Some say talk is cheap.
We say, if you don’t talk, it can end up being really, really expensive. Working with clients is all about building relationships and trust. That’s why practicing good client communication skills is crucial– because without it, there’s a whole lot of gray area.
If something goes wrong in that thick, gray fog, your client isn’t going to feel any allegiance to you if you don’t have a good relationship. Even if it is out of your control, they could blame or even sue you.
Sounds dramatic, right?
Well, you know how mama bear’s claws come out when her baby is in danger? That’s kind of how clients can be with their business.
And if something may impact their precious baby in a negative manner, watch out: mama’s fangs are gonna come out to play.
Here are some best practices for effective client communication.
Make a human connection.
Making a connection beyond business can help the barriers come down, and you will both recognize each other as people.
We’re not saying you and your client should do weekly happy hours and SoulCycle classes together, but it is important (and worth your time) to develop some sort of relationship.
Create a foundation.
If you have common ground with those you do business with, it can sweeten the highs and soften the blows.
And it’s important for everyone to remember that we’re all just humans.
Playing nice isn’t limited to the sandbox.
Having a good rapport with your clients can only help you – especially if you make a mistake. If people like you, they’ll show a little mercy.
So if something catastrophic happens to your drawings right before you deliver them on Monday morning, your client will be more forgiving if they don’t think you’re a stuck-up you-know-what.
On the flip side, if you haven’t had the best working relationship, a missed deadline could really set things off. You screwed them over, and they want you to pay for it.
It might sound over the top, but people often get sued for failure to deliver promised services.
It’s petty, but it happens more often than you’d think.
Realize that some clients need more communication than others.
It’d be easy if you knew exactly how much it took to make each client happy, but you’ll have to figure it out as you go. Typically, a client will require less communication the longer you’re with them.
Always protect yourself with a solid contract upfront.
A good contract never hurt anyone.
It’s important to give clients a realistic set of expectations, with clear terms and deliverables. No matter how great a job you do, they can always find something wrong if the details aren’t clearly spelled out.
Make sure you have professional liability insurance, just in case.
If you give professional advice or expertise for a living, you should look into professional liability insurance. It will protect you from an unexpected lawsuit from an unhappy client who claims they have suffered a loss as a result of your work. That includes negligent services, missed deadlines, or professional errors.
Think of it as an insurance policy that protects you from lawsuits when communication fails.
Consultants: Read this guide to consultant insurance.
Figure out what form of communication works best for your client.
Emailing is a good bet; everyone feels comfortable emailing, and it also gives you something to refer back to if there’s ever a misunderstanding.
If you have any questions at all, just ask.
Make sure everyone is on the same page as you go along, because clarity of communication always wins.
Be mindful of deadlines.
Keep transparent communication open regarding the timeline. If the timeline changes, communicate the reasons and determine a new ETA.
It’s easy to get lost in the technical jargon of your profession, but learn to speak in layman’s terms when talking with clients. It’s also a good idea to learn how to speak your customers’ language.
A considerate follow-up is always welcome, especially if it gives you the chance to reiterate goals or next steps.
Make sure the project scope is defined.
If you don’t define the project scope, the client can easily pull the project outside of bounds. Payment, the quantity of work, and length of time should all be clearly defined.
Make sure you let the client know as soon as a problem arises. Most will be very understanding, as long as you’re not continually missing deadlines.
(Go ahead, practice those snazzy client communication skills you’ve learned.)
Under-promise and over-deliver.
It’s wise to live by the saying “under-promise, over-deliver”. Set reasonable expectations – and then surpass them.
If you under-deliver, it will only hurt your reputation, so be very careful of this.
No one is perfect. And yes, that includes you.
No matter how hard you try to be perfect or create perfect work, it won’t happen.
If you don’t get the results you were hoping for (and promised), just breathe and talk it out with your client. You’ll come to a solution that works for both of you.
Communicating with clients is a tricky business.
But the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
Want to make sure your business is protected? Get a professional liability insurance quote.Pogo is an online business insurance agency dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and the self-employed get the right insurance, easily.
Learn more about business insurance.