When you’re running a service-based business, effective and open client communication is key to ensuring mutual satisfaction between your client and yourself.
However, with multiple tasks and distractors vying for our attention, things tend to fall through the cracks. This can cause critical and costly errors if not caught on time.
In this article, I’ll go over 9 strategies you can use to make client communication less stressful and more efficient.
Want to jump ahead? Click each section to get right to it:
- Practice active listening
- Create eye contact
- Remove distractions
- Create openness
- Create clarity of communication
- Have empathy
- Ask questions
- Double-check everything
- Choose the proper communication channel
- Client communication is key to a successful business
Practice active listening
The solution to miscommunication is to practice active listening. You may think of listening as a passive activity, but when it comes to client communication, you want to fully engage with the person you’re having a conversation with.
In other words, you want to be proactive.
Active listening means you’re focusing all your attention on the other person. So you absorb and understand their complete message without missing anything. In the end, you should be able to repeat their message back to them clearly, making them feel understood.
It’s usually refered to as practising active listening because it’s a process.
Humans are not naturally attuned to maintaining focus on another person. We instinctively want to keep aware of our surroundings in case of danger.
Fortunately, the likelihood of a tiger jumping out from behind the coffee shop counter to maul you during a client meeting is minimal. But despite this, giving the client your undivided attention may not come naturally to you.
So, here are a few tricks to help you build your active listening skills.
Create eye contact
Healthy eye contact in face-to-face client communication signals to the speaker that you’re listening. This applies to online meetings as well, if you happen to be working from home.
During a virtual video call, you should maintain eye contact with the camera, so the other person sees a non-verbal cue of attention.
However, keep in mind that the term ‘healthy’ means consistent, not constant.
You want the client to feel like you’re paying attention, but without staring at them too intensely.
Eliminating every distraction is almost impossible, but being aware of any sources and making an effort to minimize them is a good start.
Turn your phone on silent. In direct, face-to-face conversations, that’s basic politeness.
If you find environmental noise distracting, try to avoid having music or TV playing in the background.
In a place where you cannot control outside interferences, practice being aware of when you get distracted and consciously pull yourself back to the conversation.
Keep an open mind. Do not allow judgment to cloud your interactions with the client.
For example, even if a client comes to you with what you feel is a ‘stupid’ question, refrain from thinking poorly of that client. Particularly right off the bat.
Everyone’s level of knowledge and ability is different, and what seems obvious to you will not be to everyone. In any case, it’s not your place to pass judgment.
Instead, adjust the level of difficulty with which you talk about certain industry concepts and do your best to understand your client’s point of view.
Create clarity of communication
Always make sure the client is able to get their point across. Listen fully to what they’re saying before jumping in with your two cents. Above all, avoid interrupting them.
Make your client feel heard before you dive into the solutions. To achieve that, ask a few supporting questions for clarity (more on this later). Don’t be afraid to take notes during the conversation either.
This will make the client feel appreciated and confident in the knowledge that you’re dedicated to solving their pain point.
In addition to strengthening your working relationship, this will often have the added benefit of illuminating the best solution for the problem.
Practice empathy in your interactions and try to feel what the client must be feeling when faced with an issue. This way, you’ll also be able to deal with conflict more easily.
Go beyond understanding your client’s position, actively express it. Affirm the client’s feelings.
Comments like: “I understand your frustration,” or “That must be very annoying to you,” that reflect their view without imposing your own are a great way to make the client feel validated.
Asking the right questions is indispensable for establishing understanding and smooth client communication. So, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation any time there’s a chance of misinterpretation or there are hurdles in your relationship with the client.
If you’re about to enter a difficult client conversation, it’s a good idea to prepare your questions ahead of time.
Write down the information you need to address the problem properly or to achieve your target outcome. Having questions written down prior to the conversation will help avoid forgetting any key points.
Asking the right questions is particularly important in customer support. Ensure the customer service scripts include information-finding questions and clarifying questions, and checking that your reps understand their importance.
After you place an order at a drive-thru, the employee usually reads the order back to you to ensure they have all the specifics correct. This simple act creates trust and ensures the order will be delivered correctly.
Using a similar principle, you can greatly improve the effectiveness of client communication in your business, too.
Make ending important communication with a short recap of the conversation’s main points part of your company culture.
In practice, this means before ending a call or chat, you should make sure to do the following:
- Review the problems that were discussed.
- Outline how they were resolved.
- Communicate how those problems will be avoided in the future.
- List any action points that will happen moving forward.
- Ask clarifying questions to ensure all problems were resolved.
This should be part of any customer service or client communication script.
Choose the proper communication channel
The digital world provides us with a vast variety of communication channel options. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your goals, the personal preference of the person you’re addressing, and the tone of the conversation.
In-person conversations are the most direct form of communication and require no technology.
Let’s compare some of their advantages and disadvantages:
- Pros: You can receive verbal and nonverbal communication alike. Distractions are minimized because it’s easier to pay attention to someone who is in the same room.
- Cons: Difficult to schedule. Long-form conversations aren’t suitable for quick fixes.
If the setting is an issue or if meeting up would be disproportionate to the problem you have to tackle, technology provides more convenient communication channels.
The telephone has been around for so long that we tend not to think twice about what that form of communication entails.
- Pros: Quickly receive information. Can still interpret tone of voice for subtle cues.
- Cons: Resolving issues can sometimes take longer. Direct verbal conversations have time and scheduling restraints since you have to have live people on the phone lines.
In a phone conversation, clarity becomes essential.
Over the phone, we’re less able to rely on external clues like facial expressions or body language, and yet we still have to process and interpret information in real-time.
Unlike chats and other written forms of communication, there’s no time lag between utterances, so we have to compensate with vocal inflexion and strategic pauses to make sure we’re understood.
Chat or messenger
For a certain generation, chat is the preferred method of communication. There is a good reason for that, although there are certain pitfalls to be mindful of.
- Pros: Quick and convenient. Can be handled by bots for 24/7 coverage. Physical transcripts of the conversation can be stored for future reference.
- Cons: Complex problems can be more difficult to resolve. Clients may miss the real human experience. Doesn’t offer as many opportunities for relationship building.
In short, chat is the way to go if you’re trying to handle more commonplace situations that don’t require a lot of effort and offer quick fixes. For more complex issues, more direct forms of client communication are often a better solution.
Nowadays, more and more companies are opting for their own custom apps to communicate with clients. That is no surprise since apps offer a world of possibilities.
- Pros: Convenient and interactive. Customizable options help clients feel special and understood. Provide more services than just customer support.
- Cons: Arguably less personal, with less live human interaction. Expensive to establish upfront.
Apps are changing the landscape of client communication so much that they deserve to be looked at in more detail.
Businesses across a diverse spectrum of industries can stay connected to clients through a device that’s constantly with them. Apps let you send notifications to clients and reach them better than email, mail, or phone calls.
For issues that require more immediate attention, you can integrate a chat function. You can even escalate those conversations to a phone or video call, if necessary.
The wide variety of options apps offer allows you to control the level of directness in your communication with clients, which is particularly useful to introverts.
As long as you keep in mind that your mobile app is secure, accessible on a wide variety of platforms, and easy to use, you’ll be able to offer an optimal client experience.
Client communication is key to a successful business
There’s often so much hinging on your interactions with a client that communicating can seem daunting, especially if being outgoing doesn’t come naturally to you.
However, if you keep in mind the tips I listed in this article, start making an effort to practice active listening techniques and keep your client’s experience in mind, you’ll be able to reframe your experience.
With all this in mind, you’ll soon be able to stop regarding client communication as a source of stress and instead focus on offering value and developing your business.