Communication: The Secret Weapon in Managing Client Expectations and Service
Effectively communicating with your clients is perhaps the best way to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. When it comes to wowing your clients and making them feel special, it’s all in how you talk with them.
Developing strong relationships is vital to solidifying your place in your client’s life and making yourself irreplaceable. You don’t have to have all the answers, but your clients want to know that you are looking out for them.
These are unprecedented times.
These are stressful quarters for a business. It’s not your fault, but that doesn’t mean they won’t expect you to do something about it. Talking with your clients can be the best way to calm their nerves. With financial lives at stake, clients just want to know what is going to happen and how things are going to work out.
These feelings the client has are an opportunity to build stronger relationships. You have the ability to show them that you are on their team. You are part of their struggle, and you are doing everything you can to right the ship.
If things are going poorly, they need to know. Being transparent is always an asset, but right now, it’s imperative. They want, and they need you to tell them like it is. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Getting it out in the open will allow you to move past it faster.
Good news and bad news will come, but you won’t be able to shield them from anything they don’t want to hear long term. The truth will always come out. The easiest way to do this is to just show them the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, and they can be hard to misinterpret.
You are part of the team.
Take the time to empathize with your client. Having empathy is the strongest tool we have to communicate with people. Taking the time to see the world through their eyes will help you see what is important to them. You will be able to tell them what they want to hear because you will quickly recognize it.
Try to see yourself as a part of their team, a vital one. You are a legitimate asset, so recognize that in yourself. If you are feeling more engaged with the client, you will naturally be more enthusiastic and helpful. You will be driving them towards bigger and better results. You will be working with them to come out of this time in a healthy financial situation, poised to grow their business.
You need to be self-aware of the role that you play in their success. This allows you to acknowledge when your clients know more than you and makes you humble enough to listen. You only see part of what goes on in their everyday business. They know more than you do about their industry. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Don’t get so wrapped up in your world that you ignore theirs.
Focus on giving your clients a context for what is happening. Seeing the big picture helps us understand why. This strategy is especially important when a client has a problem. If a client approaches you with one, they are already looking to you to help solve it.
If the issues stem from a mistake you made, then own up to it so that you can go to work fixing it. If it is beyond your control, then it’s time to reframe the problem.
If you can show a client from a bird’s eye view why the problem happened, they can figure out that it’s not your fault on their own. Trying to deflect blame won’t get you out of anything. Getting defensive will only make matters worse. Your only hope is to acknowledge and validate their frustration, then show them what the problem means.
Make things easy for them. When they are communicating with you, the clock is usually ticking. They hired you to perform the accounting tasks they couldn’t. Anticipate their needs and take the initiative to fill those needs. They already know what it’s like to work with someone who can do the job, but surprising them by going above and beyond is what will set you apart.
For accounting clients, this can mean more than just giving them a generic balance sheet. Giving your client the ability to accurately forecast important financial metrics like cash flow might be the secret weapon your client has been looking for but didn’t know it.
Pay attention to the details.
You need to meet the client at their level. That doesn’t just mean using jargon, but also matching their personality. Adjust how formal you are, depending on what the client prefers.
Some clients will be all business. Some will want to be your best friend. Some just want the broad strokes laid out succinctly when you give them a report, and others will want to go granular.
Make your correspondence as simple as possible. Include every detail needed, but keep it short. Avoid being long-winded and vague whenever possible, and don’t spend fifteen minutes explaining something you could have done in three.
Get your formatting correct on all your documents and emails. Small changes like adding lists, highlighting important points, and giving the body of your reports time to breathe do wonders. Proofread everything you send them.
Ask questions as they come up. You can stop problems before they start and identify breakdowns in your communication.
Communicating with your clients can be the secret weapon to meeting and exceeding their expectations. Your interactions are your chance to stand out and show them that you are professional and passionate.
Things are changing at an accelerated rate. Make them feel like you are part of the team and that you are doing everything you can to take care of them.
The best way to do that is to have the right mindset: care. The more you care about your client and their business, the more of these things you will start doing without even thinking about it.