Building rapport with our customers

You’ve told us that improving interpersonal skills to build and strengthen relationships with customers would be an important development area for the team. Earlier this year, we asked you which rapport building skills you consider the most valuable. Below is what you told us. Please review this list and let us know if there are other, specific development topics that could help you and the team.

  • Asking questions to better understand your client’s needs and avoid misunderstandings
  • Using active listening to better understand clients and make them feel listened to
  • Engaging with clients during virtual meetings
  • Beginning client interactions in a positive way, quickly connecting to “break the ice”
  • Minimizing stress when customers challenge me on what I’m doing and helping me respond in the most effective manner
  • Helping me better understand what the client wants so they are more satisfied with what I deliver
  • Conducting conversations which may not be comfortable for me or the client including:
    • Addressing client objections
    • Saying no to client requests
    • Communicating budget issues
    • Receiving negative/positive feedback

Any other topics that can help you build better relationships with your customers? Let us know!

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The above is a good point, and seems related to another point I think we could use help with:

  • Conveying progress/status on projects positively, to ensure the client feels good about what we’re delivering.

As engineers, we tend to focus on the problems we encounter rather than the solutions we’ve implemented, and so our communications can come off as pretty negative… :smile:

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Interesting. Yes, engineers (unlike, for example, some people in sales) tend towards honesty when conveying facts as opposed to sugar-coating things. I agree that how we can speak about progress in a positive manner, while still maintaining credibility, is a useful skill. Let me think more about your idea. AND, I’m happy to hear further thoughts from you and the team on your point and how to approach it.
I do think it’s not unrelated to one topic we covered in Strategic Client Management (graphic below). We discussed the kind of relationship we can have with our clients. At the lower end of our model was a relationship more focused on solely addressing tactical problems (“problem solver”). A higher, more strategic level was called “solution provider”. The highest (not always achievable) level was “trusted advisor”. I believe achieving these higher level relationships often depends on the developer’s ability to relate the work s/he is doing to the customer’s ability to achieve their broader objectives or overcome critical challenges. To, as you say; “convey progress/status on projects positively.”
Thanks Jill!

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@DouglasDraper I had to rack my brain for things to add to your already very thorough list! The only things I could think of that might be valuable to add are:

  • Saying “I don’t know” to a client’s question (and how to follow up afterwards)
  • Admitting you are lacking the knowledge, context, experience to adequately answer a question or complete a task
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Hi @Ali Hugo , thanks for your thoughtful comments.
I think both the behaviors you describe require a) enough self confidence to admit uncertainty and b) a strong enough concern for the client to overcome our fear of appearing less than knowledgeable.

Also important to avoid the tendency to quickly move on to the next, more comfortable topic by just saying; “I’ll get back to you on that, anything else?”
Rather, better to make sure we truly understand the question before moving on to something else. Dig deeper by asking clarifying questions like; “can you tell me more?”
It may be that we didn’t understand the initial question and that we actually know more about the topic than we believed at first.
Also, by asking follow up questions, we may learn more about the concern and be better able to explain it to a colleague who can help get it resolved.
In the program we’re building, I think we’ll cover some areas (listening, questioning, objection handling) that could help with the things you mention.
Thank you!

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Beautifully put! @DouglasDraper

Thanks for those useful tips! I am looking forward to learning more in the program. :star2:

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We’ve begun work on a new training program to help you improve your interpersonal skills with clients. Based on the needs the OpenCraft team mentioned earlier this year, Effective Client Communications will include two live, interactive workshops where you’ll learn and apply skills that will enhance your customer interactions.

We want to choose a date for Part 1 when most of you will be able to attend. Based on our earlier workshops, we plan to offer them on Tuesdays from 2:30 to 4pm Central European Time.

Please choose one of the following dates in 2023 for Part 1:

  • January 17
  • January 24
  • January 31

0 voters

Part 2 should be 2-3 weeks later. Our working outline includes the following:

  • Introduction
  • Connecting with people
  • Questioning for understanding
  • Active listening
  • No stress objection handling
  • Recaps for clearer communications
  • Summary and actions

Let me know your suggestions for specific topics we should include.

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Greetings!
By a narrow margin, you have voted for January 24th as the date for Part 1 of the Effective Client Communications workshop. Please set aside this date from 2:30 to 4pm Central European Time. And don’t forget to send along your ideas on communications topics you think we should cover.
Thanks!
Douglas

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Please look out for an invitation on Tuesday, January 24th from 2:30pm to 4pm Central European time to the Effective Client Communications workshop. This will be the first of two live, interactive workshops covering:

  • Building rapport
  • Questioning for understanding
  • Active listening
  • No stress objection handling
  • Recaps for clearer communications

We will provide a participants guide you can use during the session.
Hope to see you there!

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We’re hoping to see you at our Effective Client Communications workshop this Tuesday, January 24th at 2:30pm CET. Please download the participants workbook that you will use during the session and which also contains a short pre-work assignment on page 1. It can be downloaded at:

Can’t wait to see you there!
Douglas

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One of the things we’ll do in this Tuesday’s Effective Client Communications workshop is a simple, less emotional and effective process for handling objections and complaints. Can you tell us what some of the typical objections you hear? Hope to see you Tuesday at 2:30pm CET!

EFFECTIVE CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP TOMORROW.
Please be sure to download the workbook, prepare the pre-work on pages 1-2, and review the first activity on pages 5-6.

THANK YOU for your participation in Part 1 of Effective Client Communications! We covered the keys to building rapport with clients and still need to discuss the related topics of strategic questioning + active listening + objection handling. Please vote today for the most convenient date for Part 2, to be held at the same time (2:30pm CET) on 1 of the following days:

  • Tuesday, Feb 7
  • Thursday, Feb 9
  • Tuesday, Feb 21

0 voters

edit: linebreak to fix the poll tags

Thank you for running these sessions @DouglasDraper ! I can’t attend at the proposed times, but I would like to set aside some time next sprint to go through the materials you’ve prepared.

Can anyone point me to a ticket that shows what account I should use to log my time for this? And is there a video of the last meeting I can watch?

Quoting this conversation from Mattermost, the tickets would be:

Deathstar ticket: STAR-2994
Bebop ticket: BB-7075
Falcon ticket: FAL-3322
Serenity ticket: SE-5899

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My goal, @jill , is to one day offer a time and date where I could get you to attend! :slightly_smiling_face:
P.S. I’m working now on completing the Guide that will cover Part 1 and 2 but always better to have the benefit of your ideas in the workshop!

@DouglasDraper as pointed out by @jill, can you please download last workshop’s recording from Zoom, upload it to OpenCraft’s Drive, and share the link? Let me know if you need help.