Communicating with clients effectively takes many of the same skills as in other important relationships.
Active listening is more than hearing, it’s fully concentrating on words, body language, and subtext, and internalizing the message without judgment or offering of advice. Active listening is the first step in understand what a client needs or what a problem entails. Fully take in what the client is saying with an open mind rather than planning a response of considering other options while the client is speaking.
After listening actively to the initial conversation, take the time to ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand or on issues you aren’t sure you are seeing in the same way as the client. Reflect back to the client what they said in your own words so you can check your understanding and so the client can clarify anything that isn’t being understood in the way he or she would like it to be understood.
Ask for clarification when needed rather than assume or guess. Lastly, summarize the message or problem for both yourself and the client. This process help ensure there are no misunderstandings or missing information.
Active listening shows respect, improves the chances of full understanding, and limits misunderstandings or missed information. To learn more about active listening, visit Very Well Mind.
Communicating with a client in a consistent manner is an important aspect of effective communication.
All attempts at communication with clients should be conducted in a professional manner. Even if you know the person personally prior to them becoming a client, adjust the client/provider interactions to reflect that new aspect of the relationship.
Avoid casual chatting, asking personal questions, or sharing personal information when engaged in business discussions. It is important to stay focused on the project and so you can ensure the client is satisfied. Use professional language, avoiding slang, excessive emojis, or profanity.
It’s also important to use a similar communication style in all interactions, so the client knows what to expect when they engage in a conversation with you. This helps clients become more familiar with your style as a service provider and allow them to anticipate how interactions will occur. Consistency improves chances of open communication and honesty.
Adapting your communication style to the client’s (in a reasonable manner) can help the client feel more accepted and heard. This doesn’t mean mimicking a client’s style of communication. Instead, adapt to what the client needs to feel comfortable during an interaction. This may mean detailed explanations or brief overviews, providing written notes or audio messages, scheduling chat sessions or dropping impromptu updates as you complete tasks.
Ask your client specifically about their communication style in order to know and meet their expectations.
Another important adaptation to consider is that of adapting your language to the individual client. This includes word choice, determine what does or doesn’t need to be explained, or the level of technicality.
Few clients will be as well-versed in literary or marketing terms as the writer providing the service is. Simplify language when needed to fully explain a concept without over-simplifying it to the point of condescension. Explain issues or problems in plain language to avoid confusion.
Ask yourself how you learned a term or idea and if a lay person would have the same knowledge. Writers who are working with an editor for the first time may need grammatical or style changes explained, or a discussion on why a particular aspect goes against industry standards or retailer terms of service.
Don’t assume your client knows everything you do, but don’t speak to them like a they know nothing at all, either. Assess the client’s level of knowledge and adapt accordingly. Explain a concept as you would to a coworker who has asked for your expertise on a subject, not as a teacher would explain something to a child.
Clarity and Concision
Be clear and concise when speaking with clients in order to avoid unnecessary problems. When asking clients for feedback or to respond to a question, be clear in what information you need and concise in your wording so the client does not have to attempt to interpret your request or guess at what you want.
List specific details you need if you are requesting answers or information. Provide the list in whatever manner your client is most receptive too, such as a bulleted list, audio file, graphic, etc.
When requesting opinions or feedback, ask about specific items, not general concepts. “What do you think about this version?” is much less helpful than “Does this color palette inspire the emotional response you’re looking for?” If a client doesn’t like something, they often have trouble pinpointing exactly what they don’t like. Asking specific questions makes giving feedback easier for the client and avoids lengthy back and forth conversations guessing at the main problem.
Provide timely updates on your progress. Don’t leave the client wondering what you are working on or when they will next hear from you. Clearly communicate any delays and the reasons for the delay, without crossing a line of professional boundaries.