Have you ever sent an email and waited days to hear back? Did you wonder if you got something wrong, hit the spam folder or just landed in some technological black hole?
If you're trying to get in touch with a vendor, the stress of the black hole is even greater: are they working on my project? Did something go wrong? Are we still on track to meet the deadline? There are so many methods for staying in touch that instantaneous updates are taken for granted. The problem is that there still needs to be discipline around using them.
Your communication level is a significant deliverable that determines your success with your clients. A communication best practice is to create a service strategy with your team so that everyone has the same understanding, expectations and high level of quality.
Consider the following when creating your communication service level agreement:
Even if you don't have the answer to the client request immediately, how soon can you acknowledge that you have received the request and can provide an estimated time of response?
Some requests can unexpectedly take days to resolve. How often can you reassure the client that they have not been forgotten and the response is still in process?
Writing an apologetic email is one way to go, but they can come across as impersonal and lack accountability ("we apologise for any inconvenience caused"). As difficult as these conversations might be, can you give your client the courtesy of a personal call or meeting?
Consistency in communications creates trust. As part of your project plan, include regularly scheduled updates in your timeline as well as milestone reviews.
Find out your clients' communication preferences so that you avoid the black hole of unanswered queries. Some clients are in back-to-back meetings during the day and prefer a call on the commute home; some will respond to a text any time of day; some hate the phone and just want emails. Save time and effort by using their preferred method.