There are few things more frustrating in life than feeling like people just don’t ‘get’ you and that you’re not being heard. This is especially true in our working lives where the success or failure of projects depends on effective communication and collaboration. Nowhere is this need for effective communication more important than in the relationship between agencies and their clients. Regardless of whether you are client-side or agency-side, learning to communicate well can help gel your teams and ensure projects run smoothly.
Be Open And Empathetic
Having an open and empathetic approach can go a long way to helping facilitate meaningful conversation. This can be easier said than done especially if you’ve had difficult experiences in the past. If you have a strong opinion try to set it aside and keep an open mind, this will help you to properly address any concerns being raised.
If you come up against ‘stubbornness’ then it may be that the person you are talking to is basing their viewpoint on information which is different or incomplete relative to yours. Setting aside your viewpoint and taking an open approach can help you see where the other person or group is coming from and will give you a better understanding of their thought process.
Practice Active Listening
- Pay attention to the tone of voice and the body language of others in the group, whether they are part of your own team, or the team of the agency or client you are meeting with. Think about what topics they are placing emphasis on or keep circling back to as these are likely to be things they consider high priority.
- If you can see their point then acknowledge it. A simple ‘I see what you mean’ can help ease any tensions and also shows that you are on the same page, or at least are able to validate and empathise with their opinions.
- Try to clarify points rather than making assumptions; if you think you may have gotten the wrong end of the stick then there is absolutely no harm in making sure you’re all on the same page!
Help Each Other To Stay On Track
Working toward a common goal tends to go more smoothly when all the teams involved are able to stay on track. If you are agency-side then that means giving your clients enough time to think about and discuss their overall aims as well as the finer details of the project. An experienced agency team will get to know their clients’ needs in depth, so if you’re a client it’s important to be upfront and honest about your expectations. Whether you are agency or client-side, take the time to make sure everyone involved with the project is on-board and has a clear idea of what is expected to happen and when.
Most projects will need to change in some way at some point, whether that is something as small as the client deciding on the need for different functionality early on or the agency needing to suggest a different approach than originally planned. Whatever the circumstances of the change, make sure that everyone involved is aware of it in a timely fashion and how it is expected to affect the project in terms of cost or time frame. This will give agency and client-side teams enough time to make sure the alterations are accounted for and discussed as necessary. Help each other to stay on track by ensuring all issues and potential changes are clearly communicated early on and that there is a record of the communication like an email chain or detailed notes on the conversation.
Tools Of The Trade
Most agencies are familiar with tools such as Slack, Trello and Google Docs and use them internally to share ideas, schedules, documents and more. They can also be a convenient and reliable way for clients and agencies to maintain contact and raise support requests if the need arises. In the project planning phase, make sure everyone knows where to direct queries and issues throughout the project.
Don’t worry, no one is expecting you to touch your toes or do the splits. Agencies and clients alike however can benefit from a relationship that offers some mutual flexibility. This involves a certain level of trust and transparency, so if you feel it may be a client or agency-side issue then be sure to raise it in the planning stage and discuss how it can be mitigated.