How Are You Communicating with Customers?in Voice of Customer, Customer Engagement /
Good client relationships demand consistent, intentional communication. These take many forms: Calls, emails, in-person meetings. Half-hour status check-ins or annual, offsite strategy meetings. Despite the wide range of customer communication that takes place over the course of a partnership, there are still questions you can ask yourself almost every time to ensure your efforts are worth it—for you and your client. The key here is that it’s less about how much you communicate with your customers, and more about how much value you add when you do.
There’s no way to overstate the importance of customer communication—it strengthens the relationship, builds engagement, and ensures you’re up to date on their challenges and goals, so you can provide proactive, productive client service. However, the obvious benefits of clear client communication are balanced by the simple truth that time is precious, and nobody wants to be stuck in a pointless meeting or bombarded by unnecessary emails. The questions below help ensure efficient and effective communication, so you and your clients are both getting the most every encounter.
Question 1: Are you providing context?
We’ve all been there: Halfway through a meeting, we catch ourselves wondering, “Why are we here?” When that happens, the best case scenario is we disengage a little bit—look at our phones, check email, or otherwise start “multitasking,” which is to say, not focusing on the task at hand. The worst case scenario is that we are actively frustrated because someone is wasting our time.
Here’s how you prevent that kind of disengagement and/or frustration with clients: Start every meeting with a statement of purpose. Whether it’s a 30-minute call or a 3-day workshop, make it clear from the outset what you’re there to accomplish. Ideally, the agenda or objective goes out ahead of time, so people arrive at the meeting engaged and ready to work towards the goal.
Question #2: Are you overwhelming your client with information?
As the famous French philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Brevity is challenging. It takes confidence and preparation. And it forces you to think carefully about what’s really important—not to you, but to your customer. (More on that later.)
Confidence is key in client communications. When you’re not 100% sure of the quality of your work, it’s tempting to try to make up for it in quantity. Rest assured, nobody wants this. Time is precious, and people know when you’re wasting theirs. Use your preparation to be confident in your presentation, and use your confidence to be brief. Rather than coming across as “thin,” you’ll come across as efficient. People appreciate this.
It can also be tempting to show your customer how much work went into the presentation, as a way of saying “Look! We’re good at this, and we’re worth every penny!” Resist this temptation. Stick to bottom-line, actionable content that relates directly to the stated objective of the meeting. (Tip: If you’re working in slide format, don’t be afraid to use an Appendix. It’s a great way to capture information that’s not directly relevant to the task at hand, but could be useful down the line.)
Question 3: Are you spending more time talking about you than you are talking about them?
This is a tough question to ask, because the truth is, we’re all guilty of this to some degree. It’s a very human mistake, and one that companies make in their communications all the time, whether it’s nonpersonal (website, marketing) or personal (client communication).
Here’s why it’s understandable: You work hard, day in and day out, to do what you do. Your work matters to you, and it should—caring about your work is how you make your work good. But the cold hard truth is: It doesn’t matter to other people in the same way. Your customers don’t need to hear everything that went into your recommendation. They just need the recommendation. If they have questions about how you got there, they’ll ask.
When you’re preparing a client presentation, ask yourself: Is everything here directly related to their goals? Does it speak to their needs and concerns? Is it interesting to them? If the answer is no, delete or move to an appendix. Frame your communications around what your customers need, not what you need, and you’ll create a situation where they’re always happy to talk to you.
Question #4: Are you clarifying what their goals are?
Of course, it’s not just about how you talk to your customers—it’s also about how you listen. If you’ve done the work up front to make sure you’re keeping your communication efficient and customer-focused, you’ll create opportunities for your clients to share their feedback, input, and goals.
When they do share their goals, take note. And make sure you take the time to really understand what they’re trying to accomplish, so you can make a plan to help. This means asking probing questions that get to the heart of where the goal is coming from: Are they just repeating something they heard from higher up? Or have they really thought through the goal and how they might make it happen?
When you understand your customer’s goals, you have an opportunity to grow the relationship by helping them meet those goals. Take the goal back to your team and work through an Action Plan, breaking the goal into manageable objectives, actions, and tasks. The next time you meet with your customer, you’ll have a plan to present.
And of course, make sure every client communication ends with a summary of next steps. This gives people a clear sense of what you need from them to keep things moving, and opens the door for ongoing engagement and communication.
Keeping Track of Client Contact
The best way to keep a client relationship running smoothly is to ensure consistent, intentional, valuable communication. That means you don’t let your clients go too long without hearing from you, nor do you bombard them with repetitive, unnecessary contact.
When there are lots of you running an account, it can be hard to keep track of who’s reached out to whom, and how recently. Sure, you may be CC’d on emails, but what if you get 300 emails a day? Kapta carefully tracks client contact, and raising the flag when it’s been too long since someone heard from you or your team. Kapta also stores contact reports and key takeaways from client conversations, so your whole team has access to the latest feedback and input from clients—and you don’t reach out twice for information they’ve already sent.
Kapta also stores Voice of Customer information, as well as detailed Action Plans, so it’s easy to keep track of what’s important to your clients, and build your communication accordingly.
To more more about how Kapta helps you create effective, relevant, high-value client communication, click here.
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.