“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” That famous line, from the classic Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke, should be posted above the conference room of every business, or at least in plain sight for employees (and executives) to reflect upon before making a client call, developing a business plan or starting a new project. So many companies have the products, services and people in place to be successful, but lack the information (and skills) to properly engage their clients.
Poor communications can cause a lot of damage to your business, from a diminished reputation to a decline in sales—including the loss of both current and prospective clients. Just look at the recent blunder by Netflix as an example. Rather than take their case for splitting the company’s services in two (on demand and physical delivery of videos), executives bugled their remarks and made the move look like a pure money grab.
The issue isn’t always attributed to the message company executives craft and release, but often it comes from failure to appropriately respond to industry concerns or internal issues. Clients and prospects, as well as investors and business partners, want truthful information on your company’s status when rumors and innuendo become public. MSPs don’t need to acknowledge every piece of gossip or minor allegation made against their organization, but they should be honest an open if mistakes are made.
Case in point, Autotask responded within minutes (sometimes seconds) to address outages, even the most minor ones. Messages were sent to clients and employees as soon as the engineering team discovered an issue, with no need to get executive approval. Along with distributing information on the outage quickly so its clients can take appropriate action, the company also puts the problem in proper perspective. For example, Autotask keeps a running total of outages as an annual percent of time, which often shows their systems are operational more than 99.5% of the time (often more). The lesson is to balance the bad with good, whenever possible.
The Three Methods of Business Communication
What’s the best way to keep your company front of mind with clients and business partners? Your needs may vary by the industry and your customer needs, but every MSP should have a weekly, monthly and quarterly goal to ensure they don’t drop the ball. Do you schedule the following types of communications with your clients?
Face to Face
How often do you or your employees meet with decision makers? Nothing is more important than one-on-one discussions with those who sign your checks and long-term contracts. If the client company is large with multiple decision makers, be proactive and ensure each knows the status of their business systems and how improvements can be made. More importantly, check in to see what challenges they are facing at that point in time, and any they expect in the coming months. Make sure they know you are always looking for new ways to help them be successful, since both businesses depend on it.
Do you share performance reports with your customers? If not, it’s a good idea to schedule time and review details of the issues that concern them the most. Some may not know how often your team is used to ensure their systems are online, or how many calls their employees make to the helpdesk. It may be as simple as reviewing a single page report with diagrams showing their key systems, with supporting details on additional pages (if needed). As long as the information isn’t confidential, share it with their line employees as well to help build support for your services.
Other regular communications
In the day of social media and text messaging, the old fashioned note or letter often gets forgotten. Send decision makers (and other influencers) an occasional thank you note for their support of your organization, or to highlight something they helped you accomplish (even if it was to their benefit). Send them a short note to acknowledge a positive action, perhaps calling out one of their employees who helped them identify an issue that your team was able to correct.
Remember, your relationship with a client is just that; a relationship. The bonds can be enhanced by using different means of communication, beyond email and discussions. Surprise them (and yourself) by creating new methods to keep in contact, including Skype, social media and even sending them a video of work you’ve done for them.
Putting together a monthly or quarterly publication doesn’t have to be hard. Just collect two or three pieces of company news and add in a couple of tips for your clients. The hardest part is ensuring the email addresses are updated and the information is loaded in the publishing program correctly. Of course, you can always print a page of news and mail it physically, but that method makes it harder for recipients to open web links.
Are you using all or any of these methods of communications to improve your client relationships? If not, make sure to put someone in charge of building a plan and ensuring it’s executed effectively!
On the note of communications, if your looking for methods to improve your Marketing and Sales efforts be sure to register for the upcoming MSP High Scalability seminar. The event will be held on October 21st from 3 to 5 pm ET. Click here to learn more