Your aim is to impress your clients with stellar service. How do you do that? By delivering high-quality work. You meet your deadlines. Maybe you even provide some company swag every now and then.
But, when it comes to really forging positive client relationships, you know it all comes back to one thing: your client communication skills.
Communication is key, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Fortunately, we’ve pulled together this guide to help you with your client relationship management and keep your clients informed and happy.
Who communicates with clients within projects?
When you’re completing projects for your clients, you need somebody to serve as the bridge between the internal project team and the end client.
In most cases, that’s handled by a role called a “client project manager.” This role might be filled by the actual project manager, or it can be broken out into an entirely separate position.
This person will communicate with the client about their expectations and feedback and then relay that information to the project team. This position can have different names depending on the organization, such as an “account manager” or even a “relationship manager.”
Client communication best practices for project managers
Regardless of who fills that role, it’s important that they know how to communicate with clients successfully.
What questions might you ask a client when starting a new project? It's important to carefully consider how to best communicate with your client right at the jumping-off point. Poor communication is one of the biggest reasons why projects fail, and that doesn’t just apply to communication within the project team — communication with your clients is just as (if not more) important.
But, what do project managers need to know about how to communicate with a client successfully? Here are five tips to keep in mind.
1. Keep communication centralized
We spend a ton of time communicating. Research from McKinsey estimates that the average worker spends an estimated 28% of their workweek managing email alone.
When you work in professional services, your goal is to make your clients’ lives easier, not add stress and obligations to their plates.
What does this mean for you? You need to keep communication centralized and streamlined. All of your notes, status updates, files, decisions, and more should live in one place, so that clients can find what they need without wasting time digging for it in endless email threads or comments.
There are plenty of project management and client communication tools that make it easy to store all of that information and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
2. Give them a point person
You’ve likely heard the “too many cooks in the kitchen” cliché, and that can cause unnecessary confusion for your clients.
They should have one point of contact (this should be the client project manager) to approach with questions, concerns, feedback, and more.
Not only does this instill confidence in your clients and enable them to build a solid relationship with someone on your internal team, but it also helps to keep things organized on your side. You don’t need to worry about mixed messages or dropped balls, because you only have one person receiving input from your client.
3. Skip the industry jargon
Your clients likely hired you because they don’t have a lot of expertise or knowledge in your focus area. That means they aren’t going to be familiar with a lot of the industry lingo or acronyms that are common knowledge for you.
Make an effort to state things directly and clearly, without using confusing jargon. Those complex terms only cloud your point, and they aren’t as obvious as you might think. In fact, 46% of people admit that they’ve used slang or jargon without fully understanding what it means.
You’d hate for miscommunication to happen simply because you tried to get too clever with your word choice.
When in doubt, keep it simple. If certain jargon is unavoidable (for example, your clients need to understand what a click-through rate is), then consider making them a simple glossary or cheat sheet so they can familiarize themselves with common industry terms that you’ll be using.
4. Set clear expectations (and live up to them)
You know there’s one surefire way to make your clients unhappy: overpromise and under-deliver. Failing to manage and meet your client’s expectations will negatively impact your client retention (which is a major challenge facing agencies and service providers).
To start, ensure that you have processes ironed out for your client engagements. This should include a client onboarding process, a project process, and even a client offboarding process for when you complete projects.
You should also set clear expectations for communication. Will they receive weekly reports and wrap-ups? Is there a specific communication method that works best? Give them that information so that your engagement is as smooth as possible.
Finally, be conservative with what you guarantee to your clients. Build a buffer into your project deadlines and be realistic about the results they can expect. After all, you’d much rather set the bar low and exceed expectations than fall short on lofty promises.
5. Remember it’s a two-way street
When we think about communication, it’s so easy to think only of our side — the words we’re saying and the messages that we’re sending. However, listening is even more important.
Show your clients that you value their insights and input by:
- Regularly soliciting their feedback and ideas
- Provide plenty of opportunities for them to ask questions or voice concerns
- Using active listening techniques so that they know they’re being heard
Listening is only part of this. When your clients provide feedback, you need to follow through and implement it. Failing to take their suggestions or requests into consideration will make you seem disengaged and even a little sloppy.
How often should you communicate with a client?
There’s another important client communication rule to keep in mind: communicate frequently. Your clients shouldn’t just hear from you at the start and end of a project — they should be kept updated throughout as you complete tasks and reach milestones.
Exactly what “frequently” means will depend on a variety of factors, such as your relationship and the length of the project. A two-week project will probably warrant more regular communication than one that spans months, for example.
However, a good rule of thumb is to contact your clients at regular, set intervals with a summary of the work that was done that week and any reports that they can review. That will provide transparency throughout the entire project process, so they don’t need to wonder if any work is actually happening.
How do you communicate with clients in different time zones?
Client communication becomes even trickier when your clients are located in different time zones — especially if those time zone discrepancies mean you aren’t signed on at similar times.
Here are a few ways to deal with this situation:
- Familiarize yourself with their time zone: You should know off the top of your head how many hours ahead of or behind you they are. If not, a time zone app can help with this. You’ll want to know what time it is for your client if you need to get in touch with more urgent questions or requests.
- Set expectations: Remember when we talked about setting expectations? That’s especially important when you’re working with clients in different time zones. Clearly state when you’re signed on and reachable to them.
- Be willing to be flexible: Client service is important, and that might mean you occasionally need to accommodate a late-night or early-morning phone call or meeting if you need to talk in-person and in real-time.
- Use a project management platform: Time zones become less of an issue if all of your project-related communication happens in one place. A project management platform will keep your clients in the loop on project progress, even if your schedules don’t quite match up. Plus, they’ll keep those meetings at odd hours to a minimum.
Client communication software your agency needs
There are a number of different tools that you can use to communicate effectively with clients — from instant messaging platforms to collaborative documents.
However, project management software can check all of those boxes (and more). With Wrike, you can manage all of your project tasks, monitor progress, generate reports, and centralize all of your communication.
Wrike also allows you to set Access Roles, which means you can give your clients access to keep an eye on their projects directly within Wrike.
Ready to boost your client communication skills, improve your relationships, and keep winning projects moving forward? Start your free trial of Wrike now.