Using Communication Templates to Streamline Your Business and Save You Countless Hours, Dollars and Headaches
Running your own business is no easy feat. It doesn’t matter if you have a physical business, or if your company is based online, or both. When you work for yourself, every single task that must be executed on a daily basis for every aspect of the operation you’re running falls on you.
Many business owners who are just starting out or have only been in operation for a few years feel the frustration of trying to manage everything as a one-man or one-woman show, or as a micro biz with just a handful of employees.
It’s especially difficult when you don’t have a lot of startup capital to invest in all of the people, systems and processes needed to keep the daily functions running in a seamless way. So you’re doing it alone, hoping to eventually catch up with all of the little things that fall to the wayside while you spend your days and nights putting out emergency work-related fires.
But the catching up part never happens, and this drains your energy. Being chronically strapped for time in your business can cause a once-enthusiastic entrepreneur to become jaded and want to give up.
But you shouldn’t give up!
Nothing replaces the satisfaction of running your own operation and making money doing it on your own terms. Nothing beats being of service to other people while having the freedom and flexibility to make your own decisions and put all of your ideas into motion as a small business owner.
What does all of this mean? Basically, it points to the need for shortcuts in your business.
For anyone who owns a small business or freelance enterprise, and is attempting to go it alone or with a very small staff, shortcuts and practical solutions are key. And one of the biggest time sucks for the small business owner, where shortcuts can be a lifesaver and total game changer, is communication.
Communication with your customers is critical — you MUST talk to them if you expect to have their business — and yet the process takes up precious, fleeting hours and can suck away thousands in profits if you let it.
So let’s talk about that more in detail.
The time has come to streamline your customer communication for the most organized approach that makes clients feel supported in your work together.
The Importance of Connecting With Customers from Day One
Yes – it’s great to connect with customers and be there to answer all of their questions. The people who come to you for professional help, or to purchase products, or lessons, or whatever you offer, do so because you deliver something that they can’t or don’t want to handle on their own.
They’re hoping that you can fulfill their needs in some way. Maybe they’d like to learn something new and so they’re looking to you as an expert guide. More than likely, they require your helping in solving their problems.
Perhaps they seek support around a task that is overwhelming, confusing, and falls outside their realm of understanding or capability. The task is something that you can either do for them, or walk them through the details so they can eventually master and manage the steps on their own with ease.
Think about this from the perspective of your customers. They need help and they’re seeking it from you. The act of selecting a person, group of people, or entire organization to help handle important details of your life is no small matter.
So when your potential customers decide that it’s time to fork over their hard earned cash to solicit your support or otherwise buy from you something that brings them closer to their goals, they’re always going to search for that one intangible thing.
Do you know what it is?
The Thing that your customers and potential customers want from you is trust.
They want to be able to walk into a business relationship with a sense of trust from the start. What sort of trust are they hoping to find in you?
- They want to trust your expertise and your ability to solve their challenge.
- They want to trust that you’re keeping their needs on the highest priority.
- They want to trust that you will provide high value with the products and services you offer.
- And of course, they want to trust that you won’t rip them off or do something unethical in your business dealings with them.
How do you arrive at a place of trust with people so they feel ready to take the next step and do business with you?
How do cultivate trust with a new customer so they’ll return again and again for repeat business?
The way to get people to trust you is to establish a rapport with them.
This kicks off with a dialogue – a getting-to-know-you, feeling-out phase.
However, what some business owners tend to forget is that the dialogue doesn’t end after the introductions and proverbial or literal handshake are past.
Rather, the dialogue keeps going. After the intro conversation, you must now guide your customers through a series of necessary phases of the business you’re handling for them or the transaction you’re carrying out on their behalf.
Your customers want to get the sense that you are “with them” every step of the way.
The best way to deliver this is through effective communication that reaches them at key points in the project or process that you’re taking them through, at the times when they need it most.
When Do Your Customers Need to Hear from You?
Using your own process as the basis, notice how the various steps of what you offer fit with this general outline of the communication that needs to happen to keep customers feeling like you are in touch and engaged with their unique situation.
What should you be communicating to your customers at these key points of their business transaction with you? Think about what you will say…
- In the beginning, introductory phase of your association
- At the start of your project – the kickoff
- At any time that they feel confused
- At each next step of the process that you’re hand-holding them through
- At the point where any problems crop up
- At the final phase, when small adjustments may need attending to
- At any point where there is a delay
- At the close of the project, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them
Let’s cover each of these in detail:
In the beginning, introductory phase of your association.
