How much effort do you put into communicating with your clients?
Communication can mean the difference between an annoyed client that doesn’t return, and a happy client that sings your praises.
Sometimes it often doesn’t even matter if you’ve done great work – if you’ve failed to keep your client in the loop, bad communication can cause serious damage to your reputation.
In fact, one of the biggest complaints I hear from small business owners is that their web designer takes too long to reply to emails… or doesn’t reply at all.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much effort to drastically improve your client communication and make your clients happy.
In this article, we dig into some client communication tools that will help you:
- Get the information you need from clients faster
- Create relationships with your clients
- Turn those into referrals – because happy clients refer others
Why Client Communication Is So Important
When you’re working on client projects, it’s easy to get bogged down in the project delivery. Your team might be working on a project for a couple of weeks. Through that period, everyone can see how much work is being done… except your client.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Imagine that you have signed off on a proposal and sent a deposit. Maybe you’ve sent over some content. Then you don’t hear anything for 2 weeks. Now you’re wondering what’s going on. You’re wondering if you’ve made the right decision to work with this agency.
That feeling left unchecked, can sabotage the client relationship entirely.
Fortunately, with a few tools and ideas, you can turn this around and wow your clients.
A quick note on simplicity
Loads of project management tools tout themselves as great for client communication. In my experience, there aren’t many clients that get excited by the prospect of having to learn yet another system. That’s why I pretty much never advise using a project management system for client communication.
Whatever you choose has to be extremely simple for your clients, or something they are already using — otherwise, they just won’t use it.
All of the tools below have this in mind.
When you’re in the middle of delivering a project, time passes quickly. It’s easy to simply forget to email your client. The first 2 weeks of the project fly by quickly for you and your team, but not for your client who is eagerly awaiting results.
One of the most effective, yet simple ways to put your clients at ease is to send a quick update email – at least once a week.
The problem is that you have to remember to send that email. That’s difficult when you’re busy.
It’s a simple email tool that allows you to “bcc” an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. After 7 days, that email will bounce back into your inbox.
In practice, as soon as your client signs their proposal, you could email them to say thank you and that you’re getting started. Send that email with a 7-day reminder, so that you remember to send an update. When you send the update, you’d set a 7-day reminder. This continues until the project is finished.
A simple template for the update email is to say:
- What has been done this week
- What will be done next week
- Anything you are waiting on from your client
2. Calendar time blocking
Time blocking isn’t a software tool – but it’s a widely-used productivity tool that is worth mentioning.
This example is almost exactly the same as the email follow up concept above, except that you have one block of time in your calendar each week to send updates to all of your clients.
You might allocate an hour starting at 11 am every Friday, where you look through all current projects and send an update about each one. This task is often performed by account managers.
The email can follow the same format as above, or you can create your own.
Taking the client update email one step further, you may wish to partially automate these emails.
Zapier is an automation tool that can move data around between the apps you already use in your business.
There is an inbuilt tool called “Digest by Zapier” that can build up a list of things. So you could create a list of all tasks that have been checked off this week.
To do this you’d have a simple workflow that says:
- Every time a task is marked off in your project management
- Add it to the list
- Every Friday at 9 am, create a draft on Gmail with the entire list
Then you’d have an email ready to go with all the items your team completed in the last week. You’d just make a few tweaks and send it off.
Zapier can help you with so much more than just communication – it’s a full workflow automation platform. To learn more about how it works, check out this Zapier tutorial.
4. Content Snare
It’s pretty rare to find a web agency that doesn’t struggle with getting content from clients. This is consistently named as the biggest bottleneck in any agency.
Projects can be delayed by weeks or months just waiting for clients to send content and whatever information you need to complete their project.
If that’s the case for you, you should invest some time into working out a process to address this. Many agencies use a combination of email and Google Drive to send reminders and collaborate on content. However, this often turns into a mess, confusing both sides.
With multiple systems, clients don’t know where they should send content. So, they’ll send some via email, some will appear in documents, and in bad cases, you might get content in a messenger chat. This wastes an absurd amount of your precious time putting it all together.
Content Snare is a client portal that rolls up all of this into one platform. It’s
- Organized – giving you one place to go to find the latest version of everything
- Automatic – sending your clients email reminders of what they need to do
- Dead simple – so your clients actually use it
5. Project Huddle
Another massive roadblock for many web projects is getting design feedback from clients.
Especially if you are working remotely, it’s hard to communicate feedback on designs or websites. But a tool like Project Huddle makes this much easier.
It’s a WordPress plugin that creates a client area for design feedback. The process is simple:
- Upload a design or link to a live website
- Send the link to your clients
- Get feedback in a simple dashboard
For your clients, it’s as simple as clicking on the page and writing what they think.
No more cross-referencing feedback emails with designs trying to work out what part of the site the client is even talking about. It’s all just right there in front of you – you can see what they clicked and what they said.
Tip: We recommend installing Project Huddle on a standalone WordPress site on a subdomain. That way it’s separated from your main website and easier to maintain.
If you try to get your clients to use project management systems or follow complex processes, they’ll often resort to just emailing you instead.
Your client already knows how to use email. It’s easy for them, so they fall back on it when they’re too confused by other systems.
But email is a nightmare for agencies. When you’ve got multiple people from multiple client companies emailing multiple team members… it’s almost certainly going to become unmanageable chaos.
Front is a unified inbox for your team. It turns that email chaos into a single view for everyone on your team.
All email comes into one place. From there it can be assigned to team members, collaborated on, or replied to without leaving the app.
Your clients keep using email, but on your end it’s all organized.
When you’re implementing these customer communication tools in your business, remember that tools only get you so far. You need to create systems and processes for both your team and your clients.
It will take you some time to:
- Set everything up to work how you want
- Create the processes
- Educate your team
You’ll also need to spend time to improve your customer communication skills. But in the long run, it will pay you back. Think of all this time spent like investing your money. You spend some now to get more back in the future. Except with time, it’s much easier and almost guaranteed. A bit of time now will save you hours in the future.