Effective communication with clients is a must-have skill that businesses need in order to grow and yield results. True, everyone can learn how to behave and express themselves among others but effective communication with clients is an entirely different matter. It is a journey and not a destination. Every client is unique, so all professionals who communicate with clients, be it business managers, marketers, technical teams, help centers, freelancers from all creative fields, etc. need to re-master this skill on regular basis.
Luckily, there are 10 rules which are the pillars of effective communication with clients. These 10 rules will help you improve the quality of your communication skills and as a result, help your business grow. Let’s start!
1. Respond shortly. Respond always.
The first response forms the first impression. In fact, a good first impression is formed even before you respond to a client’s inquiry.
What do we mean? If you take too long just to answer, the client might think you’re too busy to take on another project, let alone giving them special attention. Not to mention most clients send inquiries to multiple agencies before making a decision. The chances for your competitors to answer first and attract the client before you, gets higher with every passing minute.
So, strive to respond shortly and strive to respond always. Regardless of the inquiry. A happy client leads to more happy clients in future.
2. Let the client speak.
Sure, the client will have written what they want in that first inquiry. But chances are, they will have given very little information about what they need and the last thing you need is taking shots in the dark.
You should learn to listen first and talk later even if you think you know what the client needs. The more information you gather about the client’s project beforehand, the less the risks for mistakes and changes later.
3. Ask questions. Don’t assume.
Assuming what the client needs sets you up for failure. Often, the client can’t explain themselves rightfully, and when you deliver something completely different than they expect… Oops! Houston, we have a problem. To avoid situations like this: Simply. Ask. Questions.
The right questions to ask are specific for every business, and even every agency. The answers to these questions should clear up the project’s concept and put you and your client on the same page.
4. Be empathetic but know your principles.
Empathy is good. Empathy makes you a human who really cares. Putting yourself into your client’s shoes will give you a better perspective of what they really need and will take this business-client partnership to the next level.
However, your client should do the same and respect your company’s values and practices.
Let the client know you understand their concerns but don’t agree on something that would contradict with your company’s values and practices. Doing so, will most probably turn harmful for your business reputation in a long term. A human approach with mutual respect is the winning combination for effective communication with clients.
5. Educate the client.
Very often, clients think they know what’s best for them. In reality, the best solution for their needs might be a bit different than they’ve imagined. Since you are in the role of the expert here, your job is to understand their needs and then, offer them an adequate problem-solving solution.
Prepare to answer their questions by putting your reasoning in simple words, so you can clear up their doubts. Of course, it’s extremely important to inform them about the extent of your capabilities and give them time to make an informed decision. Remember to talk to the point and be as clear as possible.
6. Talk in a language that the client understands.
Control your technical vocabulary when explaining the process to the client. The reason why they decided to reach you in the first place, is because they probably lack technical knowledge.
Avoid using acronyms which may cause confusion. Prefer addressing processes, programs, techniques, etc. by their full names and express yourself in an easy-to-understand way.
A good practice when explaining a complex subject or a process, is to use analogs that can be comprehended easily.
7. Structure your sentences right.
Express yourself grammatically correctly to demonstrate professionalism and high-quality customer service. But not only grammar matters. Prefer positive sentence structures rather than negative ones. Positive sentences focus on what you can do instead of what you cannot, and this makes a good impression.
Limit the usage of the word “you” which often might be interpreted as accusing. Use “we” to convey that you are a part of the client’s team, and “I” in cases of mistakes or misunderstandings between you two.
8. Double-check everything.
When working on a client’s project, it’s crucial that you rely on facts and not assume what the client meant by saying this and that. If you are uncertain even about the tiniest feature, it’s better to check in with your client than doing it all over again later.
Now is probably a good time to remind you to structure your confirmation questions positively and not negatively. Negatively structured questions cause confusion. E.g. “Don’t you like this design?” might be followed by an answer “Yes.” which will leave you wondering what the client confirms exactly. Do they like the design or not?
9. Depict your thoughts with visuals.
Screenshots, sketches, previews, mockups, illustrations… when it comes to effective communication with clients, visuals are a must. No words can describe what you mean more effectively than a visual representation, especially if your client’s native language is different than yours. Most importantly, using visuals saves valuable time and conveys your ideas better.
10. Don’t make false promises.
Making promises you can’t keep is one if the most certain and inevitable deal-breakers you might experience in your business-client partnerships. Don’t get us wrong, always strive to give extra if you can. But if you are not sure if you will be able to do so, it’s better not to make false promises, as this might cost you a client. If such scenario happens, let the client know as soon as possible and apologize sincerely. Most importantly, admit your mistake, and never ever put the blame on them.
Turned out, the golden rules of effective communication with clients are 10. You might have already been abiding by some of them or neglected others. For sure, all of these are good pieces of advice that you need to follow in order to build strong and effective communication with clients.