Client Management

Handling an Unresponsive Client the Right Way (with Email Templates)

How to handle an unresponsive client - Punchlist blog

Nothing derails a project quite like hearing crickets from unresponsive clients. We’ve all been there before. You have the kickoff meeting, get all your ducks in a row, send over the first draft for feedback, and…nothing. 

After what feels like a month-long game of “Where’s Waldo?”, your client finally gets back to you with approval, but by now the timeline is in shambles. Due dates have long passed, and your creative team has other work on their plate.

Now, it’s your wonderful task (dare I say, privilege?) to have the uncomfortable conversation with the client about shifting to a new deadline. 

Lucky you.

Sound familiar? If so, stop what you’re going. There’s a better way.

No-show clients will always be part of the job — there’s no getting around that. However, there are things you can do now (and in the moment) to handle unresponsive clients to better keep projects on schedule and avoid burning bridges.

Below, we’ll walk you through a few tried-and-true techniques, tools, and copy/paste language you can swipe to better manage your clients and get feedback lightning fast. Because time is money, and every second you spend chasing down unresponsive clients takes time away from completing projects, starting the next one, and generating that cash flow. 

How to Manage Unresponsive Clients: 6 Ways to Get Creative Feedback Quickly

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to managing unresponsive clients. You have to do a handful of things the right way, at the right time, with the right people for it to go silky smooth. Learning how to get timely feedback takes some trial and error to master, but it’s well worth the investment.

1. Set Expectations From the Get-Go

Kick things off on the right foot with a top-notch client onboarding process. Nailing this first step will improve communications, establish roles, and reduce client churn — which means more time for you to focus on the fun, creative work. 

Client onboarding processes should include seamless contract negotiations, a welcome email series, software introductions, questionnaires, and meeting scheduling. Not sure where to start? Find a free copy/paste checklist you can use here.

2. Eliminate Needless Back-and-Forth

Non-stop emails threads and Slack messages kill projects. They become a time suck for you and your clients, and they’re often the roadblocks that cause clients to go silent. Cut them out wherever possible.

For example, instead of forwarding mockup website links and collecting feedback in Google Docs and email conversations, merge the entire feedback process into a single tool. You can use Punchlist to provide detailed feedback and communicate in real-time. Instead of emailing the page back-and-forth with your client, you can:

  • Tag your client in Punchlist with an @mention
  • Set due dates
  • Schedule automatic follow-up nudges
  • Provide status updates (In Progress, Ready for Review, Waiting for Feedback, Done)

Pretty nifty, right?

3. Follow Up at the Right Time

Sending a request for creative feedback or content approval at 5pm on Friday is a recipe for disaster. You’re not going to get a response then, and you probably won’t get an answer on Monday, either. By then, your message will have been buried under the next pile of ill-timed emails.

Think critically about the timing, and put yourself in their shoes. Requesting feedback on Tuesday morning (after the Monday craziness is over) might be a good time. There’s no single best time to request creative feedback, but there are loads of bad times to do it. 

Be sensitive to your client. Respect their needs and time zones. Get to know them and establish expectations during the onboarding phase of the project. You might find that your point of contact tends to work evenings instead of typical daytime hours, and maybe they would prefer to see receives messages later in the day. If that’s the case, schedule your messages accordingly. 

4. Make It Easy for Your Client

Make providing feedback quick and painless for your clients. You don’t want them to have to schedule a whole afternoon to review your work. Keep it simple with things like:

  • Concise emails: If you have to send an email, keep it short and sweet.
  • Simple feedback: Don’t ask your clients for a boatload of feedback at once with no guidance. Break it up into chunks, and organize the pages accordingly. Even better, pre-frame what kind of feedback you’re looking for, to keep them focused on giving you productive critiques that help move the project forward.
  • Seamless tools: Use tools to streamline the creative feedback process. Don’t make your clients jump through hoops to download (and learn to use) cumbersome software.

5. Tell Your Client What to Do (And Why)

Be precise. Tell your client exactly what you need from them. Instead of saying, “Can I get your thoughts on this page?” try asking more specific questions, like “How do you feel about the hero image,” or “Do you want to stick with this color scheme?”

Remember, getting timely feedback isn’t all about you. Remind your clients (tactfully) about deadlines and the consequences of missing them. For example, you might nudge them and say, “We need to get your feedback on this landing page content by Friday if we want to get it into design and stick to our launch timeline.”

6. Be Persistent — But Not Too Persistent

Persistence is key, but you need to learn when to put the pressure on and when to back off. Friendly reminders are fine and dandy, but you’ll always walk a fine line between being nudgey and naggy, and nobody likes a nag.

Message your clients too much, and they’ll get fed up working with you. Don’t message them enough, and you might always be chasing deadlines. Your goal is to find the Goldilocks-approved level of persistence somewhere in the middle — and that’s going to be different for every client.

Read the room. You know when you’ve gone too far and annoyed a client, and you also know when you’ve given too much space and gotten forgotten.

When in doubt, genuinely ask them how they’d prefer to work and communicate. This will set up your future project for success, once you understand the rules of engagement at the onset.

Copy/Paste Email Follow-Up Templates

Need some help knowing what to say and how to say it? We’ve got just the thing. Swipe the following email templates to use for your follow-up messages:

First: Gentle Nudge

Hey [Client’s Name],

We tagged you in a few comments via Punchlist last week. Did you have time to take a look at the mockup and provide feedback? The questions are relatively minor and should only take a few minutes to review. Here’s the link to the page for quick access.

Thanks for your time, and let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers,

[Your Name]

Second: Persistent Reminder

Hey [Client’s Name],

Looks like we still haven’t gotten your feedback on the mockup. Need us to put things on hold for a bit, or is this something you could take a look at today/tomorrow? Here’s a link to the page to make it easier.

Thanks for your time, and let me know if you have any questions.

Many thanks,

[Your Name]

Third: Important Alert

Hey [Client’s Name],

We’re still waiting to get your feedback on the content before we proceed with the next step in the design phase. If we can’t get that feedback before the end of the week, we’ll need to readjust the timeline and push back the completion date.

Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help keep the project on track.

Again here’s the link to the project: [insert Punchlist share link]

Thanks,

[Your Name]

Fourth: Last Notice

Hey [Client’s Name],

Since we didn’t get the feedback on time, we’ll need to adjust the timeline and find a new completion date. I’ll wait for your response before drafting a new timeline for your review.

Thanks for your time, and let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers,

[Your Name]

Handle Unresponsive Clients Like a Boss

Managing clients isn’t always fun, especially when communication is lopsided. Fortunately, you can take steps to improve the chances your client will consistently provide timely feedback.

Want to get started for free in less than 30 seconds? Create a free (forever) Punchlist account and collaborate with teammates and clients with newfound proficiency. Whether creating a website, PDF, pitch deck, or landing page, Punchlist makes it easy to annotate and communicate feedback — eliminating all the back-and-forth, and launching projects in record time. 

Just point, click, type, and share. It’s that easy.

See for yourself.

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Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak has 10 years' experience writing about marketing and entrepreneurship for tech startups like Twilio, SendGrid, Lendio and Foundr Magazine. He built and sold a post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. Writer by day and peak bagger by night, you can often find Jesse somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
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