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5 Client Communication Best Practices for Small Agencies

Sep 18, 2022
  • 6 min read
  • Faith

    Customers are the lifeblood of a business, and they’re letting companies know that they now expect more. According to a 2022 Customer Service survey, over 60% of respondents say they have higher customer service expectations. They demand personalization, self-service opportunities, transparency, and multiple channels of communication.

    This year, focus on meeting your customers’ higher standards by refreshing your client communication best practices and applying industry-tested tips from the experts. Implementing these changes will lead to happier clients and stronger business relationships, promoting the growth of your agency and reducing churn.

    1. Define communication expectations

    At the beginning of your relationships with clients, set expectations around when and how you will communicate to avoid misunderstandings. To start, dedicate time for an onboarding meeting with each potential client to discuss their preferred communication channels — whether that’s email, calls, Slack, or an all-in-one client management platform.

    From there, create a shared calendar of communication available to each team member and agent. You might establish that you’ll send daily Slack messages to the point of contact, have weekly phone calls with account managers, and hold monthly face-to-face meetings with top-level executives. But don’t let the schedule hold you back either, recommends Ryan Naylor, owner of Blue Aspen Marketing.

    “A few years ago, we made it mandatory for all account executives to call our customers outside of scheduled meetings to simply ask how they are doing,” Naylor explains. “Being genuine in listening to what is happening in their business. These types of conversations have led to more meaningful relationships. Our average customer retention is now at 30+ months.”

    2. Build trust

    To maintain long-term relationships, agencies need to show that they’re willing to go above and beyond to solve their client's problems and help them achieve their goals.

    Respond with empathy

    Step away from seeing your client as a business and try to understand their concerns, pain points, and goals to build a solid foundation of trust. According to a global consumer survey, 62% of customers would like businesses to care more about them. One of the best ways to do that is through empathy.

    Imagine you send your current clients a feedback survey asking them to rate client communications on a scale of 1 to 10 and receive an average score of 6. Acknowledging there’s an opportunity for improvement should lead to gathering further feedback like:

    • Which methods of communication work well?
    • Which areas of communication could be improved?
    • Are there any tools or resources that can lead to more effective communication?
    • Does the client feel valued and heard during routine communication?
    • Does the agency provide clear objectives for resolving problems and hitting key targets?
    • Are customer service managers (CSMs) upfront about potential issues?

    Once you make changes to your communication strategy based on these metrics, clients feel like their voices are heard and that you truly care about them, while your agency continues to improve client communications with new clients.

    Be transparent about mistakes

    If you don’t have the bandwidth to complete a project on time, the worst thing you can do is withhold bad news. Clients will likely be disappointed on the deadline day and question your professionalism because you didn’t alert them in advance.

    Instead, let clients know about roadblocks and delays as soon as you’re aware of them. This proactive approach to client communication lets the client know that you’re fully invested in their success and helps manage their expectations.

    “I have found that the best practice for client management and communication is to be as realistic as possible,” says Kevin Miller, SEO expert and entrepreneur. “Our client philosophy is to underpromise performance and overdeliver results.”

    Beyond being transparent, offer potential solutions. How will you make up for a delayed delivery? Go the extra mile — to the extent that you can — to maintain the client’s trust.

    Practice active listening

    Active listening skills focus on asking questions, giving feedback, and keeping notes. This back-and-forth interaction shows the client that you truly understand the point they’re trying to make, which leads to mutual trust.

    Say your client is frustrated that a project is taking longer than expected. Instead of jumping to explain why things aren’t working on your end, try to imagine how this is impacting them on their end. Your delay impacts their timelines, which affects their stakeholders, potentially leading to financial losses or a damaged reputation. Putting yourself in your client’s position helps you better understand their reactions and respond with a proactive solution.

    The solution might be as simple as implementing a more suitable project tracking system or gaining access to their internal calendars so that you can anticipate their needs better. Once your clients understand that you’re willing to be flexible and jump into action mode when needed, they’ll have an easier time putting their trust in your agency.

