Avoiding Misunderstandings: 6 Essential Tips for Communicating With Your Service Provider
One of the most important keys to a successful partnership between a company and a service provider is the ability to communicate effectively.
From providing relevant information and adopting a collaborative approach to using collaborative evaluation sheets and giving constructive feedback, these practices promote transparency, mutual understanding, and respect.
By following these 6 tips, companies like yours can create a conducive working environment and build a strong working relationship with their service providers.
Let’s explore these communication strategies that will ensure your collaboration’s successful outcome.
Provide relevant information
When collaborating or handing over an entire project to a service provider, it can be difficult to assess all the information that you need to pass along. What kind of information is necessary, and what is too much?
Depending on the type of project the service provider will be handling, along with the expectations, you may need to provide them with some additional information.
Here is where you can follow the B.E.A.D approach.
No one knows your business as well as you do, but in order for the service provider to carry out a project successfully, they have to place themselves in your shoes and have an understanding of “who you are”.
Provide them with a short 150-word summary of your company that gives them a good understanding of where your company started, where you are now, and where you want to be in the future.
This is arguably the most important pieces of information you will need to communicate to your service provider. We want to stress this point so much that we’ve created a whole section just for it.
If you want to know more right away, jump straight to the section “Clearly define your expectations.”
An easily forgotten yet crucial piece of information to share with service providers is access. Identify if there are any specific networks or platforms that the service provider will need access to for the project.
To ensure confidentiality, provide the service provider with their own access codes to these networks. Where possible, consider offering restricted access to only the information or areas they need to work on.
Platforms like Dashlane are a great way to provide restricted access to an external organisation. This password management platform allows companies and individuals to share passwords with third parties without them actually seeing the password. The admin of your company’s Dashlane account can simply send passwords to an email provided by the service provider, and you can always control which sites they can access.
This tool can also prove to be useful in moments of urgency. Say you are not in your office and someone hacks into your social media account. You are unsure how to handle the situation but your service provider does. By using Dashlane, you can grant them temporary access to your compromised account without revealing the actual password. This not only allows them to take quick action to secure your account but also ensures that they can resolve the issue without having full visibility of your sensitive credentials.
In addition to providing access, consider the data required for the project. Communicate the type of data required, its format, and any specific data sources the service provider should be aware of.
Make sure you provide only the necessary data, i.e. figures and information relevant to the project in question.
Clearly define your expectations
At this stage, it is essential that your expectations are clearly defined so that the service provider understands your desired outcomes from the outset and can work towards ensuring they are met.
Within your expectations, you will have to elaborate on certain key points:
- Project overview
- Target audience
- Business impact
You may need to present these points differently depending on the type of project you are undertaking with your service provider. To help you, we have created a sheet that you can use and easily fill in with your own information.
Copy and start filling in this free ‘Communication With Service Provider – Expectations‘ template.
To establish the context and help the service provider understand the importance of the project, start by providing a brief summary of the project, its objectives, and its relevance to your company. What is your one-liner to explain your project?
To avoid unforeseen costs at the end of the project, be sure to include your total project budget. You can even specify how much you want to allocate to each goal so that the service provider can plan and allocate resources accordingly.
Communicating a clear timeline to the service provider is essential to ensure they understand when you expect the project to be completed. It is also important to communicate any internal deadlines for specific objectives throughout the project that you would like to see met.
An often neglected key piece of information is the target audience. A target audience gives direction to the project and its goals. Be as detailed as possible when communicating your company’s target audience to your service provider. Include details such as demographics, behaviours, preferences, and pain points.
While you may have a global project goal, it’s important to break it down into distinct objectives, each represented by specific targets. These objectives should be clearly defined, each with its own set of outcomes that you want to achieve. These objectives could take the form of targets such as ‘increase website traffic’ or ‘boost social media engagement.
The best way to measure performance is through key performance indicators (KPIs). By defining these key metrics, you can clearly communicate to the service provider how you will measure the project’s success.
