Communication with a client defines the success of your project and the number of nerve cells remaining in your body after it.
Everyone wants a magic pill that would help them get along with every client, but the truth is that this art needs to be mastered with years of experience.
However, today we can shorten this for you and save you from some mistakes we've made in the past. Our company started as a group of 4 design and development enthusiasts, and during the 5 years, it grew into a company with 40+ specialists that deliver about 20 projects per year.
The experience in working with clients has taught my team and I that the right communication with clients is the key to a successful workflow and timely project delivery.
We learned from our own mistakes and developed a client-oriented approach that helps our business development managers, project managers, designers, and developers build smooth and productive communication with clients.
In this article, I will share the main rules of the client-oriented approach that we use at Cadabra Studio. It might help not only design and development companies, but also other businesses that have direct communication with clients.
Here are a few common mistakes that our company managed to overcome. I hope if you consider them, you will be able to avoid most of the problems.
1. A client thinks that the primarily estimated budget will cover all the expenses of the project, even if you work on an hourly rate.
Tip: Don’t start a project without documentation. Every estimate is based on a specific pull of tasks, and all the extras are paid additionally. If you work on a fixed rate, don’t forget to include the percentage of free edits. Fix all the agreements in written form via email or as additions to the main contact.
2. A client doesn't know the current stage of a project.
Tip: Send short and straight-to-the-point updates daily, weekly, and monthly. Always mention if the team keeps up with the schedule or has any difficulties that might delay the project. Attach a detailed report about the complete tasks and the time spent on them.
3. A client thinks that their suggested edits won't take more than 15 minutes and gets frustrated when it takes much longer.
Tip: Keep a spreadsheet of all edits and suggestions, with the time estimates for every piece of work. When you enter the new information into the table, ask a client to confirm that they have seen it.
4. A client is not aware of what they're paying for.
Tip: Before you start working on a project, send your client a clear document that states the pull of tasks included in the main cost and the extras they might be paying for. Don't forget to mention that communication time and/or edits are also part of the job and need to be covered too.
5. A client doesn't know who to contact with questions regarding the project.
Tip: Your team should have one specific person for each project who'd always be the first to contact any issues, and the client should be introduced to this person and know their role in the team.
6. A client does your job instead of you.
Tip: It’s vital to build your strong position as an expert during the first 2-3 weeks of work. Otherwise, it will be too late. Don’t be afraid to contradict your client, but always back up your arguments with facts and best practices, not just your opinion. And of course, never make the argument personal, only suggest the options.
7. Choosing an incorrect communication channel.
Tip: First of all, ask what messenger a client prefers so that they wouldn't miss your messages and respond to them timely. If they don’t have one, suggest a range of channels to pick from. And take the personal contact of the client in a messenger that they use most often.
As for the last point about communication channels, there are a few other factors to consider. There are different types of clients according to their personality traits, so it’s essential to consider them when choosing a communication channel and style.
Types Of Clients
Your clients might have different needs and personalities. Know who you're dealing with and how to keep them happy by following these tips.
The client takes part in every call, rushes the team, checks all the updates by himself, etc.
Tip: With this type of client, make sure that you stick to your regular working schedule and don't show them an unfinished part of work. Elsewise, there are high chances that they won't understand how the work will look when it’s finished.
It's hard for them to find time to get in touch with the team.
Tip: Don't hesitate to ping the client every time, and don't be lazy to provide all the links to a project or documentation again and again, even if they haven't changed. Besides, try to minimize the client's participation in the project to "yes/no" answers. The client will appreciate that.
A person whose native or second language is English (or whatever language you are speaking).
Tip: With this type of client, feel free to choose any communication channel.
Some clients do not speak English or do it quite poorly, and it’s OK.
Tip: If the spoken English level is not high, choose the written communication channels (e-mails and messengers).
These people percept any information mostly with their eyes. The absolute majority of people belong to the visual type.
Tip: Provide information in written form and ask for comments. Use docs, charts, plans, and other visual info during the calls.
Usually, these clients don't look at you directly during the call and turn their head while you talk.
Tip: When working with them, you should ask questions and confirm everything during the calls only. Otherwise, you'll be waiting for the replies in written form for too long.
Here we refer to the manner of thinking, not a profession, although sometimes they coincide.
Tip: With this client, you should be straight-to-the-point and structure the information. Talk less and show them everything instead. Try to understand the client’s feelings, and don’t ask them to tell what they want from the project — usually, it’s hard for them to describe things in words. Ask them for references.
This type of client is full of ideas, dreams, and it seems like if only they had the right skills, they would be designers themselves.
Tip: Listen to the client and say out loud all your actions and decisions, especially if they disagree with the client’s ones. Remember that artists are touchy, and do not criticize their ideas, just offer other variants. Let the client think that all the genius ideas were theirs.
This client doesn't like to talk much.
Tip: Care to create an agenda of the call and send it to them in advance. This will help the client to prepare for a call and understand what you want from them. Also, send meeting notes after the conversation. And generally, try to text more rather than call them.
Conversations with a talkative client will take more time than planned as they might talk about various things which might even not refer to the topic of discussion.
Tip: With this type of client, it’s also important to create an agenda before the conversation, but for other reasons: it will help them stick to the purpose of the call and follow the timing. Communicate both in chats and during calls, but make sure that the client realizes that they are paying for these activities as well. Sending the meeting notes after the call will also be useful with talkative clients.
These clients are OK with direct comments and suggestions as they value honesty.
Tip: With straightforward clients, you’ll see their real attitude to the project and identify all problems in the early stages. Be prepared to solve the issues soon after they occurred.
This type of client is reluctant to give their honest opinion, so it’s hard to identify if there’re any problems with them. For example, they can suddenly break the contract after two months of work.
Tip: It’s essential to pay attention to different triggers and always double-check if they like the suggested ideas, mock-ups, etc. Besides, secretive clients easily get offended by direct critics as they see it as a personal assault, so be careful and discreet with them.
Main Rules Of The Client-oriented Approach
1. Value your client's time. Make your first emails short and straight-to-the-point.
2. Don't give more than 3 links in one email and always name each one.
3. Never ignore a client's question, even if you have no idea what to answer. It’s better to be honest and admit that you don't know what to say.
4. Mirror the client's writing style: if they use specific terms, or emojis, or anything else, use them too.
5. Make your emails well-structured. Emphasize the main points, so that the general idea of the email could be understood even at a glance.
6. Always be honest with your clients. If something in a project is unnecessary and avoiding it can save the client’s money, mention it.
7. Help a client to figure out what they need. Do not interrogate them — just offer.
8. It doesn’t matter how many months you have successfully worked together if you cheat the client. If it’s revealed, they will never forgive you.
9. No matter how many positive reviews on Clutch you have if you failed the first call with a client.
Finally, the genuine desire to help a client is what every person feels and appreciates. If you have any rules that you have developed in your experience, share them in the comments.
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