Communications is at the heart of any business. Whatever you are making, whatever you are selling, the central focus needs to be on communication, both within your organisation but also, crucially, in your external communication to stakeholders, whether they be customers, clients or suppliers. If you can keep those channels open, and the comms flowing freely - for instance, by using communication technology from ICA - your business will thrive. Conversely, if there are blockages, the effects can be costly.
Here at ICA, we have put together an eight-point guide to set you on your way to effective client communications.
You may have established the business yourself but found that as it has grown, you have had to recruit staff and delegate roles and responsibilities. As that happens, organically, it is important that everyone who joins you understands the importance of clear communication, and has been trained in how to deal with clients. Any member of your staff who is client facing is, effectively, representing your business, so they need to know the correct way to communicate with clients, especially on the phone.
It’s important to remember that the heart of any business deal, or sale, are two people on either side of the exchange. And as human beings, we respond to certain behaviours and approaches. Crucially, we like to feel a personal feel to the communication, and that it is two people talking, not one person and an anonymous corporate machine. So take your time out to pen a handwritten note, or a follow-up email or phone call to say thank you. That is a million miles away from an automated message or, worse still, a generic cut-and-paste email sent out with the wrong name still at the top.
Client communication is not a case of ‘one size fits all’. It may well be easy to work with digital communication platforms - and a younger demographic might well be happier working with social media approaches - but what happens with your older clients, who might not be as comfortable with such technology? Try to offer a bespoke approach to client communications, and perhaps offer a choice of communication approaches, including phone calls, or snail mail.
As we all know, sometimes client communication is necessary because there are disagreements or other issues. You don’t want to lose them as a client, but it may be that there is a blockage that needs unblocking, and that process can be achieved with well-handled client communications, to get the relationship back on track. Key to this is not to be blunt, but to be calm, measured and to offer as much data and information as possible, to reinforce your own position and persuade them to come round to your point of view. Try to enable your client to naturally move towards your position; for it almost to seem as though it’s their decision, rather than yours. If you handle a minor dispute well, clients will feel assured that you care about the business and their continued relationship.
Take your time, both in the process of communication itself (whether meeting or phone call) and before, in the background work you do to prepare yourself. Take the time to find out a little about them, and their business, whether a brand new client or someone you have known for a long time. This level of research can, again, make your client feel like you care, and have taken time to research their business.
We are not mystics, and we can never guarantee what our clients are thinking, so always try to get feedback on your communications and the current health of your relationship. Depending on that relationship, you could do this with a quiet word at the end of the meeting; at the other end of this process, perhaps a quick questionnaire would be appropriate. Better to keep a sense of how things are than suddenly lose a client because they have felt abandoned.
When communicating with clients you need both a complete and comprehensive understanding of what your own company can offer and also where you might be appropriate for the business you are contacting. Don’t waste anyone’s time – be clear, and concise - and have everything to hand at the time of the communication. Undersell, and over deliver.
Finally, all of these ideas can be brought into any form of communication. There is always an expectation of a certain professional tone to all communications, whether that is in person, over the phone, or via email.
Keep to these guidelines and the channels of communication should unblock, and flow freely.