We all know the importance of communicating with your web design clients. But the stakes are even higher if you’re building e-commerce websites for clients. Be diligent about WooCommerce client communication and you’ll be better for it.
The Stakes of E-commerce
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: The stakes are higher with e-commerce. Anytime you’re dealing with a WooCommerce website, money is on the line. More so than any static brochure website, when you’re dealing with e-commerce, the site you build is actively and directly making money for your client.
So everything is more urgent: Every second of downtime is costing your client money. WordPress Backups are even more vital. With credit card info involved, WordPress security is even more pressing. There’s a lot more on the line, so how you handle WooCommerce client communication is important.
WooCommerce Client Communication
Good communication can be the difference between a bad day and a good day. It can save a relationship and keep a client, even when it has been a bad day.
Anything you can do to nail down specific and consistent communication practices will only help you. You can’t set up good communication practices in the middle of a crisis. You need to have a system in place ahead of time, be actively using it, and ready to rely on it when things go south.
Good client communication can save your business.
1. Set Expectations
At the beginning of your relationship with a client, you need to set expectations. You need to let them know how you communicate and what they can expect from you.
Now this will happen whether you do it intentionally or not. Your clients will base their expectations on your initial communication. They’ll notice if you respond quickly or not, if you use email or something else, if you directly address their questions or artfully deflect.
Instead of letting clients form their own expectations, tell them what to expect. This doesn’t have to be anything involved, but it should cover the basics:
- Preferred channel: Tell your clients how you prefer to communicate. Email, project management system, chat, text, phone, carrier pigeon—whatever works for you. Let your client know how you prefer to communicate and a few alternate options.
- Standard response time: How quickly do you usually respond? Let clients know what to expect.
- Availability: Are there specific times when you’re available and when you’re not? If you have hard limits, make sure you’re up front about those.
- Emergency contact: Email doesn’t cut it in an emergency. How can a client get a hold of you quickly when something goes wrong?
- Contracts: Having a solid contract can be a powerful and effective way to set expectations and boundaries. Just remember that relationships are more important.
You may need to be flexible. Your clients may not like your preferred communication channel. They might resist. You might want them to use your project management system, but they just keep sending you emails. You can set expectations, but then there’s reality. You’ll have to decide how much you want to conform to your clients and how much you’ll expect them to conform to you.
Once you set expectations, you have to follow through. If you don’t want to answer emails within five minutes, don’t set that expectation. If you don’t want to be available in the middle of the night, don’t answer emails then. You might need to get creative, like setting up a delay on when your email is delivered.
2. Be Proactive
Good communication is proactive, not reactive. You don’t want your clients to sit around wondering what’s happening. In an information vacuum, they’ll assume the worst. You want to do everything you can to dispel the fear of the unknown. You do that with proactive communication.
- Communicate at all stages: There’s a temptation to not communicate until you can deliver a solution. But that leaves your clients wallowing in the unknown. Instead, communicate before, during and after your search for a solution. Let them know you’ve discovered a problem and are working on it. Tell them when you’ve found a solution and are implementing it. And finally, tell them when everything is fixed.
- Ask proactive questions: There are a lot of complications with ecommerce. You really need to understand what your client is trying to accomplish. The more you can ask questions and get to the heart of what they’re doing the better you can understand and serve them.
- Anticipate needs: Good customer service is about anticipating needs. You want to serve up what your clients need before they ask about it. Being a client’s single point of contact and handling technical issues before they know there’s an issue is a good way to be a hero.
With all the updates and backups required to keep an e-commerce site going, being proactive is the best way to do WooCommerce client communication.
Communication can be weird. Just when you think you’ve repeated yourself ad nauseam and there’s no way anyone will listen to you anymore, that’s just when people are starting to hear you.
You need to over-communicate.
- You can’t just ask for something once: In an ideal world, yes, that’s all it should take. But clients are busy. They have other things going on and they forget. Send a follow-up. Then another reminder. Don’t rely on a single request.
- Summarize and repeat: Communication can be challenging, so it helps to summarize what’s been decided and make sure everyone is on the same page. Repeat it, again and again, to make sure everyone understands.
- Say it, don’t assume it: Let your clients know what’s happening. For current projects maybe you use the three-sentence email. For maintenance clients maybe you send a monthly progress report so they see all the things you’re doing. Don’t assume your clients know what you’re doing. Bonus: An update will reinforce the value you provide in your client’s mind.
It may feel like you’re communicating way too much, but you’re not. A client will complain if you’re communicating too much.
Now let’s be realistic with this one. There are some caveats:
- You can over-communicate with marketing messages. There’s a difference between personal emails communicating specifically about your client’s project and mass marketing messages.
- Over-communicate does not mean poorly communicate. If you email your client 10 times in one day, that sounds like you’re being disorganized and reactionary.
- Know your client. Some clients get it the first time. There’s no need to over-communicate with them.
4. Basic Communication Tips
In many ways succeeding at WooCommerce client communication is no different than basic freelance communication. But you need to master the basics because, again, the stakes are higher.
- Different languages: As a developer, remember that you speak a different language. You need to translate your tech-speak for your non-coder clients.
- Context: Nearly every form of communication we use today has some weakness where you’re missing the full context of face-to-face communication. There’s no tone in email. There’s no body language in phone calls. Even video chat can have delays.
- Perspective: Always try to see things from your client’s perspective. It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what the client hears. Especially when things get rocky, pay attention to how you might be miscommunicating.
Keep ‘Em Happy
The ultimate goal of WooCommerce client communication is to keep your clients informed and happy. Make sure they know you’re taking care of the technical side of their e-commerce site so they can focus on their store. Solid, reliable communication is a good way to keep everyone calm and focused. When you know what’s happening, you can focus on doing what’s important and make the right decisions.
Another way to deliver solid info to your WooCommerce clients is with iThemes Sales Accelerator. It’s a new WooCommerce reporting plugin and iOS app that simplifies WooCommerce sales reports. It can be another piece of your client communication that keeps clients informed and happy.
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