Some clients expect you to email them progress pictures starting months before their event while other clients don’t really want to hear from you unless something has gone terribly wrong. Figuring out how much to communicate with clients can be a tricky thing because of this – you don’t want to drive them crazy but you also don’t want them stressing out that you’ve fallen off the planet. In truth, a lot of communication is about knowing what sort of client you are dealing with. The more you deal with the public the more you will be able to spot the ones who need a lot of hand holding. In my experience the best way to deal with communication needs is (big surprise!) to communicate what you plan on doing about communication.
This is literally you telling the client exactly what to expect when it comes to hearing from you. Here are some examples of how to do that:
- “Once the deposit is paid, you won’t hear from me until 14 days before the event, when I’ll confirm numbers. If I need anything else in the meantime I’ll be in touch.”
- “You will hear from me 3 days before the event,”
- “I will be in touch one month before the event and at that meeting we’ll confirm flavours and colour.”
- “Thanks so much for enquiring with My Cake Company. Emails are responded to within 48 hours.”
- “The kitchen is a busy place, so if you don’t get a response within 24 hours of your email, we invite you to call us instead.”
- “There is a long time frame between now and your event, but don’t stress about not hearing from me as there is nothing happening on your order during that time. A month before the event we’ll be getting in touch.”
- “Thanks for your email – we respond to emails on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. If today is one of those, you can expect a response shortly. If it’s a different day, please allow 48 hours before contacting us again. If your matter is urgent, please call us on xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
Especially if you work in weddings, customers can get a bit antsy if they don’t hear from you when you said they would, so whatever your communications policy is, you need to stick to it. If you said you’d call a month before, then in your calendar there should be a reminder to call that person on that date. This way you don’t forget and they can’t claim you did not do as you said you would. This is also super helpful for those demanding, hold-my-hand-and-call-me-sweetie clients. If they are constantly calling and asking for progress pictures before you’ve even bought the butter then you’ve got your earlier communication rules to lean on. The thing to remember in that case is that they just want to be HEARD. They want you to acknowledge their worry and concern, and put their mind at ease, like this:
- “Hi Jennifer. Let me assure you that everything here is under control with your order. I know you’re excited and a little anxious about it, so as I mentioned you’ll hear from us a month before the event and we’ll confirm the details again then. If I’ve got any reason to get in touch before then I will but in the meantime, you can rest assured we’re getting things done. I’m really excited about creating this for you!”
Generally speaking, human beings like familiarity, reassurance and structure – so your communication has to give them all that. If you’ve got a communication situation that’s out of control (daily phone calls, endless emails etc) put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself (or if you’re brave – ask them!) what they need to feel like they’ve been listened to, enough so that it stops the endless calls. Maybe they are calling a lot because they DON’T feel that reassurance so each call is another attempt to get that. Maybe they are just highly strung. The important thing to remember is that you’ve got a communication plan in place, you’ve told them about it and you’ve stuck to it.
Clients can be like toddlers and yell “MOM!!” louder and louder until they’ve been acknowledged, so do as you would with a toddler and respond so that they know when you’re going to be free. If nothing else responding gets you enough time so you can finish peeing / piping and THEN give them a real answer.