A potential customer will go through a series of decisions that he or she must make before settling on you as their chosen provider of services or opting to order a product or products from your company.
This is why it’s key to communicate clearly and succinctly to them what to expect from you during the transaction. If you don’t bother to say what you mean clearly and confidently, you can easily lose them at this delicate point in your association.
Help the customer visualize the process of doing business with or placing an order from you before it actually happens. This way, he or she is more likely to give the go-ahead and say yes to partnering with you.
One way to be sure they can visualize the process is to lay it out in front of them in simple, easy to understand steps.
This will go a long way toward helping them understand what’s going to happen and who will be responsible for what along the way.
They will also want to know what sort of personal commitment they need to invest in, in order for you to be able to carry out the anticipated work in fulfilling their need.
You can help them get clear on what will happen by bulleting out each phase, and letting them know what else they need to provide in order to get the ball rolling.
You’ll also want to give them other key details. These may include anticipated turnaround time, a set price for the product or bulk order of them… or in the case of a more in-depth project, an educated guesstimate of the total amount they’ll be billed at the conclusion of your work for them.
Finally, you’ll want to exchange contact details and any other pertinent information such as account numbers, personal identification, and any relevant matters that pertain to the service or products you’ll be providing to them.
At the start of your project
Once the introductory phase is past, you’ll want to help clients and customers stay on track with the timing and details of any work you do for them. You can fill them in on exactly what will happen so they know what to expect going forward.
One helpful piece of communication that you can hand out as you on-board new clients is the Welcome Email or Welcome Letter.
The welcome message gives your customer the sense that you are committing to this work for and with them, and that the two of you (or a group if that’s relevant) are partnering or teaming up for success.
Here are some tips for creating your Welcome message:
- Keep it brief
- State the goal
- Summarize the steps you’ll cover together
- Direct customers on what they’ll need to provide or do next
- Give them a timeline or estimated timeline of how long this phase will take
Please keep in mind that as the steps become more specific, you should customize the content according to the customer, the specific project or the item they’re purchasing. This is where you might start out with a general timeline for your template, but then insert details before printing and handing to the customer.
At any time that they feel confused
Each time a new customers goes through the process of working with you, hires you to do a specific job or purchases a product from you, they’ll tend to ask specific questions.
You’ll notice that most of the new customers you deal with have the same questions as other customers did when they first began working with you.
You may feel like you repeat the same answers over and over, all day long, which results in a lot of unnecessary email typing and talking on the phone. A lot of the time, the talks you have with potential clients don’t even end up landing the sale, and that’s frustrating.
Of course, if the type of business that you have lends itself to talking on the phone or in person with customers, then you may not have the option of getting out of this.
However, the simple addition of an FAQ area of your website, or FAQ handout that you provide to customers, can drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend explaining things to the people who solicit your services, hire you or buy from you.
So what should you include in your Frequently Asked Questions handout? It’s all based on what aspects of your business tend to confuse people the most.
What do people always ask you about? Write that down. Then think of other things they ask you.
You can start with a basic FAQ of questions that you brainstorm “through the mind of your customer,” list out, and answer.
From there, build out your FAQ as the need arises.
Any time a customer comes to you wanting clarification on something, write down their question. Then take some time to answer it in detail, in writing. Hand your response back to the customer.
Save what you wrote to use again later as a template that your future customers will find useful.
At each next step of the process that you’re hand-holding them through
A printed handout or email message signals forward momentum in your step by step process with customers.
Whether it’s a single order that they’ve placed on your website, or a series of steps that you’re taking them through as they make a larger purchase or farm out a service to you, it only takes a short, written wrap-up to let them know this phase is past.
The communication that you deliver will help you conclude the final phase of this step so you can move on to the next.
At each step, you can sum up:
- What was accomplished
- What is still left on the list
- What deliverables you provided (so they can be reminded of the ongoing value you deliver to them)
- What you may need next from them to keep things moving forward
- What to expect in the coming phase and how long you expect the next deliverable to take
At the point where any problems crop up
As you work on similar projects or fulfill the same types of orders for various customers, you’ll notice that the same sorts of problems and issues may come up over and over again.
There could be ongoing challenges that you’re forced to navigate through. For example, if you work with a drop shipper to deliver items, maybe delayed shipments is an issue that keeps showing up for you.
