Communicating with clients

The way we communicate with clients is especially important because much of our communication takes place via email and over the phone. It’s always preferable to meet a client in person at least once, as meeting face to face helps to build stronger relationships, although of course this is not always possible.

Below is a list of the ways we connect with clients, but whatever channel we use it’s always important to be friendly, honest and open and to be mindful of the language we use in any communication and how the client may receive this.

Email

Much of our communication with clients is via email. Please read our email guidelines for best practice when writing emails.

Phone

We take turns manning the main phone line through Soho 66. If you will be manning the phone line we will send you a short video with instructions, so you know how to ensure calls are also directed to your (work) mobile.

There are a couple of articles in The Granary that may be useful to have handy when dealing with phone enquiries:

Phone Handling

Questions to ask of new enquiries.

Skype

We often use Skype to hold face to face client meetings when we are not able to meet in person.

Internal Communication

Of course it goes without saying that here at Wholegrain, we treat each other with kindness and respect, and communicate in a way that reflects this.

Being a team that works mostly remotely can pose a challenge. However, regular communication through a variety of channels helps to stay in touch and build strong relationships with our colleagues, wherever they may be in the world. Here’s how we do this:

Slack

We use Slack to communicate as a team. You’ll be added to our team Slack following your induction and you should always sign in when you are working so that the team can easily get hold of you. Slack is a bit like an internal twitter – you can send group messages, personal messages and tag someone with a @reply. It’s a great way to stay in touch with each other and not only for work related chats! We have several channels within which we talk about things we care about and get to know each other better. It also possible to make calls with Slack, although this works better some days than others!

You must have your details up to date on slack, such as your phone numbers (work and personal in case of emergency) and Skype ID. This is important so that a member of team can contact you or pass your details on for clients to reach you.

Redbooth

We use RedBooth to keep track of all projects – all your tasks will be sent here and you can create your own tasks as well. Its features enable you to assign tasks to individuals or groups, comment on a task, message your colleagues (although we tend to stick to slack for instant messages as we all have this open more of the time) and much more.

Your role will define which workspaces or tasks you will be involved in. There is a Wholegrain Guide to RedBooth here on the Granary, with further information about how we use it to manage projects.

Skype

It is recommended to have a Skype ID in addition to Slack. You can use an existing ID if you have one. This is both as a backup to our internal channels (and it’s nice to see each other sometimes when we’re working remotely!) and is also great for contacting clients, especially those we are unable to meet with in person.

 

Questions to ask of New Enquiries

When we first start speaking to potential clients at the enquiry stage, there are of course bound to be many questions we need to ask! Below is a list of queries that may be useful at this stage.

Do please bear in mind that although we do need to gather as much information as possible, the enquiry stage is also the first stage in building a relationship with potential clients, so any conversations should be handled sensitively as always. The below questions should of course only be asked at appropriate intervals and as part of an ongoing conversation, to avoid anyone feeling overwhelmed in the early stages.

Questions to ask before an initial quote:

What’s your contact name, email and phone number?

What are you trying to achieve with your new website?

Why do you need a website (what are your goals and aims)?

Would you be able to describe your business in 3 sentences?

What’s your current company brand (colour, fonts, business cards, brochures)?

Do you have any particular likes/dislikes in terms of design/functionality?

Who are your competitors, and how do you differ from them? Do you have any ideas how your web presence can be better than theirs?

Who is the new website aimed at? What would the visitors come for and what’s their background?

What sort of content and features do you need?

What’s your budget? Our guidelines are £4-6K+ for theme modification & £20K+ for custom built

What platforms/devices will people visit your site on?

What hosting do you need? Do you anticipate large or regular traffic? Please share details.

Further questions for a more specific quote:

How many page templates will you need?

What sort of functionality are you after (what do you want each page to do)?

What services will you be selling on your website?

Do you have any websites that are doing what you’re trying to achieve in a way that inspires you?

How many weeks do we have to complete this project?

Is there anything specific – for example browsers that you want us to make the site work on? For example, on IE some effects may not work, so we may have to find alternative ways of showing the same thing without the effects

Will you be able to provide design for 3 displays – mobile, tablet and desktop? If so, could you please provide them in photoshop (well layered and named layers)?

