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To the Point: Communicating with Clients

Stuart Henry
05.05.15
To the Point: Communicating with Clients
Stuart Henry
05.05.15

I’ve been at this a long time, and that experience helps me very much when communicating with clients in my role as head of Business Development at Vector. My responsibilities rely heavily on my communication abilities.

To an office full of coders, designers, and digital marketers, one of my biggest contributions is how to best communicate with clients. It’s a skill that’s partly inherent but also certainly something that can be honed, which I’ve been doing for the past twenty-one years. So I always offer up my advice to anyone who asks, and sometimes gently force it on anyone who clearly needs it. The overarching theme of my advice is “always get to the point as quickly as possible”. Meaning, provide whoever you’re talking to with the information or answer that they are looking for and then you can provide an explanation, if warranted. Even if the answer is “maybe”, tell them that and then explain. Same thing if the answer is “no”. Don’t be nervous about telling people no. If the answer is indeed no, share that response -- but it MUST be followed up with an explanation and, more importantly, viable alternatives to achieve a solution. I often explain that “good customer service is NOT about doing what the client tells you to do”, but that will be a topic for a future blog.

Here’s an example that happens all the time: a client asks one of our team members to implement something that might have adverse effects on their server. So rather than implement exactly what the client wants, consequently slowing down their site, our developers should have the confidence to be upfront. We should tell the client that this specific approach may not be best, and suggest another way that accomplishes the same business results but without the negative consequences. Presented in this manner, the client is educated and appreciative of the “to the point” and decisive response as well as the more fitting alternative. Compare this to a response that’s both laborious and ambiguous because they’re afraid to say no. This creates mixed signals to the client that causes frustration and will waste time. These are two different scenarios with very different results.

In my experience, the “to the point” approach has no boundaries. Don’t ever beat around the bush, try to cover up deficiencies, try to cut corners, or flat out avoid the issue. We empower our team to address issues head-on and to not be afraid to get to the point. After a couple of decades in my career, I can tell you with certainty that all involved will be better off for it.  It’s evident that this approach has been a driving force in client retention and acquisition (via word of mouth), ultimately resulting in the success we have achieved at Vector.

(Photo by Kool Cats Photography from Foter / CC BY)

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