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Managing Client Expectations


Managing client expectations is a critical skill in delivering good quality work, which both you and your clients are happy with. Client expectations tie directly into the level of satisfaction a client will receive from your work.

If a client appears to be dissatisfied, the best place to start when looking for causes, if your performance has been great, is at the client’s level of expectation at the outset of the project. Sometimes, even the best management consultants become so wrapped up in their own work processes that they lose sight of the expectations a client holds for a consultant’s work.

What are the Client’s Expectations?

Key is asking questions. For example, if a client has hired your consultancy to help grow their business, ask questions about like, “How much growth?” “Over what time period do you want to grow?” “What is a realistic percentage of growth?” By asking questions, you can help understand the client’s explicit expectations.

However, a client may not always verbalize their expectations. These are implicit expectations-those expectations the client holds without telling you. These expectations are based upon several things:

  1. Client organisation standards and culture
  2. Industry standards and quality benchmarks
  3. Your personal reputation, and that of your consulting firm
  4. Articulation of what is expected

To understand implicit expectations, put yourself in your client’s shoes. When depending on someone else’s services, what do you want? Items on this list might include:

  1. Respect
  2. Communication
  3. Feedback
  4. Honesty
  5. Professionalism
  6. Empathy
  7. Active listening
  8. Follow-through

When things go awry and your client is unhappy, it is important to sit back, place yourself in your client’s shoes, and ask yourself what you would want if you were on the receiving end of your services. Sometimes this simple activity can point out exactly what is wrong. Perhaps you realize when analysing your actions that you haven’t communicated as much as you would like to be communicated with if you were on the receiving end of your services.

When managing client expectations, it is also vital not to get so caught up in the technical aspects of your job that you forget about or neglect the human service elements. There should be a good balance between technical expertise and dexterity and outstanding customer service. If your client has seemed overly demanding with requirements for their projects, look again not at your technical know-how, but instead at the level of customer service you have been delivering to the client.

When You Need to Set Limits

It is important to be frank with your clients about what their expectations should be. Sit down with your client and discuss what is achievable and what is not by you and your firm. If you take time – especially to limit the amount of involvement your consulting will have and how and when you can be reached – to set boundaries in the beginning, then you will have a healthier relationship with your client.

Clients often ask when things will be done. When will you have my new product researched? When will the data be ready? When will you reply to that email I sent to you? When will you deal with problem x? One great way to avoid this problem is to be explicit with your service standards. Keep your clients informed as to the project status, give them a timetable for keeping that timetable, and follow that timetable no matter what. If there are problems, let them know as soon as you know. This will build client