You’ve heard the phrase, “over communicate,” right? Time and time again, I’ve found it true. Mostly because you can never be sure someone is listening, just because you said something.
As a result, I’ve developed a pattern of communication with my clients. It’s beyond the day-to-day stuff. These messages happen at the end of each week and travel in/out/up and out, and is internal as well as external. The broad and deep approach helps keep clients and internal team members feeling certain that things are on track and helps them feel they are on top of things.
The first layer of communication is a weekly update I send out. Two versions go out. Both are similar, yet each sends it’s own message. There are rarely surprises in the weekly summary. If there are, its good news. Bad news always gets delivered early and on it’s own, usually via phone. Bad news gets summarized in the weekly update, with progress to resolution.
Both internal and external versions use the same layout, and the layout is consistent each week. That way people recognize it when the see it, know where to find particular details if they are looking for something. And it’s simpler for me get it done. The date is included in the subject line so it’s simple to find one months from now. The approach is designed so it can be shared upwardly internally or by the client.
The following 4 elements are included every time.
- Opening message
- Program Summaries
- Housekeeping items – vacations, visitors, travel dates
Here’s what each version looks like. I write both of them.
Business Summary – Internal
Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic perspective. It’s high level of what I’ve been working on all week. If there’s an issue that needs to have a light shine on it internally, it goes in here in a respectful way. Its branded with the client’s logo so there’s visual recognition of which revenue stream it is.
Distribution list: ops leadership, my boss, client services team, call center team, project mgr, IT leads
- Opening paragraph – reference to activity that the week focused on. It could be invoicing or budgeting or a quarterly business review or a visitor we hosted.
- Kudos for teams that have really delivered this week
- Unexpected revenues or costs
- New opportunities
- Internal challenges that are stuck – similar to bad news, stuck issues are first escalated via separate messaging. They are reiterated in the weekly update.
- High level summary by program – it includes a couple sentences per program so readers get a sense of opportunities and threats. Sometimes it’s simply “the program is running smoothly.”
- Project updates and deadlines
- Housekeeping for next week – vacations or key meetings to put on the radar.
Business Summary – External
Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic view and how they impact from the client’s perspective. Written in a way the client’s contract managers can distribute upward in their organization. This is branded with the Archway logo so they instantly recognize which part of their business it relates to. The internal version is the basis, then I edit from the client’s point of view. Some items get deleted, if it’s internal baggage.
Distribution list: client contract managers, their bosses, my boss
Topics covered are essentially the same as the internal summary, but reworded from the client’s perspective.
Example – unexpected revenues are reworded as unexpected costs with specifics about why the costs are valid and how to avoid them in the future.
Results from the effort have been great. The client knows I’m aware of topics they may have heard about but not had time to talk to me about. Originally this version was only sent to my direct client contacts. They asked me to include their boss’ so they wouldn’t have to do it. That indicates expanding trust, and gives me more visibility higher in the organization.
Operations likes seeing a summary, so they know if they’ve missed something.
Yes, this is a lot of work every Friday, especially when all you want to do is shut down and start weekending. Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely.
I’d love to know what you do. How do you keep communication flowing with your client?