The Systems You Must Have in Place for Seamless Client Communications
I love being in business for myself. Can you relate?
There’s nothing quite like the freedom and flexibility of being able to set my hours, work when I feel most productive, and make a living from the comfort of my office.
But (and there’s always a but) the truth is you’re never in business by yourself. Even if you’re self-employed or a freelancer, you’re always working with clients on projects. That’s a good thing, but it comes with its fair share of struggle.
Probably the most challenging part of client work is communications.
How do you know what and how you communicate will clarify your expectations as well as the customer’s, set proper boundaries, and keep your relationship positive? The answer: You create systems.
Here are the systems and groundwork I use to communicate with my clients seamlessly.
A Method for Communication
The method in which you communicate with your buyers sets the foundation for how you’ll send and receive information throughout your working relationship. It seems like everyone has a preference for how this will all shake out. Some people are email addicts while others will only text message. Still other clients will only talk on the phone.
To get every working relationship off to a good start, it’s important you distinguish which method of communication you’ll use with your client.
I recommend creating a way to streamline your conversations in one location. The location or approach you choose is entirely up to you, but specifying one method for communicating up front will save you numerous headaches while managing the project.
In addition to making your life easier while acting as PM, you’ll also protect your business over the long run. By having a centralized mode of operation, you can easily pull up past agreements and conversations quickly and easily if there is ever a dispute.
No matter how you decide to stay in touch with your client, you’ll need to train them on how and when you’re available to talk and how or when you expect to receive information back. There’s no way around that either.
By using a project management system, you answer that question up front instead of needing to specify your email policies, phone hours, or chat app availability. Everything is promised and kept in one place, making it easier in the long run for both of you.
To make this process a little easier on you and your client, choose a simple project management system. There are a lot out there. Find the one that feels the most natural for your unique business processes. Then, create a go-to guide that you can send to your clients and prospects to train them into your system.
With it decided that you’ll use a project management solution (it is decided, right?), let’s take a look at the other systems you can create up front to simplify your client communications with this foundation in place.
Standardized Communications for Every Type of Inquiry
Chances are, you answer the same question over and over (and over) again. And when you do, your responses are similar to each client, situation, and project. Still, chances are (if you’re like many freelancers) you don’t have a go-to template for how to reply to these inquiries. This lack of a standardized response can waste your time, cause you to forget important details, and create more work for yourself overall.
Creating a template for your communications lets you quickly and easily copy and paste messages, so your communications stay consistent. Having these standardized messages also helps you set and maintain your boundaries.
Standardized Communications for Every Stage in the Project
I also recommend creating templates for every stage in your overall client project path.
For example, have a model response for the following:
- When your client first signs the contract;
- When you’re sending the first round of information you need from your client;
- When you’re sending the first draft of your deliverable for your client to review;
- When you’re sending the final version of your deliverable to review;
- When you’re closing out a project.
These templates don’t have to be robust; they just have to be accessible, preferably as documents or sections of your overall systems plan.
A List of Deadlines
There are two parts to this:
- Your deadlines for delivering the work you promise;
- Your client’s deadlines for getting what you need to start and finalize your work.
Perhaps the most obvious is specifying when your deliverables will arrive.
When a client employs your services, they have expectations about how soon they will receive the work from you. Still, it’s not often that they clarify their expectations up front. In fact, it’s more common that the client expects you to read his or her mind and know when the work is expected. That’s because they tend to have a set timeline in mind for how long it should take you to deliver. That schedule won’t always align with yours.
It’s important that both of you communicate these expectations up front.
Have this conversation early on (I even ask about their timeline in one of my first emails). You don’t want to get too deep in the project before realizing that you won’t be able to meet their tight deadlines.
Your Client’s Deliverables
You need information from your customer to get started. Your client knows this, but because they’re the ones employing you, it’s common for them to assume that they can operate on their schedule. Sometimes, you’ll wait weeks before you get something back, which can set your deadlines back weeks too.
Create a system that outlines deadlines up front. Specify what you need from the client to get started and then assign them a timeline. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but your client will appreciate the effort. Remember, they don’t know what you need unless you ask.
The Client Communications Systems You Need In Place
Let’s do a quick recap. Here are the core systems you can set up now to ease customer communications in the future:
- Your method of communication (this sets the foundation for how you’ll interact with your clients from the get go);
- Standardized responses to common client questions, so you’re not repeating work;
- Standardized requests for each stage of your project;
- A way to communicate deadlines for both you and your clients.
Once you get these systems in place, I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. You’ll look more professional and run your business with less frustration in the long term.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Munkly can help you get started. Sign up for your free trial and see how easy it is to get your clients engaged in your project management system so that you can simplify your communications from the start.
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