We all want the best experience we can get. This applies to the work we do, the products we buy and the service we receive. Although we want the best experience, it doesn’t mean we will get it. How do you curate the best experience and how do you change a bad experience when it has to do with people or circumstances you have no control over? You do this through communication. The adage “communication is key” holds more weight and power than we often give it credit for.
The biggest question is how do we actually communicate better? This is a skill we pick up over the years through our peers and parents among other ways. Communication is an underutilized skill and one that your clients will greatly appreciate next to driving leads and hitting deadlines. Here are a few ways to instantly improve your client experience and position you to be a stronger leader.
1. Ask better questions that position you to lead the conversation. Develop a strategy based on asking the right questions that get you the answers you need in a timely manner. Sometimes a client can get caught up in the emotional aspect of their decision making, make snap judgments, judgments based on a closed loop perspective or are too busy to figure out what to say.
Ask open ended questions:
• How did you arrive at your current strategy? vs Are you happy with your current strategy?
The second question doesn’t reveal much other than eliciting a yes or no as an answer. The first question gets you closer to understanding the process of the client.
In my headline for this article, I simply said: I have a question. It is a statement to build curiosity as to what my question might be. Creating the right statement or question can open up the opportunity for more conversation and understanding.
2. Make a connection and pick up the phone, clear any confusion swiftly – There really is no reason not to pick up the phone. The saturation of the digital age has fostered even worse communication because we are using more tools to communicate causing us to miss vital queues such as a person’s tone and inflection. Schedule a time if necessary but pick up the phone and build the relationship. The tone and inflection aid your communication when you want to ensure your client hears your sincerity. If you can get face time with a client, you’re able to learn more through body language and facial expressions than you ever will with a text or email.
3. Get to the point – Don’t drone on with stories. Time is short so tell people exactly what it is you’re looking for and how you can arrive at the solution keeping them focused on what matters. Stay positive and focus on solutions that move the needle forward. When we tell stories, its to express how we feel. It’s natural to tell a story to invite the other person to try to understand how we feel about our experience. Story telling was used many years ago as a way to educate tribes so history didn’t get lost. Today we tell stories for self expression and the need to be understood.
4. Make it easy to communicate and get feedback – Your clients want to be heard and have plenty to say but not everything is relevant. Make it easy for them to tell you what is on their mind. Feedback loops aren’t just a way for your clients to voice their opinion but to guide them along the way on how to communicate their vision and get the information you need for continued success and growth in the relationship and project(s).
• Create a feedback loop that is quick and easy by limiting your questions to 3-5. If you designed your question strategy by now, you can guide your feedback loop to getting the answers that will help you the most. This also keeps the feedback from going into long stories that bury the answers you’re looking for.
• Make it automated and digital. One thing that keeps us from asking for feedback is that we simply don’t want to receive a bad review. Maybe the client doesn’t understand the process and they are upset with the production? Maybe we are late on a deadline and fear they will only focus on 1 bad thing over the many goods? Remove the emotional wall that blocks you from asking questions by automating this process.
5. Create value by informing and educating – Take some time to invest in updating your clients ahead of time. This creates value keeping them “in the know” so they don’t have to wonder what is going on with the project. On top of a standard update schedule, develop an onboarding strategy that helps set the stage and instills further trust with your client they hired the right team. The goal is to position you as the expert. Some clients have a hard time relinquishing control and trusting you to be the expert. Your onboarding strategy should walk them through the process so they aren’t left to google the answers like someone might do with WebMD before their next doctor’s appointment.
6. Bridge the gap by implementing an experience strategy model – Communication to some is an art form and some of us are naturally better at it than others. Find out who the better communicator is in your agency and invest in making them even better. Is the Art Director meeting with clients but terrible when it comes to communication? Send someone else in their place or to lead the conversation. Assign this role to someone within your organization who is the best at it or utilize an expert who speaks both the languages of the agency and the business owner to help you design a winning and proven strategy.