For any kind of business to survive clients are the key. So, developing a healthy relationship with them is important.
A client and business relationship traditionally was a transactional one but now with time that has changed. It is all about fostering a long term relationship, not unlike the ones we form in our personal lives. Lines between all these have become increasingly blurry and as a business to navigate these new waters can be quite tricky without the right direction.
Communication is an essential part of any job profile in the 21st century. To be able to encapsulate your talents and present them on a global scale you need to have the ability to collaborate. Collaboration is not possible without communication.
When you are working in a service-based industry this need is amplified as you are dealing with clients on a day to day basis. Below we have highlighted what we believe are the most important pillars of client communication.
Transparency across various aspects of your role while communicating with a client can foster stronger and long-lasting bonds. As long as you maintain an accurate and honest relationship chances are your client will want to continue working with you.
The issue of transparency usually rears its ugly head around the time of price negotiations. A big issue with several companies is that they don't disclose all their costs at the right time to the client and that can huge implications in the future. Have a transparent invoicing system to ensure that there is no miscommunication on the client's end.
Transparency also needs to be practiced in the way you work. You need to share your process, information and at the same time regularly update your clients to ensure they remain invested in you as a business. Error management is another area where waters get murky. Be honest with your client in a time of crisis along with a plan to handle it and you will have a happy client.
Keep your client in the loop. At the end of the day, you are an investment for a client and all of us love checking how our investment is doing on a regular basis. The more you communicate with a client the more they know about how and what you are working on. If a client knows you will be quick to respond when contacted they will trust you. Ensure that they know how to contact you in times of emergency to develop a trustworthy relationship.
Communication is a two-way street. To have a strong relationship with your client you need to talk to them on a regular basis. Understand their expectations and requirements before, so that when the time comes you can deliver accordingly.
When I talk about having a conversation it is not one on a superficial level about the weather that I'm talking about. You have been brought in to do a specialized task for the business, one that they would have been unable to do themselves. Chances are you have some kind of jargon attached to your work that the client does not understand. Try to not confuse them and choose the simple way. Concentrate on building a friendly, well informed and positive relationship.
This will also help in times of crisis when the easiest thing to do is freak out. By communicating and explaining your concerns to the client beforehand you are ensuring that there will be no last-minute pressure as a contingency plan will already be in place.
Understand and try to empathize with your client and understand if timelines are being pushed up. That way you will manage to create a bond of friendship and understanding rather than an aggressive single tone transactional relationship.
Yes, you need to maintain a professional relationship with your client. By friendship, one does not mean to go and become drinking buddies but rather have mutual respect for one another. When you work in extremely close quarters chances are that you learn about a person on a personal level.
If you have a relationship in which you are amicable friends, it becomes easier to have a communication channel that is not murky.
There are a lot of reasons why you need to focus on having a client relationship that is based on the qualities given above. But, what still remains to the point in focus is that, if you have a good relationship, chances are that your work will be a lot smoother.
The key to becoming a good communicator is via practice and nothing else. Your ability to communicate efficiently will most definitely be the reason a client decides to stay or go.