I recently needed a refresher in this area, and thought I would pass along some nuggets that help me. Hope it’s helpful to you as well.
Miscommunication is one of the biggest time sucks for service providers. Remember, communicating is only effective when the other person understands *exactly* the message you want them to understand.
Any communication in any form is subject to interpretation, so to mitigate misunderstanding it helps to level-set with clients, particularly if you are working with them for the first time.
It’s about them, not you
At the onset of a new client relationship spend some time discussing and agreeing upon your communication ground rules, so each of you understands exactly how and when you will communicate, particularly around frequency, method and events.
When you will communicate
During the transaction process, do you reach out if there is nothing to report? The answer is up to your client. They may appreciate a ping every now and again to let them know progress (or lack thereof) so ask them.
It’s also important to set expectations as to the length of time it will take for you to respond to them. Is it within four hours or one business day? What if they reach out in the evening or over the weekend? Let them know then stick to it.
On the flip side, it’s fair to ask them when you can expect a response to your communication.
How you do what you do
Believe it or not, everyone is not connected 24/7 to email. Some prefer phone calls to email. Some don’t text (gasp). This is something to understand at the onset. I’m of the opinion that as the service provider, I need to bend to the needs of the customer.
Taking a day off?
Let them know you will be unavailable prior to your day off and give them the name of a person that can answer their questions.
What if it’s important?
Typically, I let clients know if there is a pressing matter, I will phone them. If I reach voice mail, I will leave a message then follow that up with an email. Remember, if it is a pressing matter make certain to communicate when you need to hear back.
Respect the recipient
Don’t use jargon, three letter acronyms or technical terms. This will create back and forth communication for explanation which is frustrating to both parties.
Less is more
If sending an email, avoid preamble, lengthy explanations or an overuse of adverbs. If you can say it in ten words, don’t use 30.
Imagine how you would deliver the message in a short elevator ride, and then compose. If it can’t be communicated thoroughly in a few words, call them. If the communication is of a nature that requires written back up, follow up the call with a quick recap.
If you must send a long email, begin with an opening sentence that tells them the points you need to cover:
- Use bullet points, one per point
- The bullet points should not dive into what, how or why
- The bullets should be followed by a sentence that tells them exactly what you need them to do, think or know
In addition to what you need them to do, think or know, the sentence just below the bullets should also include a timeline, if necessary.
Proof read your email. Running spell check is important, but may not catch grammatical errors. Don’t make your client believe you are careless or uneducated by not taking a few moments to proof read.
A personal pet peeve
Do NOT forward an email string to a client with “See Below”. If it’s important to show proof of a conversation, forward the email and provide a summary at the top. Respect their time.
p.s. if you really want them to read something, or drive a point below, add a post script. I’ll bet many of you skimmed the article, but read this post script!
p.p.s. the pet peeve is what prompted this post. A vendor sent me a seven-deep email chain with “see below”. I replied asking for a summary.