Working with clients that are located thousands of miles away and a couple of time zones ahead or behind you, makes you be a bit more creative and go an extra mile when it comes to enhancing your communication. Not that it's an easy thing in the first place. Communication can either kill a relationship or consolidate it, depending on how well mastered the skill is.
Client communication on one-time projects offers a one shot opportunity to establish a good relationship with the Client. Once the project closes, your business will either be recommended to his/her friends and industry peers, or not. Of course, it depends on the quality of your service/product, price-quality relation, etc., but bad communication can devalue even a top-notch product/service. It's the main component of the process, and it can make the biggest difference.
Below I thought to share with you some simple ways to enhance Client communication, that I personally found to build trust with the client and ensure a positive experience with the Agency.
Make sure the client understands the work process and knows what is expected of him/her each step of the way. The majority of people like to be in control, and not knowing what will happen next, or what is expected of them creates a sense of frustration and incertitude that might build some tension in the communication.
Emails are great to communicate, however they are not enough to explain some complex aspects of your project that you are creating for the client. So much of the written communication is misleading, since people have different ways of expressing thoughts and a lot of thoughts/feelings/attitudes are registered not only through word context, but as well through intonation and body language. Therefore, I'd recommend, before commencing a project have a call or two with your client. It will put a good base for the relationship. Moreover, it will create a sense of familiarity with each other's used expressions, intonations, attitudes. It will ease your perception of written messages with the client, thus avoiding a lot of misunderstandings and frustrations.
Skype or Google Hangout is a great way to communicate with clients, since it allows videos as well. And putting a face to a name or a voice is always welcome.
But don't limit yourself only to Emails and Skype. We often use videos to go over functionalities and design features. A great application for that is ScreenFlow. Having the relationship already established, the videos will be a good substitute once the general direction is approved and all you need to do is just go over some details, rather than discuss with the Client.
Your attitude towards the Client will define the way your communication flows. Any negative vibe will slip through your communication, be it verbal or written. Most of us know we should be positive, but sometimes either a neighbor or an incident on the road spoils our day and it transcends to our workplace. Remembering that your Client needs you to solve his/her problems is what has to keep the negative thoughts away. You have to be not only good at solving problems, but you should also be able to do it with a smile on your face.
Breaking down the project into milestones and actions, and setting general timings is very important. However, tension in communication might appear from lack of micro-timings. Having in mind the big picture, now include micro timing in your communication. If you receive an email from the Client but you don't have all the necessary information to reply, don't wait till you have this information- acknowledge the fact that you received the email and include an approximate timing of your reply on the requested tasks. Apply this for everything: small tasks, sending out previews, sending out quotes, writing proposals, etc.
In case you ignored the previous 4 points, sooner or later you will most likely receive an email from your Client expressing some frustrations or negative feedback. However, it is better to set on the right trail sooner than later, so keep a positive attitude and try to react as fast as possible. Having a frustrated client is a bad enough thing, but having a frustrated client, who feels ignored, is even worse. Acknowledging the problems in the work process and together figuring out how to solve them is a great way to win over your Client's trust. Remember, that bumps on the road are part of the experience and it's up to your attitude and responsiveness how well you will deal with them.
Good Luck and On On to Communicating!