Or, perhaps the projects that you’re working on with clients are being held up for a variety of reasons. The reasons could be…
- the client isn’t providing the necessary info
- some other aspect of the project is delayed, such as the delivery of a key component of the project from an outside supplier
- payment hasn’t gone through which means you’re forced to put the project on hold
- any other type of expected delay that may be unique to your industry or trade
Work through this challenge by creating a short template. Your template can offer an explanation. Or, it might make a request for the customer to fulfill which applies to each type of delay.
Keep the messages you create in your file of templates. Print or email and use as necessary when future customers voice complaints about things that are outside the realm of your control.
At the final phase, when small adjustments may need attending to
The final phase of a project, order or other type of deliverable can vary greatly from one client to the next. But on the other hand, orders may play out in a similar way, over and over.
If you tend to send out the same products to the same types of customers in the same manner for every order, then communication in your final phase will likely be a boilerplate message.
However, if you work individually with clients in a very customized way, then your message during the final phase will be different from one client to the next.
It helps to have a standard message in place that you can pull out when the final phase is near. Use this message as a starting point and then fill in the missing details so that the wording pertains to that unique customer.
Print off and/or email as needed.
At any point where there is a delay
Delays of any kind will cause your customers to doubt you and begin to worry. They may worry that you won’t be able to deliver the end product the way they prefer or in the allotted time frame. They may worry that you aren’t able to be trusted – after all, they likely don’t even know you.
A brief and reassuring message that lets them know you’re handling their issue or attending to their details in a timely and thorough fashion will ease their discomfort.
If problems occur that you know you’re equipped to handle but simply must be worked through in a routine fashion, your proactive message will go a long way to allaying their fears and this will increase their trust in you as their chosen provider.
At the close of the project, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them
When your work for the client concludes, send them a brief wrap-up bulleting what was delivered to them.
Thank them for their business and remind them that if they have any questions or would like to leave a positive review, please reach out to you via email, phone or whatever your preferred method of communication may be.
Keep invoicing separate from the “final wrap-up” message – these are two separate things. You don’t want your readers thinking about payment in the same context as what was delivered.
What Should You be Communicating to Your Customers?
As a small business owner, your main goal of course is to deliver an exceptional customer experience to each and every person who solicits you for business.
However, building trust and confidence in your customers isn’t just about offering a great product or delivering world class service. It is… but it’s also more than that.
Communication plays a huge role in whether people decide to become repeat customers of yours.
After all, even if we’re doing our very best job for people, sometimes things go wrong that are outside the realm of our control.
How we handle these difficult moments, and how we choose to communicate with customers during a high pressure situation, is the real test that determines whether or not they return to us again despite the difficulties that cropped up.
We’re going to talk about what we should be communicating to our customers to help them grow confidence in our ability to deliver. But first we should define the manner in which it’s best to relay our message:
• Remain calm and reassuring throughout your ongoing dialogue with customers
• Convey a certain sense of empathy so the customer will get the impression that you truly care
• When circumstances call for it, apologize or offer to make good on a situation if necessary
• Help customers stay on track with shared goals, rather than dwelling on what may not have happened exactly the way it was supposed to
Do you sometimes lose focus over what message you should be communicating to your customers?
Remember to infuse the following in any written communication that you develop for customers to read and learn about your services or products. They’ll want to know…
- What you provide
- How it can help them
- What their options are
- What you need from them to keep the job moving forward
- Who to contact if they need support
- Answers to their frequently asked questions
Where Does Customer Communication Go Wrong and How Can You Stop This From Happening?
Your customers are willing to put their trust and faith in your ability to deliver what they want and need. But the thing is — this is a type of trust that’s easily broken.
One reason customers easily lose confidence in you is the lure of the competition. Maybe they’ve heard good things about the company down the road and they’re wondering if the grass is greener with those guys.
Maybe they’re worried about money and they’re subconsciously looking for any reason to break up with you in a professional sense so they can rationalize not making the investment.
Here are some common reasons why your customer communication can go wrong and how that ultimately breaks their trust in you.
Overwhelming customers with too much information
Your business prospects and customers come to you wanting help, guidance or solutions. They may need an expert to perform a service, deliver a product or provide education on something they need to know more about.
