Client Communication: 10 Ways to Master the Craft

Maddy Martin
|
2023-02-14

No matter what kind of service-based business you run, your success depends on the relationships you build with your clients. Without solid client communication, you risk losing loyal customers and building a bad reputation for your brand. 

Client communication, however, can be easier said than done. In fact, only 14% of clients report being happy with business communication.

If you want to improve your client communication, we’ll walk you through what client communication is, why it’s important, and best practices that’ll impress your clients so they’ll always want to do business with you. 

What is client communication?

Client communication is any type of communication that occurs between a business and a client. There are many different ways you can communicate with your clients, including:

  • Verbal: phone calls, face to face, video conferencing
  • Written: emails, invoices, contracts
  • Nonverbal: facial expressions, body language

All of these methods of contact that you use to stay in touch with both current and prospective clients are essential to strengthening and maintaining your relationship with them.

Why is client communication important?

Mutual trust and understanding are essential building blocks for any relationship that lasts. Therefore, if you want to create and maintain lasting connections with your clients, you must invest in how you communicate with them. By doing so, you can build a loyal client base, increase productivity, and even boost your ROI. 

The Importance of Excellent Client Communication

Loyal clients are more likely to talk positively about your brand, leave a good review, and refer you to others. In fact, 64% of marketers agree that word of mouth (WOM) is the most effective form of marketing. Even better, a referred client is 18% more loyal than a client acquired by other means.

Even before you've turned your prospects into paying clients, the general communication strategy you use to build your brand is important. Your written and spoken communication, such as tone of voice or response time, might influence whether or not potential customers choose to work with you. 

Client communication best practices

Now that you’re aware of how crucial client communication is, you undoubtedly want to put your best foot forward and impress your clients with excellent communication skills.

To guarantee that you ‘re positioning both you and your clients for success, follow these client communication best practices.

1. Set expectations (and meet them!)

First and foremost, setting clear expectations with clients from the very start is key to ensuring they’re on the same page as you. If you regularly order a vanilla latte from your favorite coffee shop and are eventually served an Americano, you’ll probably be disappointed. This is because your expectations were let down.

The same logic goes for serving clients. When you clearly communicate expectations of what the client will get from you and when they should expect it, your clients will feel like they’re being served what they asked for. 

Clear expectations should be established right away, especially during the onboarding process. Be careful while making any promises at this phase to avoid setting unrealistic expectations. 

Therefore, be upfront with the client without delay. Establish attainable goals with them, and specify metrics that are important to them to measure success. If the process is carried out properly, your client will establish realistic expectations, and when they’re met, will depend even more on your services.

To help you develop realistic expectations, use this 4-W grid during your initial meeting to figure out who they are, what the project is, why it matters to the client, and when it needs to be delivered.

4-W Grid for Developing Client Expectations

Key takeaway: Clearly set expectations with your client right away so you can work together to establish attainable goals. 

2. Build a personal connection

As we’ve mentioned, trust is a critical component to a lasting relationship. One way to earn that trust is by building a personal connection with your clients. By doing so, you can genuinely get to know them better, understand the deeper context of the communication, and effectively manage both the conversation and your relationship.

To help build a personal connection with your clients, you should:

  • Be conversational: Ask specific and engaging questions to get to know your clients on a more personal level and potentially find mutual interests.
  • Be responsive: Always respond to client questions, updates, and feedback within a 24-hour period and keep them in the loop with any status updates on your end.
  • Be reliable: Always follow through on commitments you made to your clients.

By carrying out these actions, you'll be seen as professional while still providing a human element to your business, which can lead to strong client relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

Key takeaway: By being conversational, responsive, and reliable, you’ll be able to earn the trust of your clients and build a strong personal connection with them.

3. Show empathy 

Empathy is an interpersonal skill that is extremely valuable in many areas of life — especially when it comes to client communication. In business, empathy is the ability to understand the client’s perspective as your own and respond accordingly.

For example, maybe your client is running behind on feedback for a project you offered them. Think about what’s going on on their end to help you evaluate the situation:

  • Is this a busy season in their industry? 
  • Are they traveling for work? (Do you know what time zone they are currently in?)
  • Are they going through any personal hardships?
  • Are they going through any internal changes or challenges that require their attention?

People, including your clients, have lives outside of their jobs and even the work that you do for them, so exercising these skills is critical in maintaining a respectful business relationship with them.

Key takeaway: Learn to understand your clients’ perspective so you can respond to situations accordingly.

4. Be flexible

Whether you work in a B2B or B2C industry, you must have the ability to adjust your communication with each client. Some of your clients may behave as if they’re your friends, showing interest in your personal affairs and expecting you to do the same for them. Others will be strictly business.

Clients differ not only in personality types, but also in how much information they want to receive about their accounts. Some may be completely happy with a high-level review each month. Others may want an in-depth review on specific metrics and campaigns. 

No matter what, you should aim to give the client what they want and have the flexibility to adjust to their needs.

Key takeaway: Be flexible and offer different types of communication styles like email, instant messaging, or weekly calls to understand the best form of communication for your client.

