Over the course of running your business, there will be many times when you will need to make changes to how that business is run. Many of these changes will have an impact on your clients — from your operating hours, to your prices, to your products and services. Whether this impact is positive or negative often hinges not on the change itself, but on how you communicate that change to your clients.
It can be disconcerting to wake up to a world that is different than the you knew the day before. Avoid subjecting your clients to this confusion by effectively communicating changes to your business that effect them.
Here are some suggestions for communicating change to clients:
Warn them in advance. Changing your office hours? Raising your prices? Discontinuing a program? Let them know at least 30 days in advance. In the event that your change needs to happen in a more immediate time frame — for example, if someone leaves your company on short notice — notify your clients as soon as possible.
Mitigate the negative effects of the change, if possible. Need to raise your prices, but think some clients won’t be able to afford the new prices? Roll out the changes gradually so each step is easier to afford. Or create a frequent buyer program or package deal to offset the increase in prices. If you need to discontinue an ongoing program, roll the participants into a similar program that is continuing.
Communicate the positives about the change from the client’s perspective. Taking a month off to visit Europe on your dream vacation? Describe how refreshed and energized you’ll be on your return, ready to tackle their projects with renewed vigor. Someone left the company? It’s an opportunity to bring in someone with new ideas and skills to make things better for everyone. Just be careful that what you describe as a positive will actually be seen that way by your client!
Acknowledge the client relationship. It might seem unnecessary, but a simple “We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for being a client,” helps to make the client feel valued and appreciated, even in the midst of change.
Put it in writing. While you can tell people verbally if you have personal contact with them, make sure you send them a written notice too. The notice should be about this one change only — the price increase, or hours change, or whatever — and not part of another type of communication (your newsletter, for example) and should take a slightly more formal tone than you normally use in communicating with your clients.
“Change is the only constant in life” is true in business as well. Most businesses lose clients when they make changes not because of the changes themselves, but due to a lack of communication. Keep your clients “in the loop” and you’ll find your clients will stick with you as you grow and expand your business.