Nailing client communication is probably the MOST important thing a service-based business owner can do for their business. Effective communication between you and your clients leads to a multitude of good things, including better client retention, more referrals and a lot less stress.
Many business owners struggle with client communication often not knowing what to tell their clients and when. What exactly are you supposed to be communicating anyway?
To help you get started, here are 3 things you should be telling your clients.
3 Effective Communication Secrets That Make Clients Happy
Process Overview & Deliverables
You know you’re business. You know what order you do things in, what you need during each step of the process and the best way for you to get your work done.
Your clients don’t.
When you first bring on a client they don’t know what it’s going to be like working with you. Obviously they get the broad strokes, but each business owner will handle things a little bit differently. Letting your client know upfront what phases their project will move through and what milestones, or mini-deadlines, you have will avoid frustration for both you and your client.
Clients that know your process overview & deliverables:
- Don’t send you tons of emails with lots of questions.
- Get you what you need to get your job done (and in a timely manner!).
- Don’t ask you to do work outside of what you’re getting paid to do (known as scope creep).
Preferred Methods of Communications
It sounds strange, but you need to communicate your expectations around client communication!
- If you only want to correspond via email? Tell your clients.
- Want them to make comments on a Trello Board? Tell your clients.
- Don’t want them to text you? Tell your clients.
I think you see where I’m going with this. Whatever your preferred method of communication is, tell your clients. Additionally, it’s really important to pick ONE preferred way for your clients to reach you. If you give your clients the green light to email/call/Voxer/etc., they’ll no doubt use all of these options.
But guess what?
Messages coming in from all over leave you struggling to keep up and feeling overwhelmed. Without fail something WILL get missed despite you spending tons of time combing through emails, FB messages, and old texts desperately trying to keep up.
Keep in mind, this is for their benefit as much as it is yours. How many times have you gotten an email, then a Facebook message, then a voxer from a client? They aren’t trying to drive you crazy (I promise!), they just aren’t sure the best way to reach you so they are covering all their bases.
Lastly, let your clients know when your “office hours” are and how long it will take you to get back to them. Many entrepreneurs and online business owners don’t work 9-5 hours (and this could include you!). This coupled with multiple time zones could make it very confusing as to when your client can get a hold of you.
Let your clients know what times are appropriate to reach out to you and in what time zone. Make sure to include how long it takes you to respond.
General rules of thumb are:
- If you get an email in the morning, return it by the end of the day.
- If you get an email in the afternoon, return it by the following morning.
And remember, no update is STILL AN UPDATE! Meaning, even if all you can say is “you know that thing I’m supposed to be working on? I’m working on it.” send it. Let your client know you’ve received their email and your working toward a resolution.
These two communication guidelines alone (letting your clients know your preferred method of communication as well as your “office hours”) will go a long way to establishing client boundaries.
- Eliminate endless emails.
- Keep your clients from messaging you at all hours.
- Stop redundant messages.
What You Expect From Them
Often one of the biggest bottlenecks for service providers is waiting on their client. Whether it’s content, images or other data, waiting and waiting is tremendously frustrating and can significantly slow progress.
Outlining at the start of your work together what you’ll be needing from your client and by when will drastically reduce bottlenecks. In no time, you’ll find you start getting things on time.
One of the objections I often hear about this is “I don’t want to overwhelm my client.”
I totally get it.
BUT there are ways around that.
If you offer a service that requires a lot of “stuff” from your client, consider breaking up the list of needs to match your work phases. At the start of each phase send your client an email alerting them that phase XYZ has been completed and that in order to start the next phase you’ll need the following items from them.
Also, consider gathering required data over the phone. This is particularly useful if the information you need is techy or out of your client’s wheelhouse. Asking them their IP address and website stats may very well cause a bottleneck simply because they don’t know how to get you the info!
Hop on a call with them and walk your client through what you need. You can even do a screenshare if it helps. If it’s something that really only takes 2 minutes, send them a video of you locating the data so your client has something to follow.
The best way to deliver all of this information is during your client onboarding process via an expectations email. Click here for a free client onboarding checklist. Your expectations email is kind of like a welcome email but it outlines all of the above. It’s MUCH easier to have great client communication from the start than it is to go back and create it.