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Client communication best practices

9 Client Communication Best Practices that Agencies and Consultants Must Use

Give clients the attention they deserve without constantly having to book more calls. These strategies will help you communicate with clients and strengthen those relationships.

by Brian Casel
Updated Jun 30, 2022

Do you constantly find yourself torn between answering client emails, hopping on calls, and trying to do the actual work? Wondering if there’s a way to improve client communication while reducing the time it takes?

You know, as cliche as it sounds, it’s true. How you communicate with clients is as important to your business’ success as the work you deliver. 

There’s even data to prove it. For example:

  • A recent study published by a relationship management company, Aprais, found that today’s clients value qualities like trust, resilience, and communication more than the agency’s ability to do the job. 
  • Another research into client-agency relationships called The Naked Truth discovered that 98% of both agencies and clients considered trust to be the most critical factor in building strong client relationships. The main reason for a potential lack of that trust, according to the study, was poor communication.

Incredible, isn’t it? 

But how do you leverage communication to build trust and strengthen the relationship?

That’s exactly what you’re going to find out from this guide. You’ll learn nine amazing client communication best practices that will help you give clients the attention they deserve and do it without putting too much pressure on your time.

But let’s cover one other thing first…

Why Do You Struggle with Client Communication

At first sight, having this problem doesn’t even make sense, does it? 

Communication is natural, after all. It’s something you should know how to do without putting any effort into it. And yet, agencies, consultants, and many other businesses too regularly report struggling with effective client communication.

Many complain about how time-consuming it is. Studies prove that even a simple activity such as client reporting takes agencies from one to five hours per week

Add to that string of daily Zoom calls, the flow of emails that need to be processed, phone calls, in-person meetings, and communication via other channels, and the whole process becomes more than overwhelming. 

But client communication isn’t something you can ignore. As you’ve seen in the data above, it’s what forms the basis for a strong business relationship. And let’s face it; without that strong relationship, there is absolutely no chance that your agency or consulting practice could survive the pressure that comes with projects, deadlines, and even creative differences between you and a client. 

The good news is that there are ways to improve communications with clients and make sure that you give them the attention they deserve without putting too much strain on your time. 

Before we get to that, though, let’s briefly recap some key concepts around client communications. Doing so will help ensure that we’re on the same page when discussing these best practices. 

Let’s start by defining the different ways you communicate with your agency’s clients

Typically, when we think of client communication, we think of all those emails or phone calls you have with clients every day. But there’s far more to client communication than that. 

Think about it. You probably communicate with clients in a whole bunch of different ways already: 

  • You send them weekly update emails and monthly reports. 
  • Reply to their support tickets. 
  • Post social media updates, and perhaps also, reply to their social media posts
  • You may have live chat installed on the site, and communicate with clients that way too. 
  • Or you give them access to your team on Slack. 

And even that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.

Keep this in mind as you go through the best practices below. That’s because many of those relate to other forms of communication than email or phone. 

What are the biggest challenges agencies face when communicating with clients?

We’ve covered one challenge already - the time it takes to engage with clients effectively. 

Unfortunately, agencies and consultants face several other issues when communicating with clients.

  • Lack of meaningful communication. This happens when one or both sides “disappear” from the conversation for longer. Sadly, this often leaves the other side feeling neglected or ignored. 
  • Over-communication is another issue both agencies and clients face regularly. Sure, you and the client might be exchanging messages. But unfortunately, often, very little of this information is relevant to the project or relationship, leaving you with a task to sift through it all to find anything of value.  
  • Finally, more than ever, agencies face having to communicate with more than a single stakeholder in the client’s business. These people often have different opinions and ideas that the agency must process and deal with.

Here’s how to overcome those and many other client communication challenges. 

9 Client Communication Best Practices to Raise Your Agency or Consulting Game

#1. Set expectations for how you communicate with clients

I know the most successful agencies and consultants do this: They ensure that clients understand how they will communicate throughout the engagement. 

Those agencies and consultants make information about their communication channels a crucial part of the new client onboarding process. This includes:

  • Clearly explaining when to have live callsand in which situations to use asynchronous communication.
  • Providing information on what communication tools they use and training, if necessary.
  • Explaining their processes for asynchronous communication. Typically, this focuses on showing clients how to send and receive async messages.
  • Providing typical timelines for responses so that clients never wonder how long it might take them to hear back. 

#2. Set communication boundaries

At first, the idea of setting boundaries for how and when you communicate with clients may feel wrong. Shouldn’t clients be able to reach you at any time? Isn’t that what good client communication means?

No, not really. 

Of course, you should avoid or neglect clients. But you also don’t have to be available to them at all times. 

First of all, there are only so many hours in the day. Unless you manage that time effectively, you might never get any actual work done. Not to mention that all those constant meetings and calls might eventually result in burnout or the meeting fatigue.

To avoid it, set communication boundaries from the start. You don’t have to impose them on the client. Instead, you could create a communication plan together. For example, you could decide how often you check in, how quickly you respond to emails, and so on. 

TIP: Leverage asynchronous video to scale client communications without having to book more calls. 

