Being humans and all, each of us has different perceptions regarding communicating our actions and expectations. This is even more exaggerated considering the fact that we're working with customers all over the world and they all have different cultural norms of their own.
If you're in doubt, its always better to over communicate, than to under communicate.
While talking to a client, our recommendation is to use the “American” communication style. We don't want to be overly formal, and we don't want someone to think we are impolite. Don't be afraid to crack a subtle joke and lighten the mood every once in awhile, but it is generally a bad idea to get overly chummy with a client. This is serious business™, after all.
If you're asking for something — no matter how trivial or obvious it may be to you — always start or end with a “please”. If you are being sent something (an answer, an asset, etc.) always say “thank you”.
While in Serbian culture the absence of a “please”, or a “thank you” is considered perfectly normal, it can come off as rather impolite to people of other cultures.
Generally, our customers are well aware that there may be a cultural difference when they decided to hire us and will not take offense, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Written vs. verbal communication
We always prefer written and asynchronous communication. However, some people don't share our preference and this is why we have to make some rules.
The rules are:
- email is the primary way of communication,
- feedback can be given verbally, but must always be finalized in writing,
- Slack and other IM tools are cool as long as they are not hindering progress on the project, and are used for specific purpose (e.g. sharing inspiration/moodboarding, conversing on a single topic, etc.)
Why email, you ask?
Because we want to have a paper trail of communication, and we don't want to let our clients get the impression that we are available all the time.
Imposing certain limitations will bring order to a project. No one likes being bombarded with unorganized bits of brain dump throughout the day.
Handling crisis situations
It will inevitably come to a situation where you and the client won't see eye-to-eye on something. The most important thing in this type of situation is to distance yourself from your work, and avoid becoming emotional. If they have issues with the work you produced, remember that it's not a personal jab at you.
Most of the crisis situations stem from misunderstanding or under communicating expectations. Always remember that and don't jump to conclusions.
These situations call for levelheadedness more than any other, and it takes a long time to master this fine art. Just remember, it's most likely something stupid, so remain calm, and be proactive about the solution.
Never blame anyone. We can't emphasize this enough. If there's a problem, who cares who's fault it is?
If you can fix it, be the cool dude who steps up. But if you can't contribute to the solution, take the back seat on the conversation.
Lastly, if there's a big crisis threatening to end the world as we know it, call Dragan because he'd like to know early.
Response times and availability
Always reply as soon as possible, and don't let emails linger unanswered. If you don't have an answer for someone, let them know that you have received their correspondence, and you will get back to them when you are able to.
If you are out of office, you are encouraged to set up a vacation responder containing the date range of your absence from the office.
Communication is entirely limited to your working hours, and no one at Superawesome is expected to handle any kind of communication or work outside of them. Since we all make up our hours and schedules, this will obviously vary from person to person, but in general try to avoid being reminded that someone is waiting for a response from you.
Most of our client meetings will obviously require conversational English skills. If your English happens to be poor in this regard, ask someone from the office to sit in on the meeting and translate for you.
It would be awesome if you booked all your meetings in the common calendar called Superawesome. This way we all know who's talking to who, and whether the conference room is occupied.
If you send your clients this Google Form to fill out, the meeting slot they request will be automatically created in the calendar and they will be added as an attendee.
While everyone is free to use whichever tool to communicate with their team members, it’s really nice if you’d take notice of their personal preference regarding communication tools. Some people prefer to talk over the phone, others absolutely hate it.
Whatever the case may be, we find that if you follow this guideline, you’ll do well.
Phone and SMS are considered personal, and should be avoided for business use at all cost. Consider using them for business only when you can’t get a hold of someone, and there’s a mission critical shitstorm going on and you absolutely need their attention.
Slack is our official method of communication, and should be your go-to in order get a hold of someone. The good thing about Slack is that it shows a presence indicator, so you know who’s online, hence you know when you can expect a response. Even though Slack is an instant messaging tool, don’t expect a reply right away and give people some time to respond.
At the moment we are using Slack as a chat service, and it's channels are structured like so:
- _random is used for whatever,
- designporn is used to share design pieces we like,
- notifications aggregates Git commit messages from GitLab, no one posts to it,
- pomocprijatelja is used to seek indirect help from coworkers.
Apart from these public channels we all chat in between ourselves privately. It is always smart to ping someone through Slack first and ask to come over, than to come up to their desk unannounced.
There’s no better tool than plain old email. In an ideal world everyone would be using timely sent email messages to communicate, and people would respond in a timely manner.
While in the office, if you see someone is wearing their headphones, this is a sign that they don't want to be disturbed. They are probably deeply concentrated on their work. Either way, please be considerate when interrupting someone and always ask yourself “can my question be answered by Google” first.
Never let anyone respond to you with a lmgtfy.com link as it is a sure way to expose yourself as an internet n00b, and it will be followed by copious amounts of office banter.