In this world of hyper-connectivity where everyone is seemingly super accessible, I wonder if we really understand how important the old fashioned communication values are in maintaining and retaining our valued client base.
To be clear – you may have the schmickest website in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere, be ranked #1 on Google, have a brain the size of Australia, and be able to type standing on your head while spoon feeding your toddler in a blackout, but if you don’t have a commitment to solid and consistent communication processes with your clients in your business, it’s worth a big fat zero!
Communication failures are all around us, and I am certain that most of you have been on the receiving end of poor communication at some time or other. In fact, communication issues occur so regularly that we are sometimes oblivious to it – and if you’re in business, you can’t afford to be because these sort of failures can actually work against us in a huge way. It’s super important that we learn to recognise communication failures and cut them off at the pass!
The reality is that poor communication can creep in when we least expect it to.
However, it’s really quite simple to take some proactive steps to ensure you are not letting the side down when it comes to communication expectations.
I’ve put together some really practical tips that I know will help! Put them into practice in your business and you will be guaranteed to improve your client’s experience, and quite possibly turn them from ‘ho hum’ to absolutely raving fans (and that’s what we all want really isn’t it?)
Be Accountable / Be Your Word
By this I mean; if you say you will do something by a certain date / time / whatever, then for goodness sakes, DO IT!
Set Communication Ground Rules
When you start working with a new client, sit down and have a discussion about the best method of communication – what works for you AND your client (is it phone calls, text messages, email, instant messaging), and then stick to these communication guidelines.
Confirm Your Availability
There is nothing more frustrating for a client than feeling like you have dropped off the face of the earth or are difficult to get hold of.Spend some time letting your client know when you will be available for work… and then be proactive and responsible enough to let them know when you are going to be away from your desk for whatever reason BEFORE THE FACT, and not after going AWOL…and definitely NOT with a story or excuse about why…
Be Clear and Professional in Your Communication
Put your best foot forward and always ensure you maintain a professional approach with your communication.That means paying attention to your spelling and grammar, and being clear and succinct.Think about the reader or receiver of your communication; if your agreed communication method is via text message, then think about using dot points and breaking up into easy to read paragraphs, and ALWAYS use correct grammar/spelling and not abbreviations, no matter how tempting; if you are emailing your client, then don’t write a novel when your message could be conveyed in a couple of sentences.
Know Which Communication Method is Best for the Situation at Hand
I don’t know how many times I’ve counselled people on the advantages of picking up the phone and making a call when things are really urgent.Similarly, if you are sending emails and getting no response, or SMS’s are not being replied to, then try something else!
And don’t take it personally when your client doesn’t respond immediately… perhaps they are busy, or perhaps their child flushed their phone down the toilet – who knows? Be consistent and persistent if you need to be.If communication is an issue, then have a chat and let them know your difficulties – then agree on what is the best method in future to use.
Be SMART and Proactive in Your Communication
This is surprisingly easy to do if you stop for a moment and put yourself in your client’s shoes.Ask yourself the question: “What would my client think about this”, and consider the repercussions of what you are doing.Are there any questions that the client might have – that you could pre-empt by providing an explanation before they ask the question?Is there another step or action you could take to make the client’s life easier?
Most of all, be aware of how you are communicating with your clients and stakeholders. Leave a good impression with your clients and stakeholders, and it will pay you great dividends. Not only that, they will love you for it!
VA Institute offers a range of workshops, short courses, and on call coaching / mentoring to support startup and established Virtual Assistants. For more information, please CONTACT Ingrid Bayer.