In an increasingly competitive world, a client-supplier relationship can be an exciting opportunity for growth, innovation and development.
When communication issues aren’t addressed though, dealing with clients and suppliers can unfortunately be an extremely frustrating exercise, something we’ve all experienced I’m sure.
Whilst challenging relationships might allow us to really grow and allow us to learn, here are some of the ways to avoid any unnecessary complications in a world where we have access to so many different communication channels.
1. Set Clear Expectations at the Start
The way we work with clients may differ depending on the work we do, and is no doubt influenced by varying personalities and work styles. Whilst the importance of developing a rapport with a client may make a frank conversation slightly awkward early on in the relationship, setting out very clear expectations from the beginning will help to prevent disappointment and resentment down the line. To make sure that clear expectations are set out, listen to the client’s needs carefully. This will allow you to be able to respond appropriately, even if it means you might need to adjust your proposal and timelines.
2. Discuss the Fine Print Upfront
It might be tempting to gloss over the inevitable fine print that comes with contracts, proposals and cost estimates, it can be helpful to go through any legal considerations upfront to avoid any unnecessary communciation issues at a later stage. It can be painful to read extended legal documents, but being able to communicate any important considerations can create a productive relationship that allows any issues to be discussed immediately. Outlining everything from the beginning can also prevent any confusion when it comes to payment terms, timelines and what goals and outcomes need to be achieved.
3. Don’t Delay Communication
As a supplier you can create a more productive relationship by being proactive about communication, especially when things are not going according to plan. Whilst it might seem easier to wait until absolutely necessary to reveal that there has been a delay, the truth is that being honest about setbacks can save you time and prevent frustration and unmet expectations. Checking in with progress updates, to assure the client that everything is on track, can go a long way to ensuring good long-term relationships.
4. Arrange for Regular Meetings
In our increasingly digital workplace, it can be very easy to communicate solely via Whatsapp and Skype chat. Using these can be very effective for quick communication, but to really be able to deliver it’s important to have one-on-one time with a client, to really be able to engage with them. Depending on your location and type of work, this might need to involve video or telephone calls. Whichever technology you use, this kind of consistent communication is important, as it allows you to immediately gauge the client’s reaction and tone by seeing them face to face or hearing their voice.
5. Value All Kinds of Feedback
While dealing with conflict and miscommunication is inevitable, the value we gain from learning from these experiences is invaluable, as long as we are open to feedback, both negative and positive. Learning to communicate productively with clients will very possibly be a learning curve every single time, but by being able to respond to their needs and adjust to their preferred communication style, we can be sure to develop and maintain strong and mutually beneficial client relationships.