Let’s face it, client-assistant relationships are not always the easiest to maintain. This holds especially true when factoring in the remote, digital nature of the work we VAs perform for our clients. Text on a computer screen is unable to convey inflection and intonation within our messages, and maintaining continuous, clear communications is no mean feat. It’s not just sending off an email containing the word “done” in regards to a task. There are still many other pieces that need to fall into place.
Communication should not have to be requested. As assistants, we ensure the client doesn’t have to ask about the status of an task in order to receive feedback. Correspondence should not simply follow the pattern of a tennis match. We don’t wait until a request is made before sending an update.
In order to stay on top of it all, we use multiple methods to stay in contact. While email tends to be preferred by most, talking over the phone or via Skype are also popular. Often the client prefers the immediacy of having someone to listen to their ideas, acting as a sounding board and filter. These extra steps facilitate a better understanding of the client by the VA, and vice versa. Once the task has been assigned, the VA then repeats back the information, as understood by him or her. This is a crucial step, one that can be easily overlooked by some. This gives the client the opportunity to clarify any misinterpreted information, averting possible missteps down the road.
Once the preferred method of contact is established, the VA can then update the client based upon the selected criteria. Maybe the client would like an update twice per week, or perhaps as each project milestone is reached. And then, some clients wish to be contacted only as projects are completed. Each client is unique, but we recognize the desire to stay informed is universal.
Despite the cliché, we strive to be proactive instead of reactive. For instance, a newly-acquired client had been frustrated by the lack of interaction with her previous employees. Knowing her desire to stay informed, we did our best to ensure she was updated during various tasks, whether or not we were asked. Updates sent at previously decided upon intervals and prompt response times went a long way to easing the client’s mind. Small efforts were made across the board to keep the client apprised of her multiple tasks, even if it was as simple as an extra “PS” at the end of an email to let the client know a given task would be completed by the end of the day.
These were not huge changes, but rather baby steps. As the adage by Robert Collier goes, “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” It is about modest changes and tweaks to our daily habits, a gradual process which hones our business practices. It does not require leaps and bounds to make life easier for the client, merely hops and skips.
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