6 ways to improve client communication with your agency

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Without clients, an agency is nothing.

That's why client communication is so important—it's a bridge between you and your clients. Great communication builds relationships and trust and can turn clients into lifelong advocates for your agency.

With studies showing 70% of customers tie their experiences with businesses to how they’re treated, it’s obvious that agencies should be looking for ways to make every interaction count. 

So, what should your agency do to improve client communication? 

Here are six client communication best practices you should steal:

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1. Be clear about how you will communicate

Before you can even think about improving client communication, you should standardize it. 

Look at how you talk with your clients now. Do you have a plan? Or are your communications spread out across Slack chats, emails, and WhatsApp messages?

Standardizing client communication sounds bureaucratic but it’ll improve how you talk, allows you to set expectations, and keeps everything organized. Creating a plan involves three pieces: 

Tech: What channels will you use to communicate with clients? How many are too many? What channels do they prefer? What tool is easiest for your clients and your business to collaborate and share documents? 

Team: Your team needs to know how they should communicate with clients, what channels will be used (and which ones won't), and what expectations to set. How long will clients wait for a reply? How should they give feedback to clients?

Process: Set some guidelines around communication and etiquette. Standardize everyday communications with your clients, like how long video meetings should take and what tone your team’s emails should use.

Communicating well with clients comes down to your toolkit 

As working from home and hybrid work becomes more common, agencies must adapt to meeting and collaborating with clients virtually.

Doing this successfully requires the right tools

Investing in messaging apps and work management software allows your team to enhance client collaboration. With these tools, your team can get feedback from clients, share documents, and set up video calls in one place instead of jumping from email to phone to spreadsheet. 

Want to learn more about why work management software is so important for collaborating with clients? Check out the guide on how to empower a collaborative culture with your clients:

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2. Always use positive (not negative) language 

Clients pick up on everything you say to them, especially when it’s negative. 

Often, we don't even realize we're using negative language until it's too late. Let's say you're trying to help a client locate a project file. Instead of using negative language like: 

"That's the wrong file...you need the one called X!"

Use positive language instead: 

“This file is the one you’re looking for.”

Switching out negative language for positive phrases can work in a variety of daily interactions. For example, if your client comes up with an idea that you don’t fully understand, or is clearly annoyed about progress, try using phrases like: 

Can you expand on your idea?  I totally understand where you’re coming from. There's definitely more work to do. How can we expand on this progress? 

The tone of voice you use with clients is also super important with how they perceive you. With more communication now done using text, it pays to be careful: 

  • Don’t be harsh: You may think it's authoritative, but it can come across as mean and disrespectful. 

  • Don’t be aloof: You may be busy, but clients can misinterpret this as not caring about their needs.

  • Don’t be controlling: Taking charge is good, but don't be over-controlling. Failing to give clients space to give their opinions can suck the air out of your relationship.

  • Don’t be shy: You may be afraid of treading on the client's toes, but being timid about ideas and the direction of a project can portray inexperience.

Remember: your language is more than just words; it's your body language and how you behave toward your customers as well. In fact, 38% of communication comes down to the voice and tone you use.

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Leading with positivity in every client interaction can make it easier to understand each other and solve problems. If you feel that what you’re trying to say can’t be conveyed via text, hop on a video or phone call.

It's always better to ensure conversational nuances and empathy come through than not.

3. Focus on building connections using empathy

First comes trust, then comes lifetime customers.

We all know the stat—acquiring new customers costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more than retaining existing ones. That’s why building connections and turning clients into lifetime customers is crucial to an agency’s success.

Is it possible? Of course. But only with good communication. 

Imagine a client coming to you and saying:

"This phase of the project was supposed to be delivered last Friday. It's now Wednesday. What is the holdup?!"  

Don’t shut them down by saying something: 

"I know that it's late, but we're swamped. It'll be finished as soon as possible."

It doesn’t show that you care about the client or their problem. Instead, use empathy and put your agency into your client’s shoes.

