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Create lasting business relationships through effective communication.

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Good communication is a cornerstone of lasting business relationships with your clients. Whether it’s their expectations, needs or challenges – your clients want to be heard and they need reassuring responses from you.

However, that doesn't mean you have to sit at your desk all day answering calls and responding to emails. On the contrary, effective communication can happen over a range of technology that you use in the office or working remotely. It can empower you to deliver your message effectively, receive regular feedback, and engage in highly interactive client relationships.

In this article, we’ll discuss client communication best practices that professional service providers can leverage to provide exceptional customer experiences and build strong client relationships.

Let’s get started.

What is client communication?

Any communication that takes place between a business and its clients is known as client communication. It encompasses written communication (for example, emails or invoices) as well as oral communication (such as phone calls, voice messages, or in-person meetings).

Meetings and messages sent through video and messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Zoom are also considered client communication. When communicating through these digital platforms, it’s important to invest in a robust tech stack that will enable you to interact with clients easily and securely.

This is particularly important for accountants. Finance is such an important area for businesses, so having the means to communicate information clearly and accurately is a must. You won’t be able to do that with a spotty internet connection or if you haven’t adopted the right communication tools.

In face-to-face meetings, parallel and non-verbal communication also takes place through body language. So while you’re engaged in an intense conversation with a client, it may be worthwhile paying attention to their tone of voice, hand gestures, posture, and facial expressions as well.

Why is effective client communication so important?

According to a recent study, 50% of Australian businesses surveyed lost customers because of poor communication during the pandemic. What’s more, poor communication could be costing American businesses $1.2 trillion in annual losses.

Clients expect quality services from you, and in the field of professional services this often involves lots of communication. Effective communication helps you understand client expectations and requirements. It also helps you reassure your clients about the quality and value of your services, and builds trust over time.

Business environments are often quite dynamic. And with the pandemic prodding businesses to adopt remote work, people today have more communication channels available to them.

Amidst an increasingly complex landscape, having consistent communication practices can ensure that you’re on the same page as your clients. As such, it’s essential that you get to know your clients’ preferred communication channels and adapt to their needs.

With the right communication methods, they’re more likely to stay with you, instead of showing interest in your rivals.

By promoting transparency, you can help your clients get a better understanding of your business and vision. This will make them feel comfortable, particularly in the face of policy changes.

Open and honest communication can also help avoid misunderstandings and boost customer satisfaction. This translates directly into loyalty and client retention in the long run. When you have a solid communication plan in place, your clients are more likely to become loyal advocates of your services and bring in more business.

How to improve your client communication strategy

Now that you know why effective client communication matters so much, let’s talk about how you can implement it in your practice. Here are some simple yet effective tips to help you optimize your client communication strategy.

1. Know your client

First things first, doing your homework is necessary. You must gather relevant information about the client and their company. This also means gaining an understanding of their immediate business environment, their industry, technological changes, and so on.

As you start a new business relationship, try to understand your client’s perspective – their motivation, desires, and pain points. How can you make life easier for them? What is their business vision and how do you fit into their journey?

These questions may seem a bit abstract, but they will help you cultivate the right mindset to kickstart a relationship that yields optimal results.

2. Set the right expectations

The client onboarding process is your first opportunity to set client expectations. Be careful not to over promise or create false expectations. Only offer services that you know you can deliver and set attainable goals.

It is also important that you convey realistic project timelines, deliverables, and budgets, and define success using the right metrics. Make sure you have a signed engagement letter that outlines your terms of service, the scope of your services, billing practices, pricing information, and so on.

With Ignition, you can automate the process of creating business proposals and engagement letters. You can customize them according to your client's needs, and get them reviewed and signed online. This can free-up valuable time to focus on more important tasks.

3. Use the right communication channels

Ask your clients how they prefer to communicate. For example, would they rather use text messages instead of phone calls, or email instead of in-person meetings? Do you work with individuals who are more inclined to use video chat?

Whatever the case, it helps to know if their business style is formal or casual, as this determines their communication preferences. For instance, this will tell you if they’re comfortable with you getting in touch with them via social media or calling them after business hours for something urgent.

For successful communication, you need to match the preferred communication methods of your clients. This will make it easier for them to receive and understand your intended messages.

4. Have a crisis plan ready

Crisis situations may emerge at any time when working with clients. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, forced many companies to lay off employees, rethink their business models, or even shut down completely. To make sure you can navigate future events such as these, it pays to have a crisis or contingency plan ready.

