by Lori Prosio 

The professional world is full of plans and strategies. But in order for these plans to be effective, there needs to be consistent communication with our clients. Often we think our client communication is on point because there hasn’t been a problem, but I think we can all agree that even the best communication can use a boost from time-to-time. By not occasionally assessing ways to improve and nurture your relationships, you’ll likely come across problems down the road.

Whether you want to amp your communication skill set with a long-time client, or set the right tone with a new client, here are a few ways to improve your client communication.

– Provide new clients with the communication tools you’ve established. Make sure they know that you’re accessible and that their project is always a priority. Subscribe to the old-school practice of making each client feel as if they’re your only client. Whether it’s a kick-off email with your contact information and round-the-clock availability, or a personal tutorial on software or a tool you’ll be using on their behalf, make yourself available early. This is also the perfect time to establish guidelines to keep communication easy – provide one point of contact for your clients and ask that they do the same. Maintaining control of information makes it seamless for everyone and cost-effective for them.

-Keep them in the loop. Don’t let weekly or monthly meetings be the only point of contact with your clients. Take some time each week and Pick Up The Phone. Clients are more likely to include you in strategic discussions and keep you apprised of everyday occurrences if you are communicating on a regular basis. If you have the ability to schedule face-to-face meetings with your clients on a consistent basis, extra points for you.

-Transparency. Discrepancies in trust can have a devastating impact on your client relations. If you’re not transparent with your clients, you aren’t delivering them anything of value. Transparency also includes the ability to respectfully disagree. Your job is to provide them with the best service or product possible. Client pushback is normal and expected, but if you truly feel it’s a detriment to their business, present the reasons why and offer a more positive solution. This practice may not always work, but they hired you to think strategically and offering counterpoints with sound reasoning will show them you have their best interests in mind.

-Set expectations and manage them. Work closely with clients to establish a project plan and timeline and educate them in your project process. Make sure they know ahead of time what you can and can’t do. Explain the importance of all tasks and be clear about how long each step in the process takes and the impacts of delays. Also set milestone check-ins throughout.

-Follow up. Always send a follow-up email after a phone conversation, even if it’s a quick thanks for their time. If you’re a business owner or not regularly part of the day-to-day communication with your clients, follow up with items your team fills you in on. Clients feel more appreciated and assured knowing that you’re actively involved in their projects and working with your team and theirs to provide top-notch service.

Remember, good client communication can lead to good long-term relationships with existing clients, referrals for new clients and better business overall. Put in the work to maintain effective communication to ensure your business continues to deliver positive results.

A version of this article originally appeared in the February 3, 2017 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.