5 Easy Tips: Maintaining Effective Communication with a Client
It’s 4:45 on a Friday afternoon. All of your coworkers are quickly gathering their belongings and swiftly making their way towards the exit door, leaving undetected, like would-be ninjas. You too, are moments away from shutting down your computer to enjoy your stress-free weekend. As your finger inches towards the power button on your computer, e-mails from one of your clients start to pour in faster than raindrops through a leaky roof.
As you begin to sift through the flood of various messages, the sad realization sets in that your weekend is slowly inching away from your grasp.
You begin to think, “What happened? My client told me that these requests aren’t urgent, and now they are telling me they need to be done right now. What gives?”
While it’s your responsibility to accommodate any and all requests your client has for you, communication breakdowns are an inevitability as some point. In order to avoid this becoming a frequent occurrence, here are some tips on how to maintaining an effective communication stream between you and your clients.
1. Establish a good rapport
As old proverbs have said, a first impression is the most lasting. When you first begin to engage with a client, it is important to make sure your first interaction is a positive one. If possible, set up a time for the two of you to meet face-to-face. It’s much more effective and personable to meet someone in person rather than solely have communications with them over the telephone or e-mail.
2. Set standards and expectations from the get go
Before you and a client begin your business, it is imperative that the two of you understand each other’s work habits and work flow. If there are certain processes, procedures, programs, etc. that you or a client would like to use, make sure it is established at the very beginning of your working relationship. It is also important that your client directly specifies their expectations of working with you, and what they are hoping to get out of the relationship during and after your project(s) with them have concluded. By doing so, it will help keep you on the same wavelength, and result in better work.
3. Make sure to check in frequently
It’s a good habit to set aside some time to discuss the status of your project. Having weekly check-in calls can help sort out any sort of difficulties that have arisen with certain requests your client has given you since the previous weeks’ status call. By doing so, you are actively trying to find solutions to any potential problems that have arisen, and making sure these conflicts will not happen again. And depending on the importance of the requests, it could also be beneficial to have status calls a couple times a week.
4. Never underestimate the value of a phone call
Have you ever been going back and forth with a client in a seemingly endless e-mail chain over what can be viewed as a tiny problem? When sending e-mails, you run the risk of either you or your client being away from their computer for some time, and there can potentially be hours between communications. A simple phone call can fix that. A tiny issue can be resolved in a matter of minutes instead of wasting an entire day. In an age where people tend to cower when having to talk on the phone, just remember how beneficial it can be.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask a client for clarification
People sometimes have an irrational fear that asking a client for clarification on a request makes them look incompetent. Not necessarily true. Asking for clarification shows your desire to be thorough and make sure the task is done correct the first time. It looks way worse if you don’t ask your client to clarify, and you wind up doing the request incorrectly.