At MSP-C, we continuously work on improving client service and experience. I sincerely hope this isn’t unique to our agency. We all know that setting and maintaining clear objectives and outcomes with clients is highly nuanced work. Even more nuanced? Not losing sight of best practices in the process. Together with our clients, we can continue to improve—and even innovate—these experiences, without sacrificing the quality of our work. Below are a variety of principles for client communication which you can start applying today.
Offer Swift Solutions. When tactical or creative problems arise (and trust me, they will!), huddle with your team to try and offer your client multiple solutions. Ensure that are all acceptable and workable within best practices and timelines. Then: Listen closely to their reaction and always recap which solution they chose with timely follow-up.
Get & Maintain Buy-In. The best way to gain a customer is to earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who may buy. Similarly, earning the awareness, respect and trust of clients is the best way to get consistent buy-in and create a healthy partnership.
Consistency is Critical. You are a partner to the client for all aspects of work from project management and budgets to process and building campaigns and consistent communication is what keeps it all on track. The beginning of each client conversation over every medium should start with why the conversation is happening and end with what the expected deliverable is, and when it will arrive. This consistency builds trust on both sides of the relationship.
Win-Win. Learn-Learn. There’s only one way to look at a misstep and that’s as a opportunity to learn and grow. We can flex this muscle by celebrating a win and, more importantly, acknowledging a misstep. When something goes awry, it’s always worth it to alert all stakeholders and take ownership. By sharing good and bad quickly and frequently, we help to establish and maintain vulnerable and solid communications. This ultimately allows us to confront setbacks and disagreements as a client-agency partnership.
Elevate Facetime. If you’re lucky enough to get face-to-face time with your clients outside of a meeting, make the most of your time together by using this simple formula. Try to keep it light while you offer a mix of:
- One thing you’ve worked on together that went well.
- One thing you’re working on currently where you’re still working out the details.
- One idea for future work. It reinforces that you’re thinking long-term and, in turn, they’ll keep you top of mind when new projects come up.
Be Prompt & Proactive. By setting clear, thoughtful and reasonable deadlines and expectations, we allow ourselves and our client peace of mind, as well as space for creativity and creatively approaching unknowns which will arise. If a client emails to ask where a document or project is, we should take that as an immediate sign to improve the frequency and/or effectiveness of our communications with them. Listen carefully to their request and eliminate any defensiveness in your response to them. Follow through with some thoughtful planning on your end to anticipate future deadlines and approaches.
Show & Tell. If you spy an opportunity to list steps or document research on how your team reached a solution for the client, do so. If you’re not sure if it’s appropriate to share a certain thing, ask a peer or your boss. Showing your work can be a powerful way to gain client buy-in and show them that they are top-of-mind.
Adapt & Act. While keeping the clients’ goals in mind, make plenty room for adjustment along the way. The client hired us for our expertise, but before we apply our skills, we are obligated look at things from their unique vantage (and pain) point.
Pencils Ready & Eyes on Your Paper. We’ve all been part of statuses that fell flat. With an agenda set ahead of time, and client input added, status meetings have the potential to be a critical conversation and discovery time. That’s why it’s incredibly important to arrive at a status meeting prepared and in the headspace to solve problems for the client. Optimize everyone’s time with an agenda, and advance next steps by tuning in and listening closely. Ask questions to gain clear direction. See #3 for how to start and end the meeting.
I’m well aware I may take some heat for this one, but, speaking of statuses….
I Hear That You Don’t Like Status Meetings. I’m afraid they’re not going anywhere. The reality is setting reasonable deadlines and maintaining consistent communication rely on dedicated time with all stakeholders in one (real or virtual) room. Deadlines matter more than all of the above combined because they have the largest immediate impact to build—or break—trust. This applies to internal deadlines with peers, partner agency and client deadlines. Plus, sometimes there are snacks, right?
Your turn! What would you add? Share with us on Twitter by tagging @mspcontent.
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