Overwhelming customers with too much information means getting too deep into the finer points of what you offer. It’s more than likely that they only need an overview to help them get a sense of your competence and capabilities. Or if you’re teaching them something new, they’ll require some time to mentally digest the information piece by piece.
On some level, if you throw too much at them at once, they might even think of you as less of an expert when all is said and done.
A professional presentation typically contains clear, succinct, well-ordered points which support the main idea, and provide just enough supporting detail to facilitate meaning.
Going off on side tangents in your communication with customers does not lend credibility in their estimation.
Not providing enough information
One sure fire way to break trust with your customers is to fail in your information deliverable by not providing enough detail.
We talked about over delivering, but probably a more common predicament is the company whose clients come to them with expectations for communication that aren’t met.
This said, there’s a delicate balance between over and underwhelming your customers. You want to dance on the line if you hope to gain their admiration, respect and trust in your ability.
If you’re having trouble knowing how much is too much versus not enough info to provide customers, this is something that you can craft in advance and then set up to deliver at various points in your work with them.
Giving them irrelevant details that don’t pertain to their situation
The problem of providing details that the customer may not need likely stems from a business owner’s need to prove his or her expertise.
The customer may initially be impressed by your accumulated knowledge, sure. But ultimately, if the topic gets off track with their own problems and how to solve them, the customer will walk away from the conversation scratching their head. Irrelevant information will leave them wondering if they should have gone with someone else whose work is more relevant to them.
If you have trouble sticking to the main issue when talking with clients and customers, you might try preparing a script for each type of problem that people are likely to come to you with needing your expertise to solve.
Don’t read off the script like you’re in the school play. Use it to cement the thoughts in your mind. Practice a bit with the script in hand, so that when the time comes, you can convey your thoughts in an organized fashion.
Becoming too personal with customers
There is definitely a fine line between showing your humanity to people with whom you do business, and over disclosing.
Over disclosure means sharing personal details that are not really relevant to the customer’s reason for coming to you.
For example, maybe the customer needs your guidance on managing finances more effectively. A revealing conversation about either yours or the client’s recent divorce would not be relevant to the topic in question. It might even have the client thinking less of you for being unprofessional.
These types of talks may ultimately lead you to a broken client agreement, or an order that never materializes. It’s best to avoid getting too personal when dealing with people on a professional level.
- Not personalizing your message to the individual customer
- Your customers know when they’re being read to off a script.
As most of us have experienced the frustration of sitting on a customer service call hearing phony, scripted questions like “How can I make your day great,” your customers aren’t likely to fall for a dialogue between you and them that takes place with you reciting lines off a cue card.
If you’re not in a profession where talking comes naturally, you can certainly give yourself a cheat sheet by writing out a few bulleted points on note cards to help you keep client calls flowing productively.
However, in time you should become more comfortable with speaking to clients. If you organize the points you want to make and continue to practice saying them in a natural and conversational way, eventually you’ll find that the cards are no longer necessary.
How to Communicate Less Yet Convey More to Your Customers
As a business owner, are you growing weary of having to repeat the same message over and over, each time a new customer walks through the door?
Do you find yourself spending countless hours typing slightly different versions of the same message to new people who inquire about your business offerings?
Does this whole process of constantly having to repeat yourself frustrate you because you can sense the billable hours just slipping away as you spend what feels like your entire life trying to explain things to people who may not even end up purchasing from you?
When thinking about communication with your customers, consider the delicate balance. How much is too much communication? How much is not enough?
At what point is communication critical versus when does it become overkill or counterproductive?
- In order to nab the just-right amount of customer communication, you want to hone in on the concept that the work you do for them proceeds in steps.
- If your customers order products from you, either online or in person, the process moves forward in a distinct order of business.
- If you provide a specific type of service to your customers, then your deliverable to them will also proceed in an orderly fashion.
Knowing that whatever you do for customers tends to repeat in much the same way as every other customer will help you craft neat and tidy messages. Doing so will help you get the job done faster – engaging your customers and moving them forward to the next, correct step.
Doing this will help you recognize and put an end to the problem of wasting time saying the same things over and over to every new customer that comes through your door.
So before we can think about ways to streamline customer communication, let’s take a look at the process or series of steps that typically happens each time a new customer decides to buy either a product or service from you.
Of course, there are many different kinds of businesses. Your process may not look like the next person’s process. But even so, there is no question that you really do walk each customer through a process every time they choose to conduct a business transaction with you.
