- Defining Your Company’s Professional Voice Part 1
- 8 Key Habits for Building Great Client Relationships Part 2
Defining your company’s professional voice
Your company’s professional voice is how you communicate to showcase your company’s brand and personality. Developing it for ongoing client relations is a very similar process.
Free online tools for work:
1. Fluxes.com — Free Project and Task Management Software
2. Status.net — Software for Effective Communication
Here are a few questions to narrow down how you want your company to communicate:
Who is your main customer or client group, and what are they looking for?
Are they small to mid-sized companies? Or large Fortune 500 companies? How technically proficient in your area of specialty is your main customer or client contact? Are they looking for a solution, a problem solver, or an expert advisor?
What are your company’s culture and personality?
How hierarchical or flat is your company? If you had to personify your company, would it be a warm and charming professional? Or a more serious advisor? Or how about a funny, genius creative? How would your company’s personality manage their customer relations?
Based on your answers to the questions above, you can shape your company’s voice and communication style to match your company’s strengths and how you want it to be perceived by your clients and customers. For example:
- If your customer is looking for an expert advisor, you might spend more time advising them of the risks and benefits of taking a particular path, or suggesting better options when you know what they want won’t work.
- If your customer is looking for a solution to match their need and your main contact has sufficient technical knowledge and background, then you might spend more time discussing how your solution works. You would also be able to freely use technical terms and jargon in your speech.
- If your customer is not technically proficient, then you might want to avoid the jargon or take more time to explain what the technical terms mean. Alternatively, you could explain your solution in a visual way with graphs or charts, or use relatable stories and examples.
This may sound easy, but it’s difficult to implement. One way to get comfortable with your company’s voice and to see if it works is to test it out within a team or interdepartmental meetings. If your team members and employees feel it’s authentic, respond to it, and start adopting that style themselves, then you have a winner. If not, go back to the drawing board and tweak it until it feels right. Either way, once you settle on your company’s professional voice, make sure it stays consistent across all your communications, both internal and external.
8 Key Habits for Building Great Client Relationships
Now that you’ve defined and settled into your company’s voice, it’s time to take steps toward strategic client relationship management.
Set out the foundations of the client relationship.
We’ve all heard horror stories about unreasonable clients or impossible projects. That’s why client management is so important, and why the very first step to building a lasting client relationship has to be setting out the scope and foundations of that relationship.
Make sure the clear definitions are:
A) What the project is,
B) How success is defined,
C) What the milestones are,
D) What should happen when there are delays or problems.
A lot of people get scared at the idea of a contract, but it doesn’t need to be that formal – it could be a detailed letter welcoming them aboard and setting out these key points, or even an email attaching a project brief. Alternatively, you could discuss and agree on these points during your first face-to-face or online meeting, and then make sure your team sends your client detailed minutes recording all of the decisions. Either way, it’s critical to ensure before you start that everyone agrees on the key project details.
Build on the foundations.
Make sure that any updates or other details around your client relations can be clearly communicated as the project progresses. One way to do this is to create an onboarding topic in Status.net, which can set out who is responsible for what on the project, provide milestone updates, and also general information they may find useful such as your office hours and their primary contact person. If something changes during the course of the project, you have two ways to update the information:
You can either edit the topic description, in which case the client will see the changes the next time they open the topic; or
You can post an update on the topic, in which case all participants will immediately receive an email showing them the update. As each update has its own comments section, this also allows your clients and team members to ask questions and discuss the update in context.
Discuss your meeting agendas in advance.
Whether it’s your first face-to-face meeting or simply a regular project governance meeting, it’s always worth discussing the agenda with your client in advance and allowing them to make any suggestions. Not only will this ensure the meeting is structured and more efficient, it will also allow both parties to come fully prepared for a more constructive discussion.
Set aside time for questions.
When you’re meeting with your client, it’s important to spend some time presenting on the project’s progress and demonstrating how much value you’re adding. But it’s also incredibly important to set aside time for questions, discussion, and client management. Your client may have concerns they want to express, or simply wish to clarify certain milestones.
