tool that you use. For example, do you find yourself mainly sending emails when you want to share information with clients or do you prefer to text clients? Or do you reach for the telephone when you want to discuss the status of a project?
No one method is always best. A telephone call can add an increased personal touch to communications, while email is convenient. Text a client and you can provide her valuable project updates even if you’re both away from the office on the road. So, how do you know which method to use?
Consider the communication tools that your clients use most often. It also pays to simply ask each new client you serve to tell you his most preferred one to two communication tools. Do this at the start of the relationship to avoid conflicts.
Pros and cons of different communication tools
You could also know which communication tool is best to use by considering advantages and disadvantages associated with the tools. Depending on the nature of your business (i.e. web design, event planning, coaching), one or more tools might fit into your company more than another.
- Email – Creates a written record of shared data and information discussed. This method is a winner if you need to create a paper trail of client interactions. Email can also get lost in a client’s spam folder or get accidentally deleted, especially if a client receives a 100 or more emails a day.
- Text – Quick to send and receive. However, text can be cumbersome if messages are long or sent numerous times a day.
- Social media – Great if you want to use a message to market you or your client’s business. On the other hand, social media limits the level of privacy surrounding client communications. If messages are only meant to be seen by and shared between you and your client, identify messages as “private” before you write and send them.
- Telephone – As previously, discussed this tool saves on time. It’s also personal. Nevertheless, because most state laws mandate that you let a person know that they are being recorded before you start recording them, the telephone might not be best if you need to keep a record of client communications.
- Face-to-face – This is the most personal communication form. Yet, meeting with clients in person takes time, for both of you. On the other hand, if you practice active listening while engaged in face-to-face client meetings, you could leave rewarding and lasting psychological imprints on your clients.
Rather than trying to educate clients on the advantages of using your preferred communication tool or method, ask your clients to share their favorite communication method with you. Adhere to tools your customers clearly tell you that they use most frequently or prefer. Doing so could keep you from leaving money on the table and scaring potential clients away simply because you insist on communicating in ways they don’t like.
What is your preferred method of communication?