How to Communicate With Clients More Effectively
From industry-specific language to unanswered phone calls, communicating with clients can be a minefield of potential faux pas and annoyances on both sides. Even the most suave social butterflies can benefit from getting the hang of these client communication essentials.
Be as Available as Possible
Some people will answer their email within five minutes but take weeks to return a phone call. Others prefer text chat communication or even in-person meetings. One big part of communicating well with your clients is being available to them in the medium they’re most likely to use. That means being willing to communicate with clients exclusively via email or even setting up a Slack chat option for your office. You may even want to ask clients up front what method of communication is best for them. Don’t slam the door shut on any line of communication; meet your clients where they stand (or speak).
You may know the phonetic alphabet by heart or understand exactly what you mean when you say “passive solar design,” but that doesn’t mean your clients do. It’s imperative that you think about the language you use while you talk to your clients so you can be sure they’re fully comprehending what’s being said.
You may think that it’s the client’s job to speak up if they don’t understand what you’re saying, but not everyone has that kind of gumption in a social situation. For many people, even those who are accomplished in their own right, it can be intimidating to admit to a knowledgeable professional that they are totally out of their depth in the conversation. Exercise some empathy and think about things from the client’s point of view. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, you’re failing at the task of communicating effectively.
Don’t Forget to Listen
A conversation requires both participants to talk, but in order for that to work, both participants also have to listen. Communicating with clients isn’t all about what you say—if you’re the only one doing the talking, you may as well be in a nearly silent room chatting away into the ether. Plus, if you don’t actually let your client talk, you’re opening yourself not only to appearing smug and difficult to work with but also to missing important details about what your client needs from you. It can be difficult to avoid the urge to jump in and offer your expertise or immediately say that the client’s proposed idea won’t work, but sometimes patience is a virtue, and when you’re client is talking, you should probably focus on that rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next or cutting the client off mid-sentence.
Wait for your client to finish speaking, then make your point. You can jot down a quick note or two for later reference, but you should otherwise devote your attention to your client and keep the two-way communication traffic flow running smoothly.