With modern technology, very little communication needs to be done in person. However, relationships have always been a crucial factor in any business. A deal can easily fall apart in the face of misunderstandings, miscommunications and other problems.
I come up against this issue often in my custom home business. I may only see a client in person a few times between the planning meeting and the end of construction. Our relationship may be mostly remote, so I have to take steps to make sure the client always feels heard and respected.
Here are three strategies you can use, depending on the client’s preferences, to nurture better relationships remotely:
1. Choose one form of communication.
It’s good to give your clients more than one way to contact you. However, when you’re communicating with clients by email, chat apps and text messages simultaneously, it’s easy for important requests to be missed.
You can solve this problem by choosing a primary communication channel during the onboarding process. Ask your clients what form of communication they would prefer, and make sure to stick to it as much as possible.
This may require some flexibility. Clients may request one form and then choose to ping you on other services. When this happens, roll with their preferences but try to guide them toward one service to avoid confusion.
2. Establish what’s most important to them early.
You used to have a lot more time to work out what was most important to the client. Now, with far fewer in-person meetings, it’s essential to get to the point as early as possible.
Your first onboarding meeting with your client should cover their motivations and highest priorities. For example, in my business, clients may care more about getting the house completed on time than about keeping any elements that are hit by delays.
Asking these questions in the first meeting allows you to craft your electronic communications the right way for the rest of the relationship. Electronic messages that speak to specific needs feel much less impersonal.
3. Make in-person meetings more interesting.
You may only have a few chances to meet your client while you’re working together. These crucial chances to make an impression should not be wasted. Consider relocating your meetings to friendlier settings than an office conference room.
For example, you could have your in-person meetings at restaurants, cafés, taverns or recreational destinations (such as golf courses). Where you meet should depend heavily on the needs of your client.
Another option is to let the client choose the meetup location. They may feel a lot more comfortable in a space they already know.
Remote communication with your clients doesn’t need to feel impersonal. With some minor changes to your policies, you can build stronger relationships during the time that you have.
Choose one communication form so that electronic conversations are well-organized and accessible. Establish what’s most important to them early so future electronic messages can speak to their needs. Finally, make the most of the limited opportunities you have for meetings. Make them occasions that are entertaining and comforting for your clients.
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