The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said
Relationship marketing is about building a relationship with customers through multiple channels. We typically think of these as an email programme, social media, print and targeted online ads. Most people forget about the original communication method – your voice!

Like any good relationship, customer relationships need working at and rely on good communication. Ideally that comes from both sides, but whilst you cannot control your customers communication skills, you can do your best to ensure that outgoing communication is as good as it can be. Someone recently asked me for tips for good ongoing client communication so here are some…

Be Reactive

  • Ensure all communications look professional, use spelling and grammar checks (Outlook enables you to automatically check before sending) and include your contact details in all emails. You may want 2 different signatures – 1 for replies/forwards and 1 for brand new messages that has more information
  • Always respond to enquiries promptly! If you can’t give an answer immediately, it often pays to be courteous with something along the lines of ‘I’m looking into it for you will have an answer by XYZ’. This helps to make people feel listened to and also allows you to manage expectations (For example, if you know your train is late at least you can relax and read a book and pass on the bad news to people you are meeting!) . You’re rewarded with someone who will usually appreciate that they got a response and will therefore have more confidence their enquiry or issue is being dealt with
  • If you need to get back to someone in the future, try to set expectations for turnaround times. It can be useful to overestimate (it’s always better to exceed expectations if you can)
  • Where possible, end communications on a positive note – this is even more important with negative interactions
  • If you have to give something for free then this can help the situation – maybe a whitepaper or free delivery option
  • If you have had a serious problem, then close off the issue by confirming what you have done to ensure the situation doesn’t occur again. (e.g. changes to processes to be followed in future)
  • We have 2 ears and 1 mouth – use them accordingly! If an upset client rings then let them vent and then try to get to the bottom of things. Lack of communication can cause further issues, so be clear & concise and always clarify a situation before responding. I love the word Clarify when trying to get to the bottom of a situation as it helps you ask potentially awkward questions without coming across as too brusque.

Be Proactive

  • If you need to deliver bad news to a client, do it promptly and position it as well as you can. Better to get to them before they get to you and allow them to manage expectations at their end. Give them enough detail to feel informed, but don’t provide too much information that could damage your relationship
  • If you are a B2B company, personally send new publications such as whitepapers may be of interest or draw good clients attention to news items or advice of interest
  • If you are able to offer an ad hoc call regarding current service levels or recent product releases of interest it will often be appreciated and can pre-empt issues. Be careful not to do this too frequently or you will lose things to talk about
  • Think carefully and make a considered judgment on whether interactions should be formalised or informal. Always be prepared prior to any call with details of recent product / service purchases and usage

Build a rapport

  • Allow some informality in the relationship if you think it will work, it makes bad news easier when you need it. But do remember they are a client not a friend – there is a line that should not be crossed in the majority of professional relationships
  • Keep informed about current events of interest. A laugh and a joke about the weekend’s sports result help develop rapport and deepen the strength of the relationship
  • Be yourself as much as you can – this will make interactions and relationships easier

Above all, remember if you are doing your job well, you manage expectations and your clients are happy with your products and services then a good relationship will probably come quite naturally.