Keeping clients in the loop is essential to successful business relationships. You want them to feel heard and be happy. Only, you can’t sit all day at your desk answering emails. You’d never get any other work done. In this article we’ll cover eight tips for effective communication with clients that can help you get a handle on the everyday demands of running a small business.
Let’s face it, your clients have their choice of companies with which they can give their business. They know it, and their expectations are high as a result. Effective communication with clients might just give you the advantage you need to stand out and win more clients. The following eight strategies can help. Let’s go.
1. Be transparent
Good communication with clients benefits both your clients and your business. This is especially true at the outset. Be sure to have a client onboarding process in place to identify goals, assign responsibilities, establish procedures, and agree on timelines. This can help kickoff project success.
Even if you’re a graphic designer or wedding planner working solo, establishing ground rules for the engagement from the beginning makes a difference. Putting it all down in writing can help keep everyone on the same page and avoid difficulties down the road.
2. Be clear about $$
As a small business owner or self-employed worker, you know every dollar matters. Effective communication with clients is open and honest about the budget:
- Let clients know promptly when there are changes or potential overruns
- Establish a rate sheet or a thorough project proposal to avoid surprising clients with a big, unexpected tally down the road
- Invoice consistently, professionally. An client management software with built-in invoicing, like HoneyBook, enables you to accept credit card or ACH payments directly from your online invoice
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3. Be responsive
Timely responses to your clients questions or concerns will go a long way to fostering a positive experience. When thinking about how to manage communication with clients, make a plan regarding your availability. Carve out consistent time for business communications. Let the client know the best ways and times to contact you. If you’re part of a team, have someone else on backup to manage that client if you are out of the office or can’t get back to them promptly.
A client communication management software (CCMS) can help you organize, track, and respond to client communications. Some sophisticated solutions, such as HoneyBook, even offer mobile access so that both you and the client can check in on project timelines and administrative tasks while on the go.
4. Make it easy.
How do you communicate effectively with clients? Remove any hurdles you can. One way to do that is with an all-in-one solution that streamlines things for both you and the client.
Instead of providing a client with a login for a project management software and asking them also to send documents via Google Drive, invoicing them through Paypal, and emailing them here and there — do it all in one place and give them a client portal to have easy access.
You can be more efficient with all the tools you need to pitch, manage, communicate, track and invoice in a single place. Meanwhile, you’re reducing the friction for your clients by providing a straightforward end-to-end experience.
The “Keep it Simple” mantra can also apply to effective email communication with clients. You think you’re busy? Your clients are probably feeling pretty swamped too. So, in email communication with your clients, get right to the point. Be clear and direct. The same is true for voicemail or text. Before you call, write, or press send ask yourself:
- What is the key message I am trying to communicate?
- Have I led with that main idea?
- Have I provided all the essential details, without saying more than I need to say?
5. Be authentic
The best way to communicate with clients is to be true to yourself. That is unless your true self is someone that never responds to email or phone calls and would rather not engage with other humans. That’s probably not going to work out so well!
Otherwise, regular honest and straightforward communication with clients will help establish your trustworthiness and accountability.
The more accessible you are, the more valued the client is going to feel. Effective communication with clients requires you to make yourself available. If clients need to send six messages, the last three marked urgent, before you poke you head up out of your hole of work, they’re not going to think they are a priority for you. You want to give clients confidence that you care about their goals, respect their time, value their input, and are doing all you can to help them succeed.
6. Practice empathy
Maybe a client is struggling to understand a concept. Or they can’t make a decision. Perhaps they have to change direction on a dime and you’re left picking up the pieces. Getting frustrated isn’t going to help.
Things will go wrong. That’s just the way it is. Just make you’re prepared for how to deal with a difficult clients. What’s going to make a difference in your effective communication with clients is how you handle any issues. Once you identify a concern, get it out in the open. If there’s something that needs fixed on the client’s end, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting to address it.
Also, try to give the client time to digest the new information before asking for any new decisions. Be prepared, where possible, to offer several expert solutions. They’ve come to you for your expertise in the first place. Be sure to step up and offer your advice when it’s needed most.
7. Listen actively
Any relationship gets better when all parties are listening actively. Keep in mind that it’s easy to hear without listening. You might be so busy thinking of how you’re going to respond, that you’ve already tuned out from what the client is saying. That’s going to come back to haunt you.
Active listeners focus on:
- Attitude — You take the approach that everyone deserves respect and has valid, important points to make.
- Attention — You remove yourself from distractions to give undivided attention to the speaker.
- Adjustment — You listen with an open mind rather than trying to anticipate what the speaker will say next or how you will respond. You have to adjust to what is happening in the conversation and take it as it comes.
For effective communication with clients outside of face-to-face meetings, apply these principles to your reading of any documents, emails, or texts too. Say a client emails that she really wants Kelly green balloon decorations at her party. You might immediately think that sounds like a horrible idea. But if you jump to that conclusion too quickly, you might skim over the part where she explains its her grandmother’s favorite color.
8. Prioritize accuracy
Accuracy can mean the difference between a big sale and a devastating loss. A missing comma cost a U.S. dairy company $5 million in delivery driver backpay in 2018. Now, you may not have any drivers nor be worth millions. Nevertheless, any discrepancy between what you and your client expect and how you meet those expectations could cause real problems. Deadlines may be missed. Deliverables could be done wrong. Debates over who is paying for what may follow.
Effective communication with clients begins with strong internal communication. Any service provider interacting with others to get the job done needs to be well informed. Few wedding planners can run a flawless wedding without relying on florists, caterers, bakers and more. Be proactive in building relationships with your own partners. That way you’ll be better able to communicate accurate information to your own client.
Ultimately, effective communication with clients can require a great deal of effort. That’s probably not what you want to read. Still, with these eight tips you regain control of all the client communication needs of your business. Better yet, partner up with a client communication management system provider. Your organization and efficiency will benefit, and so will your business relationships.
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HoneyBook helps self-employed individuals and small businesses organize all their client interactions and communication in one platform. That means, you can work with multiple clients at once, or even take on more business, without the fear of dropping the ball. Check out what other small business owners are saying and start a free trial today.