"And so I'd email them... and then 2 or 3 days later they'd call me back!" my client exclaimed, exasperated when describing another service experience to me.
We discussed at length the two key rules for communication (in my opinion).
Firstly - when a client contacts you - if you can't help them straight away - acknowledge them! A simple email back to say - hi, I got your request and I'm searching for the answer - or I'll be back in touch on XX date - would have been all this client needed.
And rule 2, clients give you guidance as to how they like to be communicated with when they contact you. If a client emails you, unless they specify otherwise, they probably want an email back. If a client phones you, they probably want to be phoned back.
Now - this one's a hard one for me. I'm an email junkie. It works for my lifestyle, it's verifiable, it's totally time appropriate for me (meaning I can get a lot of contact done after kids are asleep). BUT - if a client calls me and leaves a message I pick up the phone and call them back. The only exception being if I can't reach them - I won't leave a rambling voice mail message, I'll simply say - I've tried to reach you, I'll email you through all the answers (and on the email I'll say how they can phone me if they'd like to chat). It's a slight compromise - but I've always tried to contact them in their preferred method first.
So - to recap:
Rule 1 - acknowledge if you can't answer straight away. (And then diarise your next point of contact even if THAT too is to say you haven't got the answer yet, but you haven't forgotten about them).
Rule 2 - communicate with your client in the method they show you they want to be communicated with.