This article originally ran on PR Daily in January of 2017.
Ever get frustrated trying to set up a time to chat with your clients?
Do you wear out your thumbs trying to get in touch with them via phone, email, text, Skype or Slack, only to find they still don’t respond to you?
Novelist E.M. Forster famously said to “only connect,” and his wise words are as true in business as they are in personal relationships. After all, talking to your spouse about what’s bugging you is the most important thing you can do in a relationship—if you cut off communication, you can expect your home to fizzle with unreleased tension.
The same is true for business relationships. If an agency doesn’t take the time to understand your company, it can’t deliver positive results.
Discrepancies in trust can have a seriously damaging effect on client relations. If you aren’t transparent with your clients, you won’t deliver value.
Moreover, effective client communication can head off misunderstandings and conflicts.
When your customers know they are being heard, everyone can feel warm and fuzzy—making them more likely to stick around.
Good customer service depends heavily on your client communication. When conflicts arise, the solution is often as simple as uncovering the problem together and keeping the dialogue open.
Find the right path to long-term relationships. Ask them how they’re doing, and always follow up. Send a survey at the end of a project to see how you did, and you’ll find your clients come back to you again and again.
Whether a client has been with you forever or is just beginning to forge a relationship, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that lines of communication are set up for success:
- Give a guided tour. When onboarding a client, make sure you introduce them to the communication tools you’ve established. These tools can help show the client you are accessible and that their project is your priority. For instance, shoot them an invite through a tool such as Basecamp, and then send a follow-up email offering a 10-minute call to show them around. At the very least, give them a heads-up about how you plan to send them updates over the coming days, so they never feel out of the loop.
- Provide a compass for wanderers. If the client starts deferring—for example, asking for change orders in an email instead of via your agreed-upon messaging channel—guide them back to the proper protocol. Just as there’s no perfect client, there’s no perfect agency. That’s why you must respect each other’s opinions and speak up when there’s a problem.
- Keep up the cadence. Try to arrange weekly client meetings. Face-to-face sit-downs are way more personal than phone calls, and an efficient meeting sends a strong message to clients that their projects are important. Even when looking each other in the eye isn’t an option, conferring consistently helps ensure your clients will be available when you need them.
There are dozens of communication processes to choose from. No matter which method you choose, get it up and running with clients as soon as you can. That way, when clients come to talk to you, you’ll be all ears.