Things to note/highlight about a theme modification:

We can change the colours to match your preference and any existing marketing materials that you have.

All images and wording will be unique to you.

We will change the navigation links to include the pages that you need.

In future you would be able to add more pages if required.

It is mobile compatible, so the layout will change to fit smaller screens on tablets and phones.

We can remove things like Facebook and Twitter links that you don’t need.

That should be enough to get started!

Once we are at the deposit invoice stage, head over to the Welcome Pack template to create your own version of this, to let the client know what else you will need before we can start work.

Happy relationship building!

Phone handling

Our standard greeting when answering the main phone line is:

“Hello/Hi Wholegrain Digital, [Your Name] speaking, how can I help you?”

 

Of course if a client with whom you already have a relationship is calling you directly, you can be a little more personal in your greeting.

With regards to general enquiries, we’ve put together some ‘what to say when’ scenarios that may be useful.

1. New Enquiry

Take as many details as possible and then speak to David, Amina, Tom or Vineeta (you can post the details in the phone-handling channel on Slack to reach everyone at once) and ask them to call back. Initial details to take:

  • What sort of business is it and what do they need (what are they aiming to achieve?)
  • Do they have a current website link we can look at, and/or other websites that inspire them?
  • Who is their website hosted with (if they have a current website)?
  • What sort of budget do they have and what’s their timeframe?
  • Contact details: name, number, email address.

Don’t commit to anything at this stage 😉

2. Ongoing project

Take down notes and pass the message on to the relevant Project Manager to get back to them. Be sure to check:

  • Who they would like to speak to
  • What the query is about (as it’s possible someone else may be able to help)
  • The website address/project name.

Say that you will pass the message on and we’ll get back to them as soon as possible but don’t say when.

3. Recruitment agencies

We often get calls from agencies who are trying to get us to advertise with them, or hire someone specific.

  • Turn down politely
  • Mark the phone number as spam (if you can, they often call from a private/withheld number though!)
  • If you have the number, share this in the phone-handling channel on Slack, so that everyone is aware.

4. Digital agencies

Occasionally we get agencies wanting to work with us on a partnership basis.

In most cases we would turn down any offer of partnership politely. In some exceptional cases, Tom and Vineeta may be interested so if unsure, take down the details and say we’ll pass them on and get back to them if we are interested.

Don’t commit to anything.


Example Calls

 

a – caller wants a new website built on Drupal
— sorry, we deal only with WordPress.

b – caller needs a plugin built for his website
— see #1, take details and say we will get back to them as soon as possible.

c – caller says their site is down
— check if that’s true
— ask where the site is hosted
— see #2, take details and say we’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

d – caller wants to sell us a year membership at the gym
— no thanks, we do yoga. 😉

e – caller wants us to hire one of their developers/designers
— no thanks, we don’t use agencies.

f – caller wants to add a page to his existing website (that we built)
— see #2, take details and say we’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

g – caller wants to buy the agency
— if the caller is Matt Mullenweg, take details and say we’ll get back with an estimate 😉
— for anyone else; “No thanks, Wholegrain Digital is priceless.” 🙂

h – caller wants 50 WordPress sites by the end of the month
— see #1, take details and say we will get back to them as soon as possible.

i – caller got an email from one of us
— see #1 or #2, take details and say we’ll get back to them as soon as possible.

j – caller wants to merge agencies with his SEO business
— no thanks, we don’t do partnerships.

k – caller wants a revamp of his website
— see #1, take details and say we will get back to them as soon as possible.

l – caller needs his site relaunched asap
— see #1, take details and say we will get back to them as soon as possible.

m – caller is a design agency that needs a WordPress agency to partner with to make websites
— see #1, take details and say we will get back to them as soon as possible.

Happy handling! 🙂

Email Guidelines

Wholegrain Digital is a service business and the heart of good service is good communication.  Since most client communication happens via e-mail, this guide provides some basic guidelines for writing good e-mails.  They are not hard and fast rules, but provide a template of good practice.

1. Subject lines

A good subject line is crucial for organising and prioritising e-mails. It should be concise, unique and specific – thus allowing you, the client and other team members to easily see what it is about and distinguish it from other e-mails in the inbox.

