Communication skills are foundational to building strong relationships with clients and are pivotal to successful contracting engagements. As a health IT contractor you naturally focus on developing your technical skills, but it is also important for you to develop the ability to communicate well.
In Health IT contracting, developing effective communication skills is important for building client trust, creating accountability, avoiding mistakes, and driving better engagement outcomes. Effective communication can also unlock opportunities for future engagements and lead to positive feedback and referrals.
In this blog, we dive into five strategies for improving your communication skills to help ensure successful engagements.
Ready to improve your client communication skills? Read on:
1. Understand client communication preferences
Communication is not one size fits all for clients. Each client is unique, and their communication preferences vary. One client might prefer to communicate primarily through email, while another may prefer a phone call or an in-person meeting.
Talk to your clients to determine the best way and time to reach them. Make sure you have a good understanding about how your client expects to communicate with you throughout the engagement. By taking the time to determine client communication preferences, you will build better client relationships and improve communication.
2. Consistently communicate
To form strong, trusting relationships with clients, it is important to maintain consistent communication throughout engagements. That means regularly checking in to discuss project status, progress and completed milestones. If problems or concerns surface, be sure to talk to your client right away to work through and resolve issues quickly.
Regular check-ins and updates are touch points that keep the project aligned, ensure everyone is on the same page and increase transparency and accountability.
Consistent communication also means the lines of communication remain open between you and your clients. Respond to client inquiries in a timely manner and be sure to address all their questions and/or concerns. Being responsive makes the engagement a better experience for your clients and can translate to positive reviews and valuable referrals.
3. Actively listen
Listening is often overlooked as a communication skill, but it is one of the most vital skills for Health IT contractors to master. Research reveals people generally retain about 20% of what they hear. Hearing only 20% of what your clients say is not the way forward to project success; active listening is.
Practicing active listening can help you absorb and remember more of what your client communicates, ask the right questions and ensure that you have an accurate understanding of your clients’ needs and concerns.
Tips for active listening include focusing on the speaker, minimizing distractions and paraphrasing what you have heard to ensure understanding.
4. Practice empathy
Empathy is another critical component of effective communication. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Clients want to feel that you understand them and the challenges and pressures they face.
By putting yourself in your client’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective, you will gain a better understanding of their needs, wants and goals and connect with them on a more personal level. Practicing empathy also allows you to better understand how your communication resonates with them.
5. Be mindful of tone and use positive language
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
It is important to be mindful of the fact that tone can change the perception and impact of what you are saying. Consider that a hesitant tone can be interpreted as lack of interest in a project, while a harsh tone may come off as disrespectful.
In communicating with your clients, a professional tone is always the best bet to make sure your communication is received as intended. The right tone can help build rapport with clients, facilitate mutual respect and make difficult conversations easier.
Along with tone, positive language helps build mutual respect and strong client relationships. Using affirmative statements such as “I can certainly help with that” or “I am happy to work on a solution” is a great way to instill client confidence in you.
On the flip side, negative language can adversely impact the way your client perceives you. Be mindful of avoiding more negative phrases such as “I don’t know”. Instead, take a more positive tone by saying something like “let me do some research and I will get right back to you”.
Give these five tips a try to help you achieve better results in your engagements, attract more clients and advance your career.
Bonus tip: Join Abra today to put your effective communication skills to work in healthcare IT engagements.
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