    3. Use collaboration tools

    Shared calendars, messaging systems, and project management timelines are all excellent collaboration tools to modernize the customer experience. Portal simplifies the workflow and improves collaboration by providing an all-in-one platform for:

    • Conversations
    • Video sharing
    • Meetings
    • Billing and documents
    • Feedback forms
    • Project tracking
    • Shared calendars

    You can link your client portal directly to your website, creating a seamless experience for clients wanting to access their information. Imagine the ease of having every single communication element in one centralized space.

    4. Add value to the conversation

    While active listening is critical, make sure you’re also contributing to client conversations in meaningful ways that differentiate you from competitors. Your client chose your agency out of thousands of options, so show them what you bring to the table.

    Deliver a personalized experience

    There’s no room for a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to communicating with clients. According to McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect personalized experiences when working with a company. Get personal with clients by:

    • Avoiding generic greetings
    • Call your point of contact by name
    • Ensure CSMs have quick access to client records
    • Create a self-serve knowledge base for your clients

    Say your client calls their appointed CSM about increasing organic traffic to their website. If their CSM has all the information in their client Portal, it’s easy for them to jump straight into the conversation. They can quickly type XYZ Company into the system and see that they’re talking to Sarah, making the conversation more personal.

    A self-service knowledge base can also increase personalization because it’s like having a tailor-made website and help desk for each client. They can access it outside business hours to explore trends, tips, and FAQs geared to their industry, making it the perfect value-added service.

    Practice proactive communication

    A recent Statista survey found that 66% of consumers have a more favorable impression of a company if it engages in proactive communication. Practicing proactive communication means identifying potential problems, relaying them to your client, and offering solutions.

    To put this into practice, each CSM needs to be fully entrenched in industry trends, statistics, and new developments. Get team members on board by:

    • Providing memberships to paid industry news sites
    • Encouraging them to create social media accounts for industry updates
    • Ensuring they check in with the client when industry changes occur
    • Sharing big stories in a companywide newsletter

    On a smaller scale, train team members to track customer satisfaction so that they can take immediate action when red flags come up. Streamline the process with a proactive support tool, like SupportLogic, that analyzes the client’s tone and word usage to pick up on potential issues. In turn, the client sees that your agency is aware of their needs before they even ask.

    5. Nurture the relationship

    Cultivate your client relationship by celebrating success while also clearly communicating and creating actionable plans when disaster strikes.

    Celebrate the good

    According to positive psychology, celebrating accomplishments, regardless of their importance, boosts satisfaction and self-confidence. This concept, known as savoring, is a great way to build a connection with your client and deepen your communication because it brings your partnership to the forefront in a positive way.

    Celebrate wins like successful projects or industry awards by praising their achievements. Skip the email and create a more engaging message by sharing a quick Loom video in your client portal to congratulate them. Not only does this demonstrate a genuine interest in their success, but it also enhances personalization.

    Learn from the bad

    Failure is difficult to accept, but in the long run, it can help you reduce churn and grow as an agency. Say a project doesn’t meet your client’s expectations. You could brush it off as a one-off failure, or you could follow up by seeking out customer feedback and creating initiatives for improvement.

    Start by going straight to the source for honest feedback. You can do this through client meetings if both parties feel comfortable or create a feedback form in their client portal. Include a mix of open-ended, multiple-choice, and rating scale questions to ensure you get the full picture of how your client feels.

    Once you’ve gathered the information, it’s time to rethink and refresh your processes. For example, your client reveals that you didn’t communicate small delays and potential issues ahead of time, leaving them unprepared for critical launch dates. Counter these issues by creating a clear, shared project management timeline to keep everyone on track in the future.

    Centralize client communications with Portal

    Rather than switching between various software and applications for each client communication task, get access to everything you need in one user-friendly space with Portal. Our inclusive client management system is the key to handling all your clients’ needs. With a fully customizable interface, easy automations, and tons of extensions, Portal is the only platform you need to put these client communication best practices into action. Start your free 14-day trial of Portal to see how our branded client portal can help you build stronger client relationships.

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