How to manage your client communication?

How to manage your client communication?

Verena Scheffczyk

Friday, 18 November 2022

A summary of best practices about how to communicate effectively with your customers and common pitfalls that you should try to advoid.

Posted in:


Why it matters 

We often focus on our technical skill set and how to get better and build faster with no-code tools. Sharing this knowledge within our team is great and we should continue doing this. However, experience has told us that it is not good enough to make clients happy and to differentiate ourselves on the market. 

While the technical part of every project is crucial and it is important to develop best practices for our team, client communication gets easily underestimated and is not really a skill that has been taught. However, looking back at the root causes of project issues or failures, we discovered that a lot came down to poor communication or misunderstandings. We therefore decided to start documenting best practices and learnings that we gained from our client experiences so far. 

Please note: The list below is a starting point and we encourage everyone to add their learnings so that we can collect a more comprehensive knowledge base for how to master client communications in different situations.


Our 10 best practices for you

1- Keep your customer informed about the “progress” of your work. Frequent updates matter to develop a trusted relationship.

The emphasis lies on the word “progress”. We often tend to wait till a task is completed before we get back to the customer. While this might work for some people, more often we learn that clients felt “left alone” in case there hasn’t been any other touch point than the weekly call. Clients who reported a really positive experience mentioned that their developer proactively sent regular updates via Skunkworks. Even if there was a delay or they needed to get more information, keeping them informed about the progress (not only the end result) made them feel part of the journey and contributed to a more trusted relationship.

Recommended Action Steps:

- Schedule time in your calendar and make it a habit to give clients short project updates till the next catch-up call.

- Keep updates less technical and more precise (find out more details about this further below in the article)

- Explore loom videos or images to make some of your updates more visual

- Adding new conversations for the weekly updates might help. You can make a reference to the milestone of the roadmap or what has been discussed in the catch-up call (please find a good example of our team below) 

2- Less technical and more precise communication matters

No matter whether you are giving an update via Skunkworks or whether you are presenting your work in a call, keep the explanations as simple as you can. While some clients might ask for technical updates specifically, the majority doesn’t really care or is rather confused by too many details. In fact, the majority of founders we work with are non technical and they are rather interested in the “what” (the app progress) than in the “how” (what you did to fix the problem or come up with a solution). We don’t want to say that details or technical explanations don’t matter. They do but they are not always relevant for your client. Always put yourself in the perspective of your customers to understand what is important to them. 

A good way to practise short, simple and “high level” communication is to explain an issue to someone who was not part of the project. How long does it take them to understand what you are talking about? Structuring your thoughts and reducing the volume of information to what is needed is a difficult skill but one that is super critical and can be learned along the way.

Tip: If you need your client to answer a couple of questions, it makes sense to add numbers to your questions, so that it is easier for them to reply. 


3- Visualise the progress of your app

First of all - why does it matter to visualise the progress of your app? The main reason for this is to save you time along the way! The weekly catch-up calls aim to make sure we understand how happy the client is with what you have worked on. Are we going in the right direction? Do they like how you have implemented the milestone or did we overlook something critical? Knowing this earlier helps to make iterations before we continue. In fact, the worst thing that can happen is that a client figures that they don’t like how the app is built during the Smoke Test Call. This is not only frustrating for them, but also for you because there will be a long list of tickets with changes that cause more work on your end. So the ultimate goal of every call is to figure out whether we are heading in the right direction and ask the client for direct feedback if you are not sure about what they think. 

How to visualize your progress with the app?

We recommend presenting the progress of your app in the preview mode of the bubble editor. Clients usually don’t understand the backend or the workflows of your project, i.e. showing them how their app looks makes it easier for them to get a picture of the current version. You can refer to the milestones of the roadmap and guide the client through this particular part. You can then ask for their feedback so that you can consider this before moving forward.

4- Communicate issues internally before informing your client

There is probably no project with no issues. Be it an unknown API, a feature you haven’t integrated before, slow performance, or an unrealistic deadline - every project will probably go along with some challenges, and it is crucial to find out how to best tackle them. While every issue is different and there is no generic answer for how to solve your specific situation, a lot of the problems can be fixed by discussing possible solutions within our team. What is more difficult to fix however is to lose the trust of your client. This can easily happen when telling them too many issues or concerns with the project. When you don’t feel comfortable with something they ask for, tell them that you get back to them. There is no need to answer everything directly.