What do we mean? Well, you have a sense of the start and end to whatever you’ll be providing. What happens in the middle between the start and stop point is the process.
The process repeats itself in a general way. The steps tend to be the same every time.
What happens during each step — the details — is what makes each customer experience unique, and that’s where they need your guidance.
So what is your process? Think about it. Your process dictates your communication with customers.
Why Are Communication Templates Key to Your Success as a Small Business Owner?
Are you interested in greatly reducing the amount of time spent thinking and talking about potential work done for clients? Would you like to talk less and bring more sales… but you’re not sure how to get out of your own way when it comes to business communication?
One really smart solution that every business owner should look into is the use of communication templates to streamline all of your client work.
From the first time that a potential customer consults you for a quote, to the project kickoff, to the final payment, you’ll want to always have something written prepared so you can engage with the customer in a timely and productive fashion.
Communication templates work wonders for your bottom line. If you really consider the mind boggling amount of hours you spend doing face to face, phone and email communication with people who may or may not even result in new business, it really is astounding. This is why explaining your process, on paper, in advance to your customers, will be so worth the work that it takes up front.
Here’s how communication templates work to help you succeed in your small business or freelance enterprise:
- They reassure your customers that you’re there, thinking and acting on their behalf, and that you will expertly guide them through the process of working with you.
- They completely eliminate the time it takes to mentally prepare, actually sit down and write, and send a new email to a potential customer.
- They give you a jumping point so you can pop open the file, personalize and customize the message to each customer, and sent it off in minutes of being contacted.
- They move each customer transaction along much quicker because they clearly define the start and end of each step in your process
What Should You Streamline in Your Customer Communication?
Looking to save time and increase profits in your small, independent business? Many aspects of your customer communication can be streamlined. In fact, this is one of the smartest things you can create that will help your business run more smoothly on a daily basis.
What does it mean to streamline your communication? It means that you’re cutting out the “thinking and talking” steps that take up so much of your precious, working hours.
If you’ve not yet organized your business communication, then it’s very likely that you’re constantly typing the same or nearly the same message to your prospects and customers. Over the course of courting new business, taking on client projects and/or fulfilling orders, there are certain messages that you will say to your customers over and over.
How many hours of your life will you spend doing this?
What we’re looking at here is how to create templates that you can pop open, run through, customize for the individual query or customer and then send off. All this, without having to reinvent the wheel each time someone new comes through your door.
This doesn’t mean that you have to read off a script. Your customers will see through that, and no human being wants to be addressed in a robot-like way… especially when they’re about to give you their money.
It means that instead of faltering for the next word, losing focus, and spending hours trying to catch up with whatever you were working on, you can utilize a neat and tidy, organized outline of thoughts. Your outline or bulleted set of points can be customized to each type of project or order you fulfill for clients or customers.
Each time you must communicate with a new customer or start a new project, grab your handy template and fill in the blanks. This will save you valuable hours and keep things moving forward in your business with far less effort than you’ve likely been exerting up until now.
Here are some ideas about what you can streamline in your customer communication:
• Forms for new customers to fill out their contact info
• Forms for customers to describe their business, if you provide those types of services
• The initial project quote
• Different types of project quotes, if you work with a variety of customers in different ways
• The project kickoff – an outline of what will happen, who supplies which details and a tentative timeline for the end deliverable
• Project steps from start to finish, so they know what to expect
• The order procurement process, as applicable
• Product descriptions that you can customize each time something changes
• Letters to address customer concerns
• Client contracts
• Client onboarding process
• Company FAQs
• Letters to Late Payers
• Product Troubleshooting
• Service Add-Ons
• Much more!
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Customer Information
The first, very basic communication template you should create for your small business is the Customer Information Sheet.
Every time someone new comes through your door wanting to solicit business, you must obtain the basic information from them before you conduct the transaction.
This includes contact information, proof of identity if relevant, and any details that pertain to the service you’ll be rendering or the product you’ll create for them to purchase and use.
Even if your business transactions take place online and involve a simple process that the customer manages from their end, you’ll still need customers to provide their details.
Here’s how to create a simple Customer Information Template:
- Start a new MS Word document.
- Place your company logo at the top.
- Type in your own contact details – name, company name, address, email address, URL, Facebook page if any, phone number, fax.
For your page title, add the words Customer Intake, Customer Information, or some other related title that fits your audience.
