In our last post, we dissected different methods of internal communication. We offered some tips on keeping your internal communication productive and avoiding meetings no one wants to have.
Today, we want to talk about external communication. You never want a client to feel like it’s hard to have a productive conversation with you. Also, you never want to lose files and other information that could cause missed deadlines, wasted time, or maybe even relationships. Client communication has some important differences from internal communication.
Client Communication Vs. Marketing Communication
First, we must address the difference between passive communication and active communication.
When we say external communication, that is active communication in which we talk with clients directly. Marketing communication is passive communication. Putting your message out there to clients and prospects using tools like social media, but not having any direct interaction, is not having a conversation. It’s more like opening the window and yelling. If someone is nearby, they might hear you, but that’s about it. With direct communication, you expect a response in the context of the conversation.
Best External Communication Practices
For effective external communication, you have to set up regular communication norms with your clients. That means setting standards for how you respond and communicate messages to the client and your team.
For instance, when we reach out to our marketing team, we get a response within 24 hours and updates on what is happening over the holidays or when someone is out of the office.
When setting up your client communication practices, an important factor is that it will be less consistent regarding method. Clients will want to use different communication styles because of factors like their industry, the way they structure their day, their technological preferences, and individual factors I can’t even begin to imagine.
Some people prefer phone calls and find that texting doesn’t get their message across. Others would rather get a root canal than talk on the phone. Some prefer to use text apps and getting an email means Something Very Serious and Bad has happened. For others, email is the ticket and WhatsApp is that newfangled stuff the kids are using these days.
Many of us have made much use of video calls, but there are plenty of people who find them distracting and don’t like to be watched, especially if they have to move around or have curious children. Collaborative platforms are awesome for internal communication and can be for external communication too, but some clients find it easy to get mixed up in there.
And sometimes, you just have to have a meeting. To ensure that your meetings don’t suck, see that you’re prepped, have a firm agenda, and follow up.
Be sensitive to your clients’ needs and do your best to create a system that works for you both. No matter what kind of media you choose, you need consistent channels and a clear order of escalation. Be careful not to create situations where the client talked to this person about the project one day over email and another person over Slack the next. That’s how you lose track of the conversation and people miss what they need. Your clients need to be sure about who they talk with about what and how.
Keep in mind how company culture affects how you communicate with clients. Tone spreads, so be nice inside and out.
Options for External Communication
Here are our recommendations on options for external communication.
Apps and texting are perfect for when the client is out and about all the time. Desk? Office? What are those?
Collaborative platforms like Trello, Slack, and Asana allow both communication, updates in real time, and easy project and calendar management. However, keep these channels separate from what is used internally. You don’t want a client finding out that you think they look like an angry hedgehog.
Just like with internal communication, use email sparingly for stuff like file sharing and calendar invites.
Quick phone and video calls have taken the place of popping into someone’s office for thousands of us. Have an all-purpose Zoom room set up for this purpose; one for your team and one for clients.
Last, we come to meetings. Like we’ve said before, meetings don’t have to be a waste of time and energy. A well-run meeting can be a gold mine for discussion, collaboration, and even improving company culture. Maybe one day we’ll have in-person meetings again.
Many Voices, One Mission
Office Accomplice can help you suss out the external communication channels that work for your team and your clientele. Contact us to find out more about how to turn those angry hedgehogs into happy hedgehogs with all your ducks on the same page.