This will require you to anticipate certain crisis scenarios, establish standard operating procedures for each of them, and ensure that your teams are on the same page. This is necessary because the client expects you to respond quickly, and add value during a crisis.

5. Ensure transparency

Transparency helps to build trust. It’s important that you keep your clients in the loop about every update – the good, the bad, and the ugly – in case they need to plan accordingly.

For example, if a deliverable gets delayed, the budget is overrun, or mistakes are made, let them know promptly. Sooner or later, they’re likely to find out about it anyway. If you’re open and honest, clients will have more reason to appreciate the transparency and trust you more.

Likewise, it’s important to be straightforward about any policy or pricing changes that may affect them. So, make transparency a core business value and ensure that it reflects in all your business operations.

6. Show empathy

Remember that even in a business relationship, you are ultimately dealing with people. Like everyone else, your clients are likely to have their own concerns, insecurities, fears, and doubts. Your staff needs to have the right interpersonal skills to understand these complex emotions and respond appropriately.

While this may come naturally to some, you can also sensitize your staff by organizing emotional intelligence workshops. The priority should always be to put yourself in your clients’ shoes so you can align yourself with their business goals.

Make them feel understood and valued. This starts with being friendly and approachable at all times and by giving them your undivided attention during phone calls and meetings.

7. Be respectful

Being respectful is key to forming strong bonds with clients and earning their trust. But respect isn’t just conveyed through words or gestures. It also reflects in your actions or conduct.

For instance, some of your clients may take serious exception to calls after work hours or despise promotional emails. Make sure to acknowledge such boundaries in your business relationships and respect the privacy of your clients.

Also, money conversations can often seem awkward. By automating the payment process, you can eliminate the hassle of chasing down payments. Ignition collects payment information upfront when your clients sign the proposal so invoices are raised and get paid automatically when these are due. What’s more, it supports multiple payment methods and billing arrangements (such as recurring or one-off payments), making it extremely convenient for use.

It’s also important to be respectful of your clients’ time. Always show up on time for meetings, return their calls promptly, and respond to their emails as soon as you can. If a client emails you with a question and you don’t have the time to draft an appropriate response, even a quick acknowledgement can help to reassure them. You can later follow it up with a detailed email.

8. Be flexible

When it comes to business communication, you simply can’t adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy unless you want to portray a rigid, monolithic image of your business. That’s because your clients aren’t going to have similar personalities or behave in the same way.

Dealing with new clients means adjusting to unique personality types. Some clients may be strictly business, which demands more formal communication. Others could be more friendly and forthcoming and might expect you to reciprocate.

Likewise, some clients may want granular details about their accounts while others may be happy with a high-level summary.

Be mindful of their financial literacy skills. Not all of your clients will have the same level of financial knowledge. Research shows that only one-third of adults are familiar with basic financial concepts and 4 in 7 Americans are not financially illiterate.

You must therefore tailor your communications according to their tastes, habits, financial literacy, and personality types.

9. Understand the context

Instead of using a standard template for all situations, it’s important to rise to the occasion and communicate contextually. For example, if there’s a change in policy, you may need to have a more in-depth conversation with a client who’s used to it being a certain way. For clients who have been with your firm for a long time, introducing changes should be handled with care.

Remember also to time your communication properly with your clients. Companies are responsible for meeting certain deadlines, whether it’s filing taxes, renewing their licenses, or repaying a loan. To that end, sending them timely prompts and reminders will help ensure that your clients’ financial obligations are handled on time.

10. Acknowledge feedback

Communication is a two-way exchange, so always ensure that you have a feedback channel open. This will help you understand client expectations better and address your shortcomings.

Active listening is yet another way of being respectful to your clients. Constructive client feedback provides opportunities for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses so you may serve your clients even better in the future.

Over to you

A healthy business relationship calls for a holistic, systematic, and strategic approach to client communications. Seamless communication – in professional services such as accounting and bookkeeping – is essential for avoiding errors, confusion, and complexities. Businesses need to learn to communicate effectively with clients if they want to boost customer satisfaction and stay ahead of the competition.

Ignition can simplify and streamline your client communication by helping you automate your proposal and engagement letter creation process. Plus, it can ensure that you get paid on time without having to chase down your clients or have awkward conversations. See the platform in action. Watch the online interactive demo and learn more about Ignition and how it could benefit you and your business.
Book a demo of the Ignition software

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Meet the author

Angela Gosnell
Angela Gosnell

Global Content Marketing Lead 

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Published 23 May 2022 Last updated 19 Mar 2024