Managing Client Expectations

A great friend of mine, Ken Witcher, once made the distinction that good customer service was about “managing client expectations”.  Notice I said “managing”, not “meeting”.

Managing expectations for clients, and holding to them, helps everyone know where the boundaries are.  If you don’t set expectations the way you want them, then you will make yourself crazy.  That’s because if you don’t set the expectation, you are stuck trying to meet your client’s expectations, and you often won’t even know what they are.

Think about it.  We get irritated with companies when our expectations aren’t met….unless they have set the expectation.  The easiest example of this is when we are stuck on hold listening to that crappy music while we wait for a customer service person.  If we are just there listening to the music and the “ads” being poured into our ear, we get increasingly impatient and irritated, don’t we?  However, if they tell us we are the 3rd caller, or that we can expect a 6 minute wait time, then we feel better, don’t we?  That’s because they managed our expectation.

What do you do to help manage your client’s expectations?  Here are some good places to make sure you tell them what to expect (both verbally and in writing):

· What the fees are

· Details of payment

o  When is it due

o  What forms of payment do you expect

· How long it will take to do the work

o  What is their part

§   For example: if they don’t give you everything you need to start, do they go to the back of the line?

o  How are changes handled

§   Timing

§   Charges

· What you will do, and what you won’t

Are you getting the idea?  Most of our hassles with clients can be at least calmed down, if not eliminated altogether, if we just manage their expectations.