Improving Client Communication Skills

May 5, 2015

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I have technically competent people working for me. When a performance number is off, they dig through until they figure out what’s wrong. They produce outstanding reports and information for clients. However, they don’t communicate well. Clients describe a “void” to me; they will call to ask questions about an issue and might wait days to hear back. I know that my staff is working on finding an answer, and that’s why they don’t respond. But the clients don’t know this, and it makes for a poor client experience. Any tips on improving the response time and communication?

Stanley G.

 

Dear Stanley,

Sounds to me like you have a classic problem. The behavioral style of your staff is great for being analytical, thorough and accurate, but it is not good when it comes to verbalizing and interacting with others.

Many technical people – operations, analyst, compliance, etc – in this business are strong at the details and making sure the pieces fit together, but they put the emphasis on the task (the “doing”) and not on the telling. You can’t rewire people, but you can take a couple of steps to shift this problem to a more positive outcome for your clients. A few thoughts:

  1. Set standards. Most technical people are very good at the rules. Set a standard response time. Establish the steps the team must take. For example, require that they write an email verifying they are working on the problem, send an update no more than 48 hours later or get a final solution by no more than 4 business days.
  2. Insert a more communicative go-between. Identify someone who could play a middle-person role. They would talk with the client and work with internal staff, so they can communicate back and forth about progress and issues. This person would need to speak both “languages” but would not be required to actually find the answers.
  3. Separate the technical people. Some are likely a bit better than others at communicating so don’t allow everyone to have a client-facing role. Keep some behind the scenes.

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