Pick and chose from the following selections, each on its own line with some space after, to fill out with the customer’s information:
- Company Name
- Street Address
- PO Box, if any
- Phone Number
- Fax Number
- Email Address
- Social Security Number (if applicable)
- Preferred payment method
Because this is something that, ideally, the customer will fill out on their own, you can keep your Customer Information or Customer Intake Sheet as an MS Word document.
Save this, along with any other business communication templates you create, in a folder on your computer (or on cloud storage) where you can easily access it later. The key here is to be organized. Your files should all be located in one place for easy access.
When a new customer solicits your services or want to buy from you, start a new email document and attach the Customer Information Sheet to the email.
Instruct them to save the file to their computer, open it, type in their responses, save as a new name (helpful to have their last name or company name in the file name), attach to an email and send back to you.
If they’d prefer, they can also print out the document, use a pen or pencil to hand-write their responses, snap a picture with their phone, and email that to you so you can print it out and store in their client file.
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: The Welcome Packet
Once your customers sign on to work with you, you’ll want to initiate them into the process with a Welcome Packet.
This does not apply to all types of businesses. For example, if you sell physical goods either from a physical location or via the internet, then you likely won’t need a welcome packet.
The Welcome Packet works for clients who will be investing in a bigger and more significant purchase, with you guiding them through the process. For example, real estate clients, people who are seeking financial guidance, or customers looking to purchase a new vehicle, would likely appreciate a Welcome Packet.
The Welcome Packet also works well if you’re adding a new client to your service roster. Freelance designers, virtual assistants, web developers and writers, for instance, might want to offer their new customers a Welcome Packet.
The Welcome packet helps customers feel like you’ve committed to working together. It might even help to seal the deal with a customer who is wavering on their decision to keep you as his or her chosen service provider.
Your company Welcome Packet is designed to save you hundreds of thousands of billable hours of having to explain step by step the process that customers will go through as you navigate through the purchase together. Remember, the point is to eliminate much of the “thinking and talking” part and just move into action-taking with your customers so you secure more orders in less time.
Here’s how to create a simple Welcome Packet for your customers to receive once they sign on to work with you.
- Start a new MS Word document.
- Place your company logo at the top.
- Type in your own contact details – name, company name, address, email address, URL, Facebook page if any, phone number, fax.
- For your page title, use Welcome or some other similar, friendly greeting.
Your Welcome Packet will be unique to the business that you’re in. Here are some basic ideas of what to include in yours:
- A brief description of the work you’ll be doing
- A short list of goals that you’ll be setting for the customer
- A tentative timeline of when the client can expect certain deliverables
- A short list of questions that the customer will be expected to provide
- Next steps in the process
The Welcome packet is important because it signals that the work has begun while giving a sense of inclusivity. It also makes you look good — professional and together — as a company owner.
The Welcome packet helps your client will feel as though he or she is being initiated into the process. Also, goals are emphasized here which is extremely important for moving your client projects forward in a timely fashion.
For the final step, save your Welcome packet to the folder on your computer that you use to store Business Communication Templates. Each time you need to customize a new Welcome Packet for a new client, do a Save-As, and save the file in your customer’s folder on you hard drive. Fill in all of the specifics for that particular client.
Attach the file to an email and send the email to the client with the subject line Welcome or something similar.
If your work is less email and more hands-on, just print out the Welcome packet and offer it to the customer during your next meeting. If you want to get fancy, dress it up with a nice folder that brands your business.
You can also save the customer’s Welcome file as a PDF or even a PowerPoint presentation to enhance the level of professionalism in your presentation.
If you offer a Welcome packet to onboarding clients, you can be sure they’ll be impressed with your level of professionalism. As the project lead, you’ll likely be pleased at the pace that is being set from the outset.
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions is one of the most important business communication templates you’ll create. Just taking a few hours to write up some commonly asked questions that new prospects and customers are likely to have will save you an incredible amount of time.
Think about this from the perspective of being someone else’s customer. Consider that any time you’ve had to log into a website, sign up for something new, order a product that you’re not well familiar with, or become acquainted with a new company for any reason, you end up having questions that need answering.
Instead of having to wait around for an answer, your customers and prospects will appreciate having their confusion cleared up and their need addressed in a timely fashion. This is another piece of communication that attests to your competence within your industry. Having an FAQ readily available will make you look good (because you are good, right?).
What will you include in your Customer FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions? This really depends on your industry. The FAQ sheet will need to be custom created by you.