If an e-mail requires urgent attention, put URGENT at the beginning of the subject.

NEVER send an e-mail with the main message in the subject line and an empty e-mail. It appears rude and unprofessional.

2. Salutation

E-mail should always start with a greeting to the recipient such as “Hi John” or “Good morning Sarah”.

This is good manners but also useful if there are multiple recipients of the e-mail, since it could otherwise be ambiguous who is being directly addressed. Some people will skip e-mails if not addressed to themselves directly.

Be sure to always spell the clients name correctly.  Pay articular attention when emailing clients with unusual names, as it can be offensive to receive an email with your name spelled wrong.

Similarly, always end your e-mails with a polite greetings and your name. It is simply good manners.

3. Tone of voice

It is important to remember that e-mails have no tone of voice and so the recipient will often imagine the tone of your message. This could lead to occasional cases where a friendly email gets interpreted as serious and unfriendly. Always make an effort to think how your e-mail could be perceived and clarify your mood or intentions in your writing if required. Sometimes a simple statement such as “Thanks for the information. I’m going to try to get this done for you promptly” before “but I’m unable to move this forward until I receive the remaining assets from you” gives the latter statement a more positive context and tone than if you sent the second statement alone.

Similarly, we always want give our customers the best service and so this should be communicated clearly in your e-mails. If you sometimes are unable to service the client needs for whatever, this should be explained sensitively and ideally with a proposition of how the client could get help they need. The client should always be made to feel valued and understand that we genuinely want to do the best we can to help.

4. Speed of response

E-mail is a poor form of communication if a speedy response is required. However, it is the preferred method of communication for many clients and we should always try to respond quickly. As a guideline, we should aim to reply to all e-mails within 1 business day (ideally faster), even if we simply reply to acknowledge receipt and inform the client when they should expect a response in full.

If you will be away from your e-mail for at least a day, always switch on your auto-responder to advise the client when you will return and provide a secondary contact.

It is always good to advise clients to call if they have an urgent issue and to also e-mail their designated support e-mail address if they have one. This helps to ensure that someone in the team can pick up their messages quickly.

5. Sensitive and complex issues

Most topics can be discussed via e-mail but if you need to discuss a very sensitive topic, it is often best to pick up the phone and talk about it. As mentioned, emails have no real tone of voice and a friendly phone call is often a lot more effective.

Similarly, if discussing a complex issue, it can be a lot quicker and easier to have a phone call than to play e-mail ping pong for hours on end.

However, always remember that it can be hard to remember what was discussed in phone calls and you may need a record for future reference.  Therefore, always follow up your phone calls with a quick e-mail summarising what was discussed. This is also useful for the client because it reassures them that you have understood the requirements and noted them all accurately.

6. Referencing colleagues

You will often need to reference colleagues in e-mails. Remember that clients may not be familiar with your colleagues and so an introduction is always useful.  For example, “I’ve cc’d our designer Joey on this e-mail because he will be working on the landing page design“.

It is both respectful and informative to mention your colleagues by name and role, rather than making generic statements like “a colleague” or “a developer“.

If you do need to make a generic reference to a client (e.g. because you have not yet designated a team member for that job), then it is always best to refer to “our designer” or “our developer” instead of “a designer/developer“. It is more respectful to your team members when you reference them in context of the Wholegrain team and also reassures the client that a member of the Wholegrain team (and not a random stranger) will be looking at it.

7. Clarity

Good communication is clear communication. Be sure to think through your e-mail before sending. Like any written work, it should generally have a beginning, a middle and an end.

  • Beginning  – Introduce the topic
  • Middle  – Provide the required details. Lists are often better than large chunks of text
  • End –  Summarise and conclude

This might not always be required, but if in doubt, it is a good guide.

You should also think about who you are writing to.  Don’t bamboozle clients with technical information and unless you know that they are comfortable with it.

Finally, avoid jargon (complicated technical terms and acronyms) wherever possible. It is not helpful!

8. Proofreading

You may not have time to thoroughly proofread every e-mail that you send but you should at least skim read them to make sure that there are not any glaring errors or omissions.  Also keep an eye on the automatic spell checker in Google mail and correct any spelling mistakes where appropriate before sending.