Implementing a client-centric communications strategy can lead to a higher level of client satisfaction and improved client relationships.

But you must first understand what your clients want — and the best way to find out is to ask them, says Kevin Spikes, vice president of communications at Marketing and Communications Central in Toronto.

You must take into consideration the wide variety of communication methods available. That includes the various forms of digital communication, such as websites, e-newsletters, social media, email and video; as well as the more traditional methods such as telephone, print-based methods and meeting in person.

The challenge, Spikes says, is that there is a “huge divide in the communication preferences of older and younger clients.”

For example, older clients might prefer paper-based methods while younger clients are more digitally-oriented. “A millennial client, for example, will rarely speak to you on the phone,” Spikes says.

Here are some considerations for determining your individual clients’ preferences in communication methods — to help you implement a client-centric communication strategy:

> Ask clients directly
The best time to learn about clients’ communication preferences is during the onboarding process. But be sure to review their preferences periodically.

“You should be aware that their preferences might change over time,” Spikes says.

You also can ask them during periodic review meetings or at any time you speak with them. You might find that some clients have different preferences for different types of information. For example, they might prefer to receive their statements by regular mail but receive market updates by email.

A millennial client might prefer to receive a text message, as apposed to a telephone call, to set up an appointment. Regardless of these preferences, Spikes says, most clients would prefer a phone call or a face-to-face meeting during times of extreme market volatility.

> Survey clients
Obtain feedback from clients on their communication preferences by conducting a survey, Spikes says. While your survey would probably ask about various aspects of your service, one specific question should address how they prefer to receive communication from you. An online survey is relatively inexpensive and is probably the most efficient way to get feedback. But you should be aware that some of your clients might not complete an online survey.

See: Tailor client communications to hot buttons

> Track communication patterns
Clients normally communicate with you through their method of choice; they might call you or send an email. So, make a note of how they communicate with you and reciprocate using the same method. For example, if a client calls you, call them back; do not respond by email.

> Record information about preferences
Store the information you gather about clients’ communication preferences in your client relationship management database, Spikes says.

“Your tool kit has to be bigger than in the old days,” he says, “when paper communication dominated.”

Make sure your clients are aware of your communication strategy and ask them for feedback on whether you are reaching them through their preferred method.

> Have a multi-channel default method
To prevent any clients falling through the cracks, you must have a way to send the same message across multiple channels. This should be a default method that allows your communication to reach your entire database, even if it means some clients getting a duplicate message.