You'd think that with all this technology designed to make communication easier, managing professional relationships would be a breeze. Yet with all the Zoom, Slack, Skype, and whatever, working with clients is more challenging than ever. Going to Google to figure out why isn't much help; the internet is full of stories about businesses bleeding clients in this age of remote relationships.
Context here helps. Yes, remote communication has been trending for several years. Video conferencing apps are a lot cheaper than travel—in both time and money—so telework isn't exactly a new thing. The new thing is the trend of remote work—literally overnight, your team and your clients turned into creatures of the internet, trying to run a business completely remote. No wonder your communication skills are suffering.
A remote existence demands learning a whole new communication skill set, one that reframes the way you interact with your clients in a way that ensures continuing trust and strengthens professional relationships.
You can reset your client relationships with a few simple steps! Let’s have a look at the 4 best ways to develop and maintain positive client engagement.
1. Assess their needs
Building client relationships remotely starts with understanding their needs. Technology makes global clients possible, and remote work makes it tough to develop solid relationships with your clients. So instead of a nice dinner out, it's a video call—here's how you adapt to a new communication normal.
How does the client want to communicate?
- Are they independent, or need some hand-holding
- Do they prefer email, phone, or video communication
- How often do they want to meet—as needed or a dedicated slot on your calendar
Unless your clients are a bunch of bots, they're going to represent a variety of ages, industries, and personalities. Make sure your team has all the tools they need to meet with clients the way they prefer, be it a typed memo or a group video call.
Ask these questions in the initial stages, and develop a communication plan that meets their needs, understanding that everything is fluid.
2. Stay professional
It's easy to drop the formality when you're sitting there in sweatpants, but remember you are a professional and ignore the Lego that just severed an artery in your big toe. Form your agenda, stick to it, and wrap up your meetings on time. This is a given in the real world, but when you're working from home there are other demands on everyone's time that make prioritizing a challenge.
Pro Tip: Sure, you share industry articles, but strengthen personal ties, too. If you have similar interests, share that info.
3. Listen—and hear
Poet Maya Angelou once wrote, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." When regarding client relationships, this quote is the touchstone for client success.
Listen to your clients—most people these days are so focused on their response they don't listen to what's being said. You miss a lot of contexts that way, and your client gets the impression—rightly so—that you're not paying attention.
Here's a simple fix. After they finish speaking, repeat back what they've said—"what I hear you say is...." so that they know you're really hearing. Take notes while they're talking instead of formulating your comments. On a video call, maintain eye contact as you would in person. This means looking at the client unless you're looking down to take notes.
Pro Tip: Do the same thing with written communication. Synthesize the client's concerns before you get to your responses; this reinforces that you are focused on their issues.
Own your mistakes, and do it right away. You're going to make a mistake at some point. Own it. One of the best ways to build trust with your clients is to be honest when your team makes an error. It is easy to sweep mistakes under the rug when you never see your clients in person, but that is a toxic mindset that will inevitably result in that dreaded client bleed. If you are at fault, explain the situation immediately, and also let the client know how it impacts them and how you are fixing the error.
4. Keep it simple
Speak plain and simple English (if that's your preferred language) to your client. Save the industry acronyms and jargon for your team since they know what you're talking about. If your client isn't familiar with the lingo of your business, it's off-putting for a couple of reasons. First, it comes across as condescending, and that's no way to build trust. Second, you should speak in the client's lingua franca—learn the lingo of their industry.
How Desktop.com helps with building client relationships
Desktop.com helps digital agencies and teams streamline their digital workspaces and client communication. With our dedicated chat and video conferencing application, you can easily send invites to Desktop.com and non-desktop.com users alike! Share your screen, blur the background, lock the meeting with a password for security, and more! Explore Desktop.com features today to help build better, more comprehensive client relationships.