1. Treat It Like A Relationship And Stay Positive
My colleagues are carefully selected, and they are selected for a reason. These reasons are clearly communicated to my customers, not only to reassure them, but also to spark a good relationship when the first meeting comes up. Similarly, it’s a must to eliminate any traces that allow for bad-mouthing customers within your company: Staying positive is key to building relationships.
2. Standardize Communications Between Your Team And The Clients
I would recommend standardizing communications between your team and the clients. It’s about demonstrating value to the client, as well as showing progress and providing evidence of achieving strategic goals and objectives. You can also use a project management system that gives you the ability to email the client and send that information to the project folder.
3. Hold Weekly Calls
As a digital PR company, we’re in touch with clients via email daily. However, no matter how much you communicate via mail, a regular weekly call is a must. Such a call helps to talk transparently about what happened the previous week and what’s going to happen the following week. A big issue with mail is that there’s no tone, and therefore it’s always best to have a voice call on top of all the rest of your digital communication.
4. Embrace Active Listening
Become obsessed with active listening instead of just talking and presenting. Through listening, you can hear what a client’s concerns, pressures and needs are, and that will tell you problems you can solve for the client. Too often, teams want to show off how smart they are on a client call or in a meeting rather than asking great questions and really listening to the answers.
5. Use A Collaboration Tool
I have never met someone who wants to get yet another email, and our clients are no different. Instead of communicating to a crowded inbox, consider a collaboration tool such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and the soon to be re-launched Google Hangouts. These aren’t just for messaging. They have apps that integrate with your document storage for file review and can even auto-send scheduled key performance indicator reports.
6. Share Details During An Early Meeting
When someone is essentially a “number” or just a “position,” it’s very easy to not connect in a meaningful way and also to have more negative interactions. Oftentimes in initial meetings, I’ll do an exercise where we share something superficial, personal and inter-personal. Superficial is easy; the others are much more difficult but demonstrate the importance of deeper relationships and sharing.
7. Make Communication A Standard Operating Procedure
We include client communication as a checklist item in our process. Anytime we post a blog on a client’s behalf, we’ll email them with the keyword we’re targeting and a synopsis behind the strategy (as well as the link). When we create email campaigns or design websites, collaboration is a key part of producing great work. Baking communication into an operating procedure is a win-win for everyone.
8. Give Your Staff The Tools They Need, Then Audit For QA
Make sure you have the right systems, processes and software supporting your staff. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with emails and ad hoc tasks in any service business. Next, ensure that you have a process in place to audit client-staff communications for QA purposes, and make your staff aware that their outbound communications are monitored by management.
9. Seek To Understand Where Your Clients Are Coming From
Communication starts with understanding. We encourage and facilitate a lot of time together with clients, such as a work day and dinners, especially at the client’s office. When you get a feel for your clients’ day-to-day pressures, you know where they are coming from. When you have that context, it makes communication easier. You listen better when you have context for the communication you are receiving.
10. Get Everyone On The Same Platform
We let our clients into our project management tools so they can communicate directly with our team. When everyone uses the same tools, you build real and transparent partnerships with your clients. Be absolutely fanatical and organized around how you collaborate virtually — including shared folders and standardizing file naming mechanisms — so you can focus on “insights” versus “finding that email.”
11. Mix Up Your Communication Style
Mix in-person brainstorming sessions with the standard formal presentations. Give each department a seat at the table, and bring in all team members that work on the client’s account. Build an agenda that fosters collaboration, problem-solving and conversation, as opposed to the agency always presenting to the client.
12. Empower Your Team
Clients have a natural tendency to go to the top of the totem pole. As a leader, the best thing you can do to improve client-team communication is to get out of the way. Empower your team to drive client conversations: Lend them your vote of confidence and support in your own engagement with clients.