Guest Post - Top 5 Tips for Managing Client Expectations
Your client's expectations set the tone for all of their interactions with you and, ultimately, whether they'll be satisfied with the services you provide.
Even if they haven't fully communicated their expectations, they'll still expect you to meet them so it's important to make sure all of their assumptions concerning your work are exposed and both parties see eye to eye and agree on the amount and types of service provided as well as prices for all of the work you'll be doing—and any charges for extra work.
Their expectations will steer everything they say and do with you, so making sure everyone's on the same page on every aspect is key if you want your relationship to go smoothly. How closely you meet their needs—whether real or perceived—will also directly affect what they say about you.
If you want their return business, positive quotes to use on your website or referrals from them, you need to make reasonably certain that they're satisfied with the services you've provided.
1) Under Promise, Over Deliver
If you're venturing off into new territory, whether it's a task you've never done before or at a scale you've never experienced, be conservative in your estimates. Don't tell them that you'll do a task you've never performed in record time, because that will set up expectations you can't possibly hope to achieve. If you estimate conservatively and give yourself more time than you think you need, you have a better chance of meeting their needs or even exceeding them, which will make them think even more highly of you and your work.
Most project managers use systems like Basecamp or MS Dynamics CRM to make sure that their commitments and scheduling are handled in one central location. If you have one unified repository of information on all of your clients' needs, including timelines and agreements, you'll be better equipped to handle the tougher parts of your job. Getting all of the small details out of the way makes it easier for you to concentrate on the big picture.
3) Give Examples
When you start talking about the work you'll do and the services you'll provide, give them some clear examples of the same type of work that you've performed in the past for satisfied clients. By giving them a clear picture of the kinds of things you're able to do, and including the time it took for each step of the process and any reactions you received from the client, you'll give them additional confidence that you can really pull it off like you say.
4) Delineate What You Will and Won't Do
Explain to your client exactly what services you will provide, how you will do it and when it will be done. Then take the opposite approach and tell them what you absolutely cannot or will not do. Put it in writing and make sure both of you have copies. That way no one will be surprised in the future if you say you can't do something on the no list or they ask for something on the yes list.
5) Constantly Check Up
Setting the groundwork for realistic expectations is necessary and will do you a lot of good in the future, but it can't stop there. You need to be constantly evaluating your performance, showing results to your client and
asking for feedback.
Don't call them up every day (unless they ask you to), but any time there's a development, question, concern or it's been close to a week since you've spoken with your client, give them a call and find out what's going on with them.