5. Listen actively

A critical part of effective communication is active listening skills. Active listening involves going beyond simply hearing the words your client speaks by seeking to understand the meaning and intent behind them.

To practice active listening, you should:

  • Give your clients your full attention when interacting with them
  • Take notes when necessary 
  • Use acknowledgments such as verbal nods and affirmative words to let the speaker know you’re engaged
  • Ask relevant and open questions to elicit more information from them

By doing this, you can minimize misunderstandings and cut down on back-and-forth feedback, which will help keep projects on track and your clients happy.

Key takeaway: During interactions with your client, give them your full attention and ask relevant and open questions to avoid confusion and keep projects on track.

6. Favor transparency

Gaining a client's trust requires being completely transparent at all times. Whether you’re delivering good news or bad news, you have to be honest and straightforward. In fact, 66% of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities of a brand.

You should never lose sight of the fact that you are using someone else's hard-earned cash. They ought to be informed of what it's producing and, perhaps more significantly, what it's not producing.

To be transparent, thoroughly walk your clients through what you’re spending on different initiatives and how it's performing regularly. It’s important to be as detailed as possible, leaving no room for doubt about the results. 

Key takeaway: Provide regular updates to clients with full transparency on the details they need to know.

7. Be clear and concise

When communicating with your clients, there’s no need to overcomplicate what you’re trying to say. The true art of effective communication is making it easy to digest — keeping it clear and concise so that your client knows exactly what you mean.

Think about it: Would you rather receive an email with paragraphs full of irrelevant details, or a straightforward list of tasks and deadlines that you need to be aware of?

Keep Communication Clear and Concise

Make it simple for your clients to understand what's happening on your end and what they need to do to maintain a strong business partnership. This enables you to effectively manage expectations and avoid situations in which you overcommit.

Key takeaway: Keep your communication easy to digest by utilizing bullet points, bolding important notes or due dates, and providing more context as needed. 

8. Be proactive

In an ideal world, everything goes according to plan and there are no problems. Of course, in business, that's not always the case. You have to be aware of how to conduct yourself in unanticipated crisis situations and be ready to proactively solve the problem.

Keep in mind that being able to react quickly is crucial in stressful situations. Have a plan ready just in case things go awry. As soon as you see any potential issues, make sure it’s communicated to the client along with steps you are taking to solve the problem. 

Your client will appreciate your openness and effort to resolve the issue if you are proactive. 

Key takeaway: Proactively communicate any issues with your client and have a plan ready to help you solve the problem. 

9. Outsource and automate when possible

Technology is constantly evolving. It's important to stay up to date with new tools and platforms that improve the client communication process as they become available. It’s always a good idea to seek ways to optimize and automate your communication efforts.

Automation, for example, helps you carry out monotonous activities using AI and machine learning capabilities, freeing up the team's time to concentrate on more important work.

Additionally, outsourcing your sales or hiring an answering service can help you better manage your time and save a lot of hassle for you and your employees. That way, you can focus more of your time on growing your business and communicating with your clients. 

Key takeaway: Outsourcing services and automating processes helps manage tedious tasks so you can have more time to focus on growing your business and communicating with your clients. 

10. Choose the appropriate channel

In order to effectively communicate with your clients, you need to contact them by their preferred channel. If you want to provide an optimal client experience, you should tailor your services to each case.

Because 66% of customers use at least three different communication channels, it’s a good idea to be present on various channels. 

Here’s a list of the top channels of communication consumers prefer:

  • Phone call: 32%
  • Email: 20%
  • Text messaging: 12%
  • Video call: 6%
  • Website chatbots: 5%
  • Other: 26%
Top Channels of Communication Preferred by Conumers

Even with the option of convenient instant messaging, many customers prefer phone calls to communicate, especially for quick engagements like getting their questions answered. 

While phone calls were the highest preferred channel, “other” ranked second, which means there are other channels clients prefer over email, text, video, and chatbots. This could be messaging apps such as Slack or even project management tools like ProofHub.

Find out if your client prefers to be contacted by phone or email. Or maybe they prefer a messaging app like Slack or routine video calls. Whatever the case, be willing to adapt to what’s easiest for them so you can make communication a breeze. 

Key takeaway: Discover your client's preferred method of contact and apply it when communicating with them. You can do so by sending a questionnaire or survey as you begin working with them.

Stand out with effective client communication

A brief summary of the advice we provided above is shown in the infographic below, along with some statistics you might find interesting.

10 Ways to Master Client Communication

Client communication is an essential part of business success, as it helps elevate the customer experience and build a loyal client base, which ultimately gives you a better return on your investment. 

Smith.ai offers features that cover all channels of communication like virtual receptionists, outreach campaigns, text answering, Facebook message answering, and live web chat solutions that integrate AI and human interaction so you can provide the ultimate customer experience.

Request a free consultation to learn more about how our expert 24/7 staff can assist you.

Sources: Pumble | Review 42 | Annex Cloud | HubSpot | Edelman | Brand Genetics | HBR | Oberlo |Project.co | Genesys | MicroSourcing | Microsoft | Business Wire

Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's VP of Marketing. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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