To create your FAQ sheet to present to new clients and customers as they undergo the onboarding process of your organization, here’s what to do.
Sit down with a pen and paper or start a fresh Word document. Brainstorm a list of common issues that you’re typically asked about as new clients enter the fold.
Any time you can strongly suggest that a customer take the initiative to solve their own problem or work on finding the answer to their question, the better off you’ll be in terms of saving yourself time and headaches.
This is not to say that the client should not be prioritized; they should. But many customers choose a more passive route which tends to create delays in the work you do for them. So if you can empower them with detailed information, they’ll be better able to move through any problems encountered, without requiring hand-holding assistance from you.
Once you have your list of questions, start a new MS Word document. Type in the title as “FAQ” or use industry-specific wording such as “First Time Home Buyer FAQ,” “Copywriting Project FAQ” or whatever the case may be.
Proceed by listing each question in numerical order. Type the “Q” as the customer might ask it. For example, “Q: Why are my tomato plants developing a blight?” Then type in an “A:” and proceed with your answer to the question along with any suggestions you may have for how the customer can remedy the problem on his or her own.
Leave some space after each so that your customers will be able to type or write in any comments or additional concerns they may have. Sometimes a customer will run through the FAQ but still not understand something. At that point, it’s okay if they need to reach out to you for further clarification.
Once you’re satisfied with your FAQ, you can save it as a PDF in your Client Communications Folder or whatever you’ve named the folder where you store your communication templates. Also keep the MS Word file in case you need to add additional questions as they come up. Each time a new client signs on to work with you, print out and hand out or email an attachment of the FAQ page.
You might also want to publish the FAQ page to your company website if you have one (and you well should).
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Project Review
Here’s a great client communication template to add to your arsenal of business tools. The Project Review is an important step to navigate if you’re working with customers in a service-based capacity.
If your project involves a process, and most do, then you will want to insert a few review points along the way to keep customers on the same page as you.
Why is the Project Review (or Order Review) necessary?
Each time you initiate a project review by sending out an email, or calling a meeting where you hand your client their review sheet, this will signal that it’s time for something to happen. This “something” could be a back-and-forth discussion with the client. Or, it could be a time to take action.
The Project Review message helps push everything through and eliminates confusion along the way. It’s also a good way to assertively and purposefully make contact with customers. You’re not just saying “Hey, how’s it going?” You’re telling them how it’s going, inviting their feedback, and dictating what will happen next, all through positive communication.
The project review is extremely useful because:
- It’s a way to get everyone caught up and on the same page
- You can use the review phase to modify the project if needed
- Your client gets a chance to ask questions and connect with you
- It reduces confusing back and forth by giving a sense of what’s happening when
- It works to keep goals at the forefront
- You can use the project review to accept or reject additional requests
- It will signal everyone involved on what needs to be done next, by whom, and when
After incorporating the client’s suggestions or overriding their ideas with something that reflects your industry expertise, you can incorporate your agree-upon changes and then once again keep the project moving toward the anticipated deadline.
Depending on the type of project, you might have one project review phase… or you may want to include several of them.
To set up a template for use at a specific point in your client’s project, simply start a new MS Word document. Title your document “Project Review” (and you can also include the phase or name of the phase, if it’s relevant to your business niche).
For example, if you’re a consultant helping a client with branding, you might have a Tagline Review as part of your ongoing work with the client.
Or, if you’re a real estate agent, then this might be where you send the client a “Buyer’s Checklist” to be sure you’ve got their top priorities in mind.
Type out a list of general points to make as you use the project review sheet to set the pace for this project.
Save the document to your computer where you keep your general communication templates.
When the time comes to use the project review sheet for a specific client, open the file and do a save-as. Name the document something that includes the client’s name or business name. Save the file to his or her folder on your hard drive or client storage area.
Fill in the specific details.
You can save the project review as a PDF if you’d like to be sure that the text isn’t intentionally or unintentionally edited by anyone which might confuse things.
Or, you can utilize the MS Word editing feature if you’d like to take a more collaborative approach.
Attach the Client Review to an email, type your message to the customer. Instruct them to save the file to their own project folder. Set a date to review the bulleted points and discuss next steps.
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Next Steps
As a service provider or a project manager for business clients, you may wish to include a Next Steps communication template to use with each client with whom you work.
“Next Steps” is a follow-up to the client review phase of any project you’re working on.