With asynchronous video, you and the client can record short videos and send them to each other to watch later and respond to you (also on video) without needing to communicate in real-time.

An example of a threaded asynchronous video conversation recorded with ZipMessage.

#3. Communicate and reply at set times

This goes in line with the previous two best practices. 

Once you create a communication plan, stick to it. You can be tempted to respond to an email or a video message right away, but doing so will, most likely, a.) interrupt your flow and b.) suggest to the client that whatever plan you don’t respect your boundaries. And if you don’t do that, why should they?

#4. Discuss client needs regularly

I know those regular check-ins with clients can be a pain. You two sit down or call each other once a month or a quarter and talk about, well, often anything. You might discuss some new ideas for projects, but sometimes, you just chat, right?

Those calls are never a waste of time. A regular, honest conversation with a client allows them to discuss any emerging needs with you. For example, you might hear about any changes within the organization that might affect the project, new product updates that will affect the strategy, and so on. 

#5. Be honest about any challenges you face

We’ve already discussed how much trust affects agency-client relationships. You know that 98% of agencies and clients see it as the most important factor in the success of the client-agency relationship. 

Being honest with clients is, by far, the most effective way to build that trust. 

I don’t mean just admitting mistakes, though. You should also be upfront about the challenges you face. This will show you how much you care about it. The client might offer ideas that will help you overcome them. 

#6. Answer every question and point raised by your client

I’m sure you know how it is - A client sends you an email. It’s full of information, with several questions buried in the message. You reply hastily and miss providing important insights the client asked about. 

Naturally, you could send another email and address those, which could lead to the overcommunication challenge discussed above. 

So, always read every client's communication carefully, paying attention to all the information they ask about. 

TIP: Set up a video intake form to allow clients to send their questions via async video. For one, the video might help them explain the issue more clearly. But there is another benefit of using asynchronous messaging for answering client questions - You cannot skim a video message. This means that you’re far more likely to notice all the questions they’ve asked and provide all the insights to answer those.

An example of an intake form allowing clients to send video messages with ZipMessage.

#7. Pay attention to every detail

This is difficult to do when you’re only starting to work with a client. Over time, however, you’re bound to pick up things about their personal life, interests, or even pet peeves. 

Recalling those will help add a gentle personal touch to client communication. Naturally, you shouldn’t try to squeeze such tidbits of information into every conversation. But now and then, when it feels natural, mention something you’ve heard from them before. Showing clients that you’ve listened to and remembered the little things they’ve shared will strengthen your relationship with them. 

#8. Read your responses (especially negative ones!) before hitting “send”

Things happen. Life happens too. A client may have a bad day or hear a piece of unexpected bad news. All this might affect their tone of voice or what they say in a message to you. 

Your situation on the day might affect how you respond to that. And unfortunately, reacting impulsively may aggravate the situation even more. 

Make a habit of pausing before responding to negative messages. Ask yourself whether this is a genuine criticism or if some external factors affect the client’s perception of your relationship that day. 

Read their message a couple of times, and ideally, set it aside for a while. You'll likely have a different reaction when you re-read it then.

#9. Scale client communication with asynchronous communication

It feels like a catch-22 sometimes, doesn’t it? Of course, the best way to strengthen an agency-client relationship is to give clients more attention. But, at the same time, there’s just not enough space in your calendar for more and more meetings. 

So, what’s the solution? 

Well, I’ve already hinted at it a few times in this article, and it’s got a lot to do with leveraging asynchronous communication

When communicating asynchronously, you exchange back-and-forth conversations with clients without needing either of you to be present simultaneously. 

Email is one example of asynchronous communication. The email exchange doesn’t necessarily have to happen in real-time. You and the other person can read and respond to messages in your own time. On the other hand, a Zoom call is not asynchronous, as it relies on all participants to be present to conduct the conversation. 

Video is another perfect channel for communicating with clients asynchronously. You can use it to:

  • Answer client questions
  • Conduct asynchronous conversations
  • Share status reports and more. 
An example of an agency employee sharing a project report via asynchronous video.

How ZipMessage Helps You Scale Back-and-Forth Client Communication

ZipMessage (disclaimer - this is our tool) is an asynchronous video messaging software that helps companies communicate with asynchronous back-and-forth conversations. 

We’ve built ZipMessage from the ground up to enable agencies and consultants to improve their client communications without having to book more calls or meetings. Because of that, ZipMessage comes packed with amazing features:

  • Threaded coaching conversations. With ZipMessage, you can give each client an official space to exchange messages asynchronously.
  • Screen sharing, camera, and audio: ZipMessage lets you share your screen, use the camera, or do both to send clients progress updates, reports, and check-ins with them, answer their questions, and even run onboarding or offboarding meetings.
  • Privacy: You can set the asynchronous video link as private to ensure that only the people you share it with will see the video.

ZipMessage also integrates with Slack, Zapier, Chrome, and Firefox; you can even embed ZipMessage conversations on your website using a simple HTML embed code.

Looking to leverage asynchronous communication for your agency or consulting practice? Check out ZipMessage, a dedicated async video tool for back-and-forth client communication.

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