Thanks to technology, collaboration between teams and clients has become easier over the years. But looking past software, what can *you* do as the small business owner?
You have to collaborate internally as a team, regardless of where each team member is located, then collaborate with clients wherever they may be. Poor practices can slow down progress, cause you to miss deadlines and, even worse, lose business. When you learn how to achieve seamless collaboration internally and externally, your business will run like a well-oiled machine.
I spoke with several entrepreneurs and small business owners about teamwork between internal teams and clients—below they share their favorite best practices to help you better streamline the process.
1. Be a Strong, Reliable Leader
“Assigning one person as the ‘leader’ or ‘project manager’ for every client can make a huge difference. This person not only keeps the entire internal team on track and progressing towards identified milestones and goals, but they also act as the main point of contact for the client.
When the client has one point of contact, it not only prevents missed messages and poor communication, but it helps to build a strong relationship. Speaking to the same individual throughout the process makes the relationship feel more personal, regardless of how large your company may be. It helps to create a smooth communication channel, delivering the client exactly what he or she expects.”
—Chris Saviano, Business Development VP of PGM Medical Billing
2. Play to the Strengths of Individual Team Members
“When every team member is assigned tasks relevant to their strengths, it helps you run a smoother operation, delivering a more pleasant experience to your client. Team members who use their strengths outperform those that don’t and are 8% more productive.
It applies to every business model. For example, if we are creating sponsored content for clients, we have team members that research the content topics, dedicated writers, copy editors and then someone responsible for sourcing free stock photos for every blog post. Projects are completed more efficiently and clients are happy when you simply leverage the strengths of each team member.”
—Melissa Thompson, Founder of Harcourt Health
3. Create a Motivated Team Culture and Vision
“Teams that are motivated will push each other to reach company goals as well as client goals. They celebrate team wins over individual success, focus their skillset on doing their jobs efficiently, and push hard to complete all tasks. They take pride in what they do and they are not satisfied unless the client is satisfied.
This type of culture naturally creates a happy team-client relationship. A client wants to work with a team that loves what they do, and a strong company culture is easy to identify, which enables a seamless working relationship.”
—Charles Zhong, Founder of Azazie
4. Create Trust Between Team Members
“When your team has trust in one another, it helps to resolve problems, builds internal confidence, and makes the communication channel stronger. This helps improve productivity and the results you are able to provide to your clients.
Your company’s trust directly impacts the trust level that your customer has for your brand and the product or services you provide. When there is that mutual trust, it allows for strong communication, which then translates to an effortless collaboration between the two parties.”
—Gary Simpson, CEO of Face the Red
5. Have Transparent Progress Tracking
“The only way you will ever achieve seamless collaboration is by having transparent project tracking between your team and the client. This helps to make sure your entire team is on the same page and each person is handling his or her tasks accordingly, in order to stay on track.
It also allows your client to watch the progress of the project in real-time, seeing the updates that are being made by your team. This satisfies them and will also cut down on the status update emails and phone calls, which allows your team to focus on the project.”
—Troy Boileau, Founder of Delta Growth
6. Delegate Every Single Project Task
“A strong personal relationship is important for any business-client relationship and, as a home builder, we strive to make the collaboration process as smooth as possible by delegating all tasks required to complete a project and satisfy our clients.
By delegating every single task related to a project, it creates a seamless process, from start to finish. When your team members know they are being held accountable for their responsibilities, they focus on completing them at a high standard.”
—John Rodeman, Digital Marketing Director of Taylor Morrison
7. Identify Goals in the Beginning
“Seamless collaboration between a team and a client will only occur when both sides completely understand the end goal of the relationship. Then, you need to identify several small goals that will help you achieve the ultimate end goal.
Not only do you have to have these goals identified, but you need to have a very clear plan mapped out to meet the goals. When everyone on the team, along with the client, is on the same page from the beginning it helps to keep the project moving forward and on track.”
—Deep Patel, Founder of Owlmetrics
8. Be Extremely Organized
“Every business has a core team that is directly responsible for the success or failure of the business. If just one team member is off, it can throw your entire organization upside-down. Being organized is key, and it helps to create a strong relationship between your staff and clients.
In our business, scheduling and follow-up is crucial to our success and providing exceptional service to our clients. Our team is highly organized, and everyone knows what they need to do to contribute to the success of the business and the satisfaction of our clients.”
—Dr. Zachary Linhart of Linhart Dentistry
9. Have Transparent Team to Client Communication
“For any relationship to be successful, it will require strong transparent communication from both sides, including all members of your team and the client. When all discussions are open, honest and occur on a frequent basis, it allows everyone to constantly be on the same page, working towards the same outcome.
Also, when a client has a question, they need to feel comfortable asking, without being afraid of the response. I would highly suggest using an online survey application and integrate it with your customer email list. This helps you determine whether your communication channels are truly transparent or need to be improved.”
—Paul Denman, Owner of DMS Air of McKinney
10. Hold Regular Video Conference Calls
“Holding regular video conference calls with your team as well as clients, is a great way to communicate visually, regardless of physical locations. We use Join.me because of the security it offers.
Sometimes it’s difficult to explain things correctly over the phone or via email, so this provides us with a secure environment to have face-to-face meetings. When questions are answered and feedback provided face-to-face it’s rarely misconstrued, which contributes to smoother collaboration between both sides.”
—Stefan Gleason, President of Money Metals Exchange
11. Make Customer Support a Top Priority
“When you make customer support a top priority, it eliminates any friction that could slow progress or damage the relationship between your team and the client. The customer service landscape has changed drastically over the years. Before, all customer service issues were handled over the phone. That’s not the case any longer.
When clients want an answer to a question, they often turn to social media or your website. Having a dedicated team member monitoring social media, live-chat and incoming contact submissions, will make sure you never leave a client hanging when they have a question.”
—Judy Hedreen, Co-Owner of Strasser Woodenworks
12. Take Advantage of Mobile Apps
“When your team is able to respond to client questions immediately, it helps to keep that relationship rock solid. With so many team collaboration tools that now have mobile apps as well, it gives your team the ability to keep your clients satisfied no matter where they are.
The real estate industry is a great example. Years ago, agents would reply to client questions while in the office. Now, if they were at a showing, they can respond quickly with clients as well as our office, thanks to mobile apps. Encourage your team to go mobile and you will see internal collaboration and team to client collaboration increase dramatically.”
—Mike McCann of The McCann Team
Keeping internal teams and your clients on the same page can be a challenging task as a small business owner. The tips above can help you streamline the process and create a much more peasant collaboration environment. Seamless collaboration contributes to projects completed on time, satisfied clients, referrals and repeat business.