The late delivery is not their fault, and it's essential to recognize that. Once you take responsibility, it's easier to lower the heat of the conversation. 

Try replying with something like this:

"I realize the late delivery is on our end and please know we have put extra creatives to work on the finishing tasks to get it done. You can expect these final pieces to be delivered to you by the end of tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to take another look at the rest of the project to make sure there are enough resources to deliver without any future delays."

Using empathy in a reply ticked three boxes by:

Taking responsibility for the problem Addressing the client’s main issue (when will my project be delivered?) Calming their fears about future work by promising to troubleshoot any problems, so there are no more delays

Good relationships aren’t easy to build. It’s done by fixing problems, taking responsibility, and showing your clients that you’re up for the job. 

4. Don’t just listen—actively listen

There’s a difference between listening to clients and actively listening to them. 

Too often companies forget client relationships need buy-in from both sides. An agency's job is more than pitching, signing a contract, and diving into a project without any input from the client. 

This problem isn’t limited to businesses, either. As a society, we’re really bad at retaining information and only remember 25-50% of the conversations we have with one another. 

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Overcome this by turning client communication into a two-way street

Actively listening to your clients, hearing their concerns, and finding ways to solve their problems together will go a long way to building a trusting relationship. Start by:

  • Listening intently to every conversation you have with your clients and sticking to one subject at a time—take notes if you need to.

  • Using body language to show them that you’re listening. Nodding your head, saying “yes!” or replying to their ideas with agency experiences reinforces your interest in what they’re saying.

  • Asking questions to dig deeper. You should always try to get more information out of your client than they offer up, especially in early meetings. This shows that you're invested in their goals and want to help them succeed.

These small changes turn your agency into a sponge for your clients. By questioning their problems and asking for more information, you go beyond surface-level concerns and get a deeper understanding of what they want from you. 

And there are serious benefits for your agency too. Understanding your client's needs will reduce the chance of wires getting crossed and goals being misaligned once a project kicks off.

5. Get comfortable with pushing back

Disagreeing with a client doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. 

On the flip side, it can start fruitful conversations about the best way to move forward with projects. Once a client knows you're comfortable pushing back on their ideas, they'll get the confidence to do the same—and this is how the best working relationships are formed. 

Now, pushing back on a client doesn't mean being disrespectful or insulting about their suggestions. But it's crucial to step in if you think their ideas will hurt them or their overall goal. If this happens, you should: 

  • Gently tell them that you disagree 

  • Offer information and data to back up why you think differently

  • Counter with a suggestion on another path to take

The alternative is that you become a “yes” agency that agrees with everything your client has to say, even if you know it will take them down the wrong path. In the end, following through with bad ideas won't just end badly for your client—it'll reflect poorly on your agency. 

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One way that helps you push back is by adopting project management software built specifically for agencies, that can easily detail your efforts. By staying organized with Teamwork, you track every billable minute to keep deliverables on time and on budget.

What does this really do?

It gives your agency the upper hand in saying no. By having detailed information on project budgeting or hours, it's easier to prove why your team might not agree.

Get comfortable pushing back when you talk to your client—just make sure you do it positively and constructively, so it doesn't hurt your relationship. 

6. Change your style to suit different personalities

Agencies come across all types of clients—some are brash with big ideas, others are shy and want to lean on your expertise. 

In our personal lives, we adjust the way we talk to different people depending on their personalities. Take this same energy and apply it to your client communication. 

If you have clients who are larger than life and bring loads of energy to your meetings, try and match their enthusiasm. Matching their positivity and eagerness to work on a project together will show them that you are on board with helping them achieve their goals. 

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Some clients are more closed off and want you to take the lead with a project. Luckily, you can invite your clients to join Teamwork and even set restricted settings so stakeholders don't get too involved.

And then, there are the clients who want to keep their interactions dry. They don't want to be your friend or have a deep relationship with your agency—they just have a project timeline and the work to get done. 

Recognizing that each of these clients requires a different approach—and adjusting your style as early in the relationship as possible—is crucial. 

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