Communication is a large part of any consultant’s job. But while you may think what you’ve said is crystal clear, the client feels differently. Miscommunication risks are common for consultants, and they can lead to nasty lawsuits if a client’s expectations are unmet.
Communication is key for consultants, but not everyone does it well. That’s why we’ve put together these five tips for effective communication to help you hone your skills and hopefully avoid costly mistakes.
1. Encourage transparency
Clear communication is essential for both consultants and clients. As the consultant, be upfront about your services, time constraints, and fees. This can make it easier for potential clients to decide if they want to hire you and help you avoid wasting time talking to clients who are not a good fit.
On the client side, transparency allows you to provide accurate estimates. Encouraging clients to disclose their needs, wants, and budgets helps everyone set reasonable expectations. Asking questions, actively listening, and practicing empathy may put clients at ease so they feel comfortable and confident working with you.
2. Always use a contract
Consultant contracts can stop many miscommunication issues before they begin. By spelling out the terms of your agreement—services to be delivered, hours worked, fees charged, when you’ll be paid, etc.—you and your client will have a document to refer to should there be a disagreement.
A contract may seem overboard, especially for sole proprietors or when working with small business clients. However, contracts are there to protect your business. If a client files a lawsuit against your consultancy, the contract can help back you up in court.
3. Keep records of communications
Consultants and clients often communicate through several methods, such as phone calls, emails, and in-person discussions. However, this can sometimes make tracking conversations and changes to a project’s scope difficult.
Documenting your communications with clients is another way to mitigate miscommunication risks. Take notes whenever you’re speaking with a client and send a follow-up email that details what was discussed. This helps create a paper trail you can refer to if a disagreement arises.
4. Stay calm in tough situations
Occasionally, you might find yourself in a disagreement with a client that starts getting heated. Remaining professional in these situations is essential. Staying calm may keep things from escalating, help you maintain your reputation, and possibly salvage your working relationship with the client.
Remaining calm in the face of an angry client can be challenging. Sometimes, it helps to take a break from the discussion and return with a clear head. Focus on areas of agreement and seek ways to create a win-win scenario for both parties.
5. Admit mistakes and learn from them
Even when you take every step possible to avoid mistakes, they may still happen. How you handle them can make a huge difference. Being transparent with clients even when things go wrong can go a long way towards smoothing over issues and avoiding lawsuits.
Admitting mistakes can help you build trust with a client, particularly if you also come to them with a fix. Learning from mistakes may mean making fewer in the future. It can help you create better work processes, benefitting your business in the long run.
What if a client files a lawsuit?
Lawsuits are huge miscommunication risks for consultants. While following the steps above may help you avoid many issues, lawsuits may still happen. You may want to consider creating a safety net for your consultancy, just in case.
Professional Liability, a type of consultant insurance, helps businesses manage the costs of claims and lawsuits caused by miscommunications, mistakes, and other forms of professional wrongdoing.
Also known as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, this type of policy protects your business against claims of negligence, misrepresentations, or mistakes. Professional Liability claims are typically made by clients who allege some form of financial damage as a result of your services, products or employees.
So, if a miscommunication becomes a lawsuit, your Professional Liability insurance can help you cover your legal costs, including settlements and judgements ordered by the court. A Professional Liability policy also covers you if you’re not at fault.
Compare A-rated coverage with BizInsure
Considering Professional Liability insurance to help manage your miscommunication risks? BizInsure has got you covered, with policies tailored to the unique needs of consultants.
Compare free quotes from A-rated insurers and get instant coverage in minutes. BizInsure also offers other types of consultant insurance—including General Liability and Business Owner’s Policies—to help you manage other common risks your consultancy may face.
Get your free quotes today and start protecting your consulting business!
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