“Next Steps” helps customers get clear on what they need to do next to keep the project moving forward toward the anticipated deadline of completion.
Your “next steps” don’t have to be complicated. It’s just a simple sheet that bullets out all the necessary points which will serve as a reminder of what your customer needs to do next.
For example, let’s say that the client is making a significant purchase through you, or committing to long-term, contracted work. They’re required to gather some important information.
So maybe the Next Steps sheet looks like this:
1. Visit www.[website].com and open a new user account.
2. Input all requested personal information.
3. Submit your application.
4. Check your email for a confirmation of receipt.
5. Wait for further instruction via telephone call.
Include all of this in an MS Word document as so:
• Start a new MS Word document.
• Place your company logo at the top.
• Type in your own contact details – name, company name, address, email address, URL, Facebook page if any, phone number, fax.
For your page title, add the words Next Steps, or some other related title that fits your audience.
Your Next Steps may vary with each client and project that you manage. So if you save this in your Business Communication Templates folder on your computer to use again later, you may want to tack on a word that signals the specific version of what this is.
So for example, if it’s a loan application, then you might include the words “loan app” in the title so you will be able to reference what this is later on when you need to use the template again.
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Final Review and Wrap-Up
The Final Review is an exciting phase of your ongoing work with business clients. When your customers see those words, they’ll know that the end is near. They’ll be eager to move ahead to the very last details so that you can close the book on their project and they can receive their end deliverable, whatever it may be.
Here’s how to create a simple Final Review to use at the conclusion of your work with clients or customers.
1. Start a new MS Word document.
2. Place your company logo at the top.
3. Type in your own contact details – name, company name, address, email address, URL, Facebook page if any, phone number, fax.
4. For your page title, use Final Review, Final Wrap-Up, or some other similar description.
If this project is something typical that you’re used to giving clients, then it should be relatively easy to bullet point the end receivable that your clients can expect upon conclusion of your work together.
To remind both them and you of what needs to be finished, make a list of steps to carry out. These are your final goals.
There should only be a handful of bullets – maybe six at the most. This is simply a summary to keep everyone focused on the end game which is very close at this point.
Your customer will appreciate having this reminder and you’ll both get a sense that things are about to conclude.
If the project has been particularly arduous, then the Final Review will spell relief all around.
To signal the last phase of your work together, start an email to the customer and add your greeting and message. Sum this up in the email and attach the document for a formality.
You can also print out and hand out your Final Review to give to the customer in your last meeting to talk about final points and the conclusion of your work together.
The Final Review can be generic, because it’s brief. But you may also need to customize it to the individual project. So be sure to save a boilerplate version of this file in your Templates folder on your computer or cloud storage, as well as a customer-specific document which is named as such.
Create Your Own Business Communication Template: Customer Satisfaction Survey
After completing work for a small business customer, it’s always a good idea to ask them to fill out a Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Their responses to the questions will help you understand what value they obtained through their work with you, as well as what you can work on improving for next time and/or the next client who comes along.
Your Customer Satisfaction Survey will most definitely have a place in the Business Communication Templates folder on your computer.
Each time you conclude work with another client, simply print out the survey and hand it to the client. Or, it might be even better to type a final, “Thank you for your business” email and attach the survey to the email.
Here’s how to create a simple Customer Satisfaction Survey to use at the conclusion of your work with clients or customers.
- Start a new MS Word document.
- Place your company logo at the top.
- Type in your own contact details – name, company name, address, email address, URL, Facebook page if any, phone number, fax.
- For your page title, use Customer Satisfaction Survey, or some other similar description.
When should you present the Customer Satisfaction Survey to your customers? Most definitely after the conclusion of your project together.
It’s also recommended that you offer the survey after payment is remitted for work performed, not before. Some customers may use the survey to justify whey they should not have to pay you for work performed. This is not in all cases, of course. Many grateful clients are more than happy to pay you for services rendered or products delivered, and are also willing to provide feedback by way of a survey.
Let the client know that they can fill out the questions at their leisure. Emphasize that their responses to the questions will help you improve your services for the future.
You can also suggest that whatever the client writes in the survey be included in a Testimonials page of your website or on social media reviews. Positive reviews go a long way for securing more business from new customers, so it’s worth taking the time to save any positive words offered by people who have done business with you.
Save the testimonials in a file just as you have been saving your customer communication templates.