Being responsive to these questions will help assuage any concerns and make them more comfortable in the relationship. On the flipside, you should also ensure that you and your team ask your own questions. Even if things seem crystal-clear, it doesn’t hurt to test your assumptions. Setting aside time to ask these questions can help uncover previously hidden misunderstandings and avoid pitfalls in your client relationship.
Recap the meeting and include action steps.
After each meeting, share a summary of the conversation and set out all the agreed action points. Not only does this provide a useful written record of the meeting that you can use to manage your client’s expectations, it also helps to make the meeting more productive.
Provide regular status updates.
Keep the conversation going between meetings by providing your client with regular status updates. This helps you proactively keep communication, lets you show your team progressing and invites them to engage and ask questions.
Helping you to provide regular status updates is where Status shines. All you have to do is set how often you want status updates to be provided, assign one or more contributors, and then Status will do the rest. It will remind contributors to post status updates in a timely manner and then deliver the updates to your clients (by email and in-app) as soon as they are posted. And since each update has its own comments section, your clients will be able to ask questions or discuss progress with your team in context.
Promptly respond to all communication.
In general, it’s a good idea to acknowledge receipt of a client’s message as soon as you receive it. Even if you don’t have an immediate answer or it will take you time to comply with the request, the acknowledgment shows your responsiveness and can reassure your client that you’re aware of the issue and you’re dealing with it.
Tip: On Status, you can create as many topics and invite as many observers as your business needs for free. You also have permission control, meaning selecting topics for client’s viewing is their name in the “Who can read” section.
Do a project post-mortem.
After a project, it’s a good idea to organize a project ‘post-mortem’ with your client, where you reflect on the project and ask for their thoughts and any feedback. If you’ve done well, this meeting can deepen your relationship, remind the client of how great your team was, and help set up the next piece of work. If there have been some challenges along the way, then a post-mortem can prove you are sincere in rectifying the issues and improving your client relations in the long-term, which may help to rebuild trust.
At some point, everybody makes mistakes. At other points, your team may pull together brilliantly and execute a flawless project.
What’s always in your control, however, is how your company manages its client relations.
It’s important to invest as much time and care into managing client relations like your own marketing or product development.
Here is how status.net helps:
How to use status.net for status reports
- Make reporting easier: Most fields (such as date, name, report type, and formatting) are inserted automatically by software.
- Granular access permissions: create different status feeds for different clients (“Observer” role) with a couple of clicks.
- Peace of mind: No one forgets to fill in their status reports because status.net sends timely reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Eliminate data silos: All data is accurately collected and easily accessible.
- Decrease time and effort spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Sharing: Status reports can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
— shared with the client online (in this case, an email with the full text of the status report will be sent automatically); or
— shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other (spend less time on meetings).
How to configure status reporting:
- Create a “Client Status Report” feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read reports by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Turn “Team-wide” mode Off and invite clients as Observers by unchecking “Update” property for them. If you work with clients on status.net, make sure to have all feeds as invite-only and no feeds as “Team-wide”.
- Invite team members who will write client updates with “Update” permission.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants with “Update” permission receive email reminders to fill in their status reports. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members and clients at any time.
- You can create a separate status feed for each client – they won’t see your other status feeds. Clients will only be able to view those “Invite-only” feeds where you added them as participants and all “Team-wide” feeds.
- If you are actively using status.net not only as a client reporting tool but also as an internal status tool for your team, the best option to work with clients is to create a separate Workspace for your clients. You can switch between Workspaces with one click. As soon as you have more than one Workspace, you’ll see an additional pane on the left for switching between them.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
Data such as the report type, date and name will be added automatically.
As soon as a new status report is added, clients and participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status reports, so it’s not necessary to log in to view it.
Step 3 (Optional): Generate a report and export it to PDF.
(Skip this step if you share status reports online and don’t print them.)
- Choose dates
- Choose people
- Click “File” button
- Choose type of report and click “Generate Report”