What’s the Best Way to Ensure Client Satisfaction? Improve Client Communication
When talking client communication, it can be difficult to find a sweet spot. Of course, poor communication is frustrating for everyone and will usually lead to unnecessary disasters, confusion and misunderstanding. But not enough communication, or loads of back and forth, can also be detrimental. When proper communication is practiced, it can increase productivity with a client and improve delegation among team members, making everything run a little smoother around the office.
Learn how to improve your client communication strategy with these 10 tips:
The first area we usually go wrong with communication is assuming it’s all about what you say and how you say it. That’s hardly half of the equation. Effective communication actually begins with listening. While everyone is aware of this from an intellectual standpoint, the person who consistently and effectively listens in meetings is a unicorn.
Listening is made even more difficult by distractions. If you find yourself glazing over in a meeting or lurching to respond before the client has finished speaking, you’re distracted by any number of things, but all of them can be categorized by either internal or external:
- External distractions are those 20 open tabs on your computer, a stupid amount of useless notifications or even having too much clutter in front of you.
- Internal distractions are those nagging thoughts that keep you from being present or have you thinking too far ahead in a conversation in front of you. While you’re sure to have a laundry list of tasks to address and points to get across, don’t rush and get ahead of yourself just to knock things off your mental checklist. Communication is a conversation: active engagement between multiple people. The situation will be more productive if you allow all parties involved to communicate, and oftentimes, you’ll even find that others brought up some similar points that you had been anxiously waiting to bring to the table.
Setting aside your wandering thoughts, numerous notifications and arbitrary disturbances can be difficult, we know (they feel so urgent in the moment!). But it’s necessary to limit distractions and be present in a conversation to improve listening.
Create an Agenda
If the situation makes sense (as in a presentation or strategy meeting, for example), creating a written agenda to distribute to all meeting attendees can help keep everyone on track. Agendas will help the client recognize that you have specific points you want to address, and will let them know you’ve actually prepared for the conversation.
An agenda can also help your team understand what can actually be accomplished in an hour (or however long your meeting timeframe might be).
Meeting agendas don’t have to be lengthy or specific but just need a general timeline of how the conversation will go and scratch the surface on the topics that will be covered. This should also keep you from harboring mental checklists so you can be present in the conversation.
We develop future expectations based on first impressions. With that being said, get things right the first time, but don’t set yourself up to be a disappointment down the line. If during that first meeting you go way too above and beyond, something that might not be practical to stick to long-term, you are setting an expectation that you might not be able to follow through with every time. Set appropriate expectations the first time, and then consistently deliver.
Here’s an example: if you let a client know that you’ll be getting back to them with recap notes by the end of the day, do it. And then make sure to do it every single time. But if that doesn’t seem like a sensible timeline that you can make happen every time you meet with that client, then rethink what your timeline should realistically be.
To define what consistent communication looks like for you, take a look at your brand voice and brand values and lean on them for the right decision.
Be Clear and Concise
We’re all busy, so do everyone the courtesy of communicating clearly and concisely. If you’re going to leave a voicemail, write down your points before you pick up the phone. Keep your message clean, orderly and short and sweet. Leaving room for interpretation or shying away from the point can also make it seem like you aren’t too confident in your idea. Do whatever you have to do for the conversation to come across clearly and confidently.
Leaving room for interpretation can end in a jumble of confusion. Don’t beat around the bush. We know “asks” or confronting difficult topics can be uncomfortable and make it tough to be straightforward, but unclear confrontations lead to unresolved issues.
Respond with Intention
We’ve all been in the meeting where silence feels suffocating and everyone races to fill it up with a half-baked response or question. That doesn’t help anyone.
Take time prior to a meeting, or even before responding in a conversation, to really dig deep and think about the situation, question or project as a whole. The more you understand what it is you’re looking at and really get its context, the easier time you will have developing questions and responses with intention.
The last thing you want to do when there’s an issue is ignore it. People don’t sit well with being ignored, especially when they’re upset, so have a brief response prepared to let them know you heard them. You don’t have to get to the root of the problem right away, but simply making them aware that you are working on it will, hopefully, lighten the mood.
We’re all receiving emails needing lengthy responses that are piling up in our inbox. While there’s no need to answer emails right away (please, maintain your sanity!), creating expectations will help smooth the communication process. Develop a timeframe with your team with the expectation a client can expect to get a response. Usually, 24 hours will suffice.
Make Things Easy to Understand
You’re the expert in your line of work, so don’t expect your client to be (that is why they hired you, of course). When laying out concepts and digging into the details, stay away from jargon. Make it easy for them to follow along and understand what you mean. If you’re referring to specific content or resources, directly link it for them in an email so they know exactly what you’re referring to. Don’t leave it up to them to put in the work in order to understand where you’re coming from. Because odds are, they won’t do it.
Know How to Say ‘No’
Nobody likes the word ‘no’; it comes across as negative and discouraging. Develop a plan to get around its negative sense by finding intelligent and productive ways to compromise on a matter.
Creating a conversation about an alternative option can make a client feel like they are still gaining something from the circumstance, even though it may not be exactly what they had in mind.
If you come across a situation where the only option is to turn it down, find a respectful and considerate way to say ‘no’, always making sure the client feels heard and taken care of.
Adapt to their Communication Style
When incorporating different personalities into a conversation, adjustments almost always need to be made (and the one who makes them usually gains the authority in the conversation). If your client speaks formally in emails and meetings, match their style by doing the same.
If your client leads every meeting with a casual story about their personal life and what they’ve been up to on the weekends, loosen up a bit and meet them on their level.
Of course, you always want to display an appropriate level of professionalism, no matter which client you’re communicating with, but adapt just enough to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
Always look for appropriate opportunities to incorporate feedback into client communication. Then, hopefully, they will do the same. Being open and authentic can produce a smoother communication process.