The ability to effectively communicate with clients is a must when it comes to running a successful service-based business. During our most recent professional development event, master leadership trainer, Thomas Cox, gave his expert insights into what it takes to ensure you’re communicating well with clients.
Simply put, if your client communications leave something to be desired, it could lead to lost opportunities, fewer sales, and a negative perception of your business. Although, it doesn’t have to be that way. With the following insights from Thomas Cox, you’ll be communicating like a pro and impressing your clients in no time.
When it comes to communicating with a client, don’t be flawless. Thinking you’re flawless leads to not trying to improve. Instead, think of flawlessness as something to always be aiming for.
Every client communication will follow four stages that include Initiation, Negotiation, Performance, and Acceptance. These four stages are modeled in the Accountability Loop (Winograd and Flores, 1987).
Notice either side of the Accountability Loop has an “Asker”, known as the client, and the “Doer”, known as the service provider.
During the Initiate stage, the Asker (client) requests a performance from the Doer (service provider). Best practices for the Initiate stage include gathering all the facts together and being clear on the ultimate outcome. The Asker needs to have an understanding of the following questions:
- What outcome do I want?
- When do I want it?
- How do I want it delivered?
- How do I want to be notified of delivery?
- What interim work products or status reports to I want?
- What are the top risk factors I foresee?
The Negotiation stage of the Accountability Loop leads to either the refusal or agreement of a performance that the Asker initiated. During this phase, the Doer or service provider needs to ask themselves questions such as:
- What outcome or activity can I commit to?
- By when? What else am I doing?
- How can I best do it? Is there a better way?
- How will I notify the asker of delivery?
- What interim work or status reports are needed?
- What are the top risk factors? Are they mitigated?
Moves during the Negotiation stage include accepting, asking a question, and refusing. Another move is committing to commit, where a service provider tells a client that they will get back to them with an answer within a certain time period.
In the Performance stage, the Doer should think of the answers to these important questions:
- What is getting in the way? Do I need to re-set expectations?
- Am I asking for the help I need?
- Am I hiding risks or problems?
- Am I notifying the Asker of status candidly?
- Am I giving interim work products/status reports promised?
- What new risk factors are arising? Are they mitigated?
- Am I owning my inputs?
This is the final stage in the Accountability Loop and is the point that the Asker accepts or rejects the performance. During the Acceptance stage, the Asker should think of the following key questions:
- Did I get the outcome or activity I wanted?
- Which expectations were met, and did I say thank you?
- What expectations were unmet? Did I challenge that?
- How did I co-create this outcome?
- How can we improve our process?
When it comes to being upset, there are three causes including unmet expectations, thwarted intent, and undelivered communications. When there is a flaw in client communications, something is being dropped. The fundamentals to avoid such flaws can be found in the four stages of the Accountability Loop.
Take the time to think about situations you have been in when something went wrong during a client communication. What went wrong and how can you change what had happened in the future?