Have you ever been in a conversation where you’re communicating you’re point and the other person is communicating their point, and you find yourself getting increasingly irritated and frustrated because you’re talking about the same thing, but speaking a completely different language?
Have you ever shared something important with another person, and they respond with some comeback that makes you say, “Yes, that’s what I just said!”
Have you ever been listening to someone explain a topic only to be left confused because they use a completely different vocabulary than you do?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.
Clear communication is a skill that is developed over time, and without it, professional conversations between service providers and clients can devolve into a frustrating and confusing experience. That’s why one of the very first things we do with new clients is ensure we’re both speaking the same project language and using the same vocabulary.
Here are 3 important tips to empower you to communicate clearly with clients and equip clients to communicate clearly with you:
1. Create A Common Vocabulary
It’s inevitable that you and your clients are going to use different words to speak about the same thing:
- You say navigation menu, they say tabs
- You say hero image, they say banner
- You say payment link, they say ecommerce
- You say widget, they say box
- You say post, they say blog
Most of the time, it’s simple enough to figure out what the client is saying, but sometimes the different language used can cause confusion. For example when speaking about adding social media to a website, is the conversation about icons that link to social profiles, social sharing buttons for blog posts, or actually displaying social media content on the website?
To make communication between you and your client as easy as possible, you need a shared, common vocabulary. At the start of the project, provide your client with educational tools and resources to help them not only learn the correct vocabulary, but better understand how to communicate project wants and needs, as well as revisions and feedback throughout the project.
At Bourn Creative, we do this by giving the client a comprehensive educational guide that walks the client through each and every part of a website, educating them on what the correct terms are, how and when they are used, and even some best practices to keep in mind while we’re working on the design and development of their website.
2. Explain Terms And Technical Jargon
Websites and blogs, ecommerce platforms, membership sites, courses, and learning management systems are technical, complex, and for those who don’t work in this industry daily, overwhelming and confusing. There are a lot of terms and jargon that as service providers, we don’t think twice about using, but often make no sense to clients. Maybe the first few times they hear a word they don’t understand, they ask what it means, but when it happened repeatedly, they stop asking — and that’s when trouble begins brewing.
As a service provider, your job is to make the process and easy and simple for the client as possible, and part of that is making sure you’re either using language they understand, or teaching them the jargon and terms they need to understand as website owners.
At Bourn Creative, we do this by reminding prospects that when they receive our contract, there may be terms in it that they don’t understand. We show empathy by sharing that websites are highly-technical and they may not be, and that almost every client asks questions. This helps eliminate nervousness associated with asking for clarification or explanations by letting the client know that they are not alone. We also provide a glossary of terms that lists all sorts of website-related technical jargon and terms and explains what each one means in simple, plain English.
By giving your clients the tools they need to learn the language associated with all aspects of their website, you’re empowering, enabling, and equipping them to speak clearly and confidently about their site in the future, with you, with their host, or with any other service provider.
3. Provide Context And Eliminate Overwhelm
Most client education is done at the start of a project, providing tools and resources that help them become great clients, make them feel comfortable and confident in their communications, and give them caring support to guide them through the process. But when education is only done at the start of a project:
- Clients experience overwhelm because they must learn and understand everything at one time, rather than at the right time, in context.
- You miss out on additional opportunities to add value throughout the client relationship.
At Bourn Creative, we provide educational tools, resources, and support throughout the project, so we’re providing the right help at the right time — this means the educational materials provided are relevant to where the project is at the time of receipt and have context in relations to what the client is seeing and experiencing.
By providing educational materials specifically related to the design process, feedback for revisions, and design approval during the actual design phase of a project, we’re meeting the client where they are at. This helps reduce overwhelm, confusion, and frustration. It also boosts clients’ comfort levels, reduces revisions and change orders, and practically eliminates the, “I forgot you told me that,” situations.
4. Ask Questions To Clarify
No matter how much education and training you provide clients, there are still going to be situations that arise where you either don’t understand what they’re talking about or aren’t sure what they are saying and what what you are understanding are the same. In these scenarios, it’s up to you as the service provider to dig deeper and peel back the onion.
You’ve got to ask questions like:
- Now X means different things to different people, what does X mean to you?
- Can you explain that further or provide more details?
- When you say Y, are you talking about Z?
Or if you simply need to confirm that what they said and what you heard are in alignment, you can ask:
- So what you’re saying is… (and then wait for their confirmation)
Empower And Equip Clients
Clear communication is all about empowering and equipping clients to communicate confidently and comfortably with you in a way that you both can understand. With a common vocabulary, an understanding of technical jargon, education in context, and simple clarifying questions, you pave the way for a frictionless, positive client experience.