Recommended Action:

Make use of working together with us. There is always a project lead assigned to you, so you are not alone in handling problems. Before reaching out to your client, contact your project lead to discuss a solution.

5- Keep the communication in Skunkworks

Some clients might try to add you to their internal communication channels (e.g. Slack, Trello, etc.) or simply try to get answers from you via email. Some even tried to reach out to some of our team members via Whatsapp or any social media channel. Unfortunately, this is not in our control, but we can all contribute to handle the situation by redirecting them back to Skunkworks. 

Please note: Responding to their individual channels is a signal to your client that you accept to be reached everywhere. Experience told us that this is not a good idea because clients might send you too many follow up messages about bugs or whatever they want you to work on at any time. This is out of our control, so in order to jump in and help you out, we need to redirect them back to our communication channel. 

6- Make sure you have a professional setup in client calls

This might sound obvious and it probably is. However, we still get queries from clients telling us that they couldn’t really understand their developer or that the internet connection was poor. For example, an air conditioner might not seem loud but can cause several background noises. Preparing a proper setup matters and contributes to a good and trusted client relationship

Please note: Clients also notice your video background. Keep an eye on your location or add the virtual Million Labs background in the Skunkworks video call.

7- Talk about implications of requested changes before doing them

As most of our clients are non-technical, they often do not understand the implications of a change they ask for. We all know that sometimes there are changes that seem small, but that are really time-consuming to implement. More often than not, your client is not aware of it. So before doing the change, inform your client about the implications to avoid any frustration.

Recommended Action Steps:

- Whenever you feel like a change is taking a lot of time, or is causing trouble in the database, talk to your customer before doing it. Your client relies on your input and by knowing the implications, you can discuss what makes most sense and what to leave out.

- If you and your client decide to make the changes, let them know that this is difficult to revert. 


8- Set up an agenda for your calls

Client meetings can easily end up being quite unstructured, jumping around among different points or in endless talking without having clear action steps. Our recommendation is to set up an agenda for your weekly catch-up meetings. In that way, expectations of the calls are more clear and it is easier for you to manage them.

Below is a recommendation for how to handle weekly catch-up calls during the “build” phase of MVP projects:

- Quick Casual Catch Up: Before we start diving into the project, we always recommend to start a bit casual and create a good atmosphere among you and your client. Ideally you can refer what a client said in one of your previous calls. Let’s say they told you about a new project launch or a challenge they face, it is a smart move to make a note and follow up on this in your next catch-up. This shows them that you care and that you remember what they said. Example: You mentioned that you will give a presentation last week. How did that go?

- Present the milestones of the week: 

To get started, you can then open the “roadmap” in the home section of Skunkworks. If there was a follow-up from the previous call, we recommend mentioning this first and addressing iterations from what has been discussed. You could then redirect to the current week (here Week 2) and highlight the milestones. For this step, we recommend to visualise the progress of your app (see point 3 in this article) and guiding the client through the feature that has been added.

- Ask the client for feedback: This makes sure that we are going in the right direction or if anything is missing, we can make a note of it.

- Outlook for next week: Tell the client what you will be working on next week and what are the action steps or tasks that follow from this call. 

9- Communicate your availabilities in advance

Do you plan to have some days off or are simply not available every day because of other work? Please tell your client in advance before you are offline for a few days. The same is true for your general availability for this project. Do you have specific times scheduled when you work on this project or are available for more spontaneous calls? That’s great, and super helpful for your client to know in advance to avoid any misunderstandings or communication delays.

10- Set limitations. Too much goodwill is not rewarded.

Probably everyone knows the situation when a client asks for something that was not included in the initial scope. This does not refer to smaller changes since there will always be some parts of the application that cannot be 100% specified before. However, if it relates to bigger functions such as adding payments, chats, calendars or even huge database changes, please discuss this internally before doing the changes. This does not only make sure that you get paid for the additional time but also signals your client that you are confident about the current project scope.

Please note: When just proceed with the tasks, clients might always add more features and start to take it for granted that you do the extra work. Experience told us that it is worth setting limitations and showing that we are clear about what was the scope and what would be additional features. Please always contact your project lead to handle this before implementing the feature. 

Launch Your Startup Fast and Affordably! Our no-code approach is perfect for non-tech founders. With a simple 3-step process: START, LAUNCH, GROW, join over 1400 startups we've successfully launched. Start your journey today!