5 Steps to Better Client Communication

Better Client Communication
How to achieve better client communication

Communication is an important facet of developing relationships with your clients.  What some consultants don’t understand is that little things they do – or don’t do – can affect their credibility and their professional reputation negatively.  Here are five subtle things you can do that make a big difference in establishing your image as a professional as well as earning the client’s trust.

Better Client Communication

  1. Make phone calls with a voice mail message in mind: Perhaps this has happened to you.  You call someone and get their voice mail.  You didn’t count on that and when you hear the beep, you stumble over your words and sound like a certified idiot.  You wish you could just hang up and start over.  I’ve been on the sending and receiving end of these messages and both are uncomfortable.  When you do this with a client, it undermines your credibility.  Whenever I need to call a client, I stop for 30 seconds, take a piece of paper – sometimes just a Post-it note – and jot down a few of my talking points.  If I get their voice mail, I’ve got a nice outline to use to leave an intelligent message.  And you know what?  If they answer, I still have a well thought out message to present to them.
  2. Address the recipient in every email: I see a lot of emails where people just start typing what they want to talk about.  It’s a pretty abrupt way to start communicating to someone, especially if you’re talking to a client.  Just putting the person’s name softens the tone of the email.  You don’t have to start out with “Dear” or any other formal salutation.  This is also a benefit when people are cc’d on the email.  Not everyone looks to see who the email is to and who is copied.  Specifying who the email is to makes it clear.
  3. Proof read every email: I took a typing class in college, although I think they call it “keyboarding” nowadays. After many years of typing programs, proposals, reports and emails, I’m a pretty good typist.  I laugh when I hear those Dragon speech recognition commercials because I can type almost as fast as I think; or maybe I just think as slow as I type.  Anyway, as much as I am able to keep up with my thoughts as I go, I always go back and proof read my emails and I’m amazed at how often I have typos that I need to correct.  It’s a habit that’s saved me embarrassment many times.  I often get emails from people who obviously don’t proof read and it makes them look unprofessional.  Sometimes, I can’t even figure out what the hell they’re trying to say.  Proof reading should be done for all emails, but it’s most important for the ones you send to your clients.
  4. Have a purpose: I marvel at the time that gets wasted in meetings by people who just need to speak to let people know they are there and engaged.  I see it particularly when someone’s boss is present and they need to remind the boss of their presence.  My favorite tactic is when they adamantly agree with their boss.  It allows them to tell the boss they’re listening while doing a little ass-kissing at the same time.  I’ve been in meetings where I wasn’t asked a question and didn’t have any value to add, so I kept my mouth shut.  If you’re just there to get information, it’s OK to stay silent.  If you have a question, stop and ask yourself if it’s necessary to ask in the meeting, or if you can pull someone aside afterwards to ask.  Otherwise, don’t waste everyone’s collective time.
  5. Say thank you: Consultants are often stereotyped as being arrogant and condescending.  I’m amazed how often they live up to the stereotype.  Many consultants believe that they are smarter and better than most of their clients and it shows in their attitude.  They’ll ask the client for some information and once it is received, they go on their merry way providing the client with their indispensable expertise.  In reality, the consultant is there to serve the client.  Consultants have a lot of expertise and may be experts an many things, but the client is just as knowledgeable of their own business and, by the way, controls whether your firm gets any more business.  Thanking them for information that you request or for doing a favor shows humility and indicates to the client that you respect their time.

See my related post: Communicating Bad News to Clients

None of these are earth-shattering tactics, but they are little things that make a big difference.

What tactics have you found that have helped you be better communicators with your clients?

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
Consulting Skill: Aligning Interests with the Client
In Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s best-selling book Freakonomics, they propose a scenario in which you are selling your house with an asking price of $300,000 and receive an offer ...
READ MORE
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
I worked my way through college waiting tables.  At one place I worked, we had a cook who treated employee meals differently than customer meals.  Customers received the standard fair.  ...
READ MORE
Unnecessary Anxiety
During the late 1990s, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the term Irrational Exuberance to denote the absurdity of over-enthusiasm investors had regarding stocks – particularly dot-com stocks – ...
READ MORE
Estimating Your Work Like Ferris Bueller
I live in the Chicago area and I love the city of Chicago.  As an extension, I love the movies based in Chicago.  From The Blues Brothers to The Untouchables ...
READ MORE
How to Deal with Emotional Clients
I’ve usually been able to manage my emotions in business settings.  Everyone makes mistakes and I’ve always had a tolerance for that. But every once in a while, you get a ...
READ MORE
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?
I once managed a project for a multi-site organization to implement software at each location. I held a weekly status conference-call with the company’s executives which included the branch manager from ...
READ MORE
Staffing The Right People
Like most things, coordination is critical in consulting.  Consider the following scenarios: Great news Cindy!  We’ve landed the Johnson account.  We start Monday and we want to hit the ground running.  ...
READ MORE
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What To Do
As a consultant, I’ve liked every client I’ve ever served.  There are some, however, that I’ve liked more than others. Every once in a while I run across one person at ...
READ MORE
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat of the Pants
There are many types of consultants. Some consultants strictly give advice.  They may perform a study of the client’s internal processes, review their financials and submit a report detailing the changes ...
READ MORE
Why Do You Want to Work From Home?
Working from home is a growing trend in the business world.  In an effort to cut back on office space and other overhead costs, many companies have set up their ...
READ MORE
Consulting Skill: Aligning Interests with the Client
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
Unnecessary Anxiety
Estimating Your Work Like Ferris Bueller
How to Deal with Emotional Clients
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?
Staffing The Right People
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat
Why Do You Want to Work From Home?