Your metrics will also need to show current vs target numbers for the service provider to fulfil.
KPIs should always be quantifiable, time-bound, and aligned with your business objectives.
Lastly, it is important to communicate to the service provider the business impact that each objective is intended to achieve. In other words, answer the question, “What will this objective achieve at a business level?”
Clearly outlining the expected outcomes and benefits of each objective will allow the service provider to understand the overall significance of their efforts and how they contribute to the overall success of the business.
Although you will have a certain set of expectations for your project, the final project outlines will have to be created from a collaborative conversation with the service provider. For elements such as budget and timeline, they may have a better vision of what is achievable and realistic for the objectives you wish to achieve.
Give yourself and the service provider plenty of time to plan all of these details before getting started on the actual project.
Need help communicating with your service provider?
Copy and fill out this free template to ease your relationship with your service provider.Access the free template!
Use a shared evaluation sheet
A shared evaluation sheet can help companies and service providers collaborate by providing a structured and standardised approach to evaluating project progress, performance, and outcomes.
It promotes transparency and mutual accountability by ensuring that evaluation criteria are aligned with the overall objectives of the project.
By providing clear communication channels for all evaluations, both parties can constructively discuss progress and results, identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions. The 20/60/20 shared evaluation sheet also assists in benchmarking against pre-defined KPIs, providing valuable insight into the progress and performance of objectives and the overall project.
By using this tool, companies, and service providers can build trust and avoid misunderstandings during or at the end of the project.
You can read more about how to evaluate or give feedback to a service provider, or here is direct access to the free 20/60/20 method sheet for you to complete.
Adopt a collaborative approach
A collaborative approach is essential when communicating with a service provider.
While you may have a clear set of expectations for the project, it is important to recognise that the final project outline should be the result of collaborative discussions with the service provider.
They will bring valuable insight, expertise, and a fresh perspective that can contribute to the success of the project. They will also help you with some expectations that you may be unsure of, such as budget.
Create an open dialogue and encourage the service provider’s active participation. Plan regular meetings, brainstorming sessions, and progress reviews to establish ongoing communication and mutual understanding.
This collaborative approach can not only strengthen the relationship between you and the service provider, but also increase the chances of the project being successful and both parties being satisfied with the outcome.
Regular communication is a key component of working effectively with a service provider. It promotes transparency, builds trust, and strengthens working relationships. It allows the company to stay informed of project progress, make timely adjustments, and address issues before they get out of hand.
Establish clear and consistent communication channels and schedule regular check-ins, progress updates, and milestone reviews. Use these moments to also address any concerns but also to celebrate successes!
You can use a variety of communication tools to communicate with each other, such as video conferencing, email, phone calls, or text messages. Of course, face-to-face meetings are also an option, although not as common these days.
However, be sure to establish your and their preferred methods of contact from the outset. Some service providers may be more responsive with certain tools than others, or may simply not use certain channels.
Give constructive feedback
Both you and the service provider should be open to giving each other constructive feedback, not only at the end of the collaboration but also throughout the project. Feedback differs from the evaluation sheet in that it is a designated place for you to reflect on the evaluation together and share your thoughts on a variety of different points.
By having several feedback points throughout the project, you can avoid misunderstandings or frustrations that can snowball into someone being unhappy with the results of the project.
In conclusion, effective communication and collaboration are the cornerstones of a successful project partnership. By outlining the project overview, budget, timeline, target audience, objectives, KPIs, and business impact, you provide a comprehensive framework for the service provider to align their efforts with your company’s goals.
The joint scorecard, in particular the 20/60/20 methodology, acts as a roadmap for assessing progress and benchmarking results, and constructive feedback loops throughout the project avoid misunderstandings and increase overall satisfaction.
Create an environment that allows for the project to come out successful by establishing clear communication channels, encouraging active participation, and using a variety of communication tools.