Communication is the single most important component for success when working with teams. Focusing on clear and direct communication is a priority for us at Adhere Creative, as the success of our marketing strategies relies on collaboration across the internal team and with our clients.
A creative and humorous way our video team came up with to introduce me to clients!
Unfortunately, good communication practices are rare, and we often find ourselves working with clients that don’t have the best communication skills. In order to work through these issues our account managers are experts at creative problem solving especially when it comes to communication. Below are three common communication problems that our account managers face and solutions that have worked for them.
Problem: Client relations by committee
Decisions often have to run through a team. That is natural. But communication really shouldn’t, if at all possible. Teams have their own dynamic, which even the best account manager will struggle to see instantly or to manage in the long run. Having to communicate every project detail to a team of people means your message and meaning can be easily lost, and you might not realize it until it’s become a problem down the road. Additionally, client teams often come with hidden hierarchies that aren’t always apparent, and important questions aren’t always asked, because no one wants to appear unprepared in front of their superiors.
Solution: Try to have a single point of contact
Establishing a single point of contact at the beginning of the project is key. This helps keep the team on the same page, especially when communicating anything new and/or complex. Having a single point of contact who will bring your explanation and recommendations to the stakeholder team means only one person to onboard with each new idea or deliverable direction. It is much easier to funnel questions and clarifications through a single contact than it is to a group. Ultimately, the group communication may be unavoidable, but pushing to have one person among them who will take on the role of gatekeeper can mean a world of difference for smooth completion of the project.
Our Account Managers work closely with our entire team to ensure everything is done on time!
Problem: Preference Unknown
Every client has a way they like to be communicated with, and a good account manager needs to establish those preferences as soon as possible. A client might not answer the phone, even if it's urgent. On the other hand, emailing only can be a problem when communication needs to happen quickly. You need to know the best way to reach your client when communication is critical. Often, a client might identify a communication preference but once implemented you find that is not the case. For example, a client might prefer email as their communication method, but when you start the project, emails go unanswered and communication is lost. This highlights a point that is important for the savvy account manager. Some clients don’t know how they NEED to be communicated with. They may want emails, but in reality they may need weekly update calls to keep them accountable and on task.
Solution: Establish a preference and learn
This can be done by literally asking the question “How do you prefer to be communicated with?” and providing meaningful options - email only, phone calls only, emails and phone calls when the issue is urgent, even texting! It’s also important to get a quick feel for how your client best absorbs information. Long emails might cover every detail. But if the result is a clarifying phone call from the client, then you may have a client who just doesn’t work well with long emails. You will need to find ways to be more efficient in your communication to match the needs of the client (within reason). At Adhere, we’ve implemented special client-only channels through the project management software, Slack. This is another creative approach to open the lines of communication with clients in a novel way. Be flexible and direct with clients for the best results possible.
Problem: The False Yes
It seems obvious. Yes means yes. Or does it? Sometimes Yes is another word for “I don’t know”. Because they know that’s what you want to hear, yes becomes an easy way for clients to get you off their back for the moment, and they know you want to hear it. How do you know you have a false yes? When the client doesn’t deliver on commitments they said Yes to.
Solution: Work from No
Here’s a little language secret: No is a safe word. Using it gives a feeling of security. It creates boundaries and can be seen as a protective word. You are much more likely to get to the heart of the matter if you frame your questions of the client to get a No. “Do you think it’s impossible to get the feedback by the end of the day?” People in general will respond with the truth when you frame a question toward the answer no. At the end of the day, the truth is necessary for success. So even if you don’t get the answer you wanted, if it's the truth, you can find creative ways around the issue and solve the problem.
Communication is vital to successful client relationships and business success. Do your best to clearly communicate with your teams and vendors in order to make deadlines and produce favorable results. Don’t let great opportunities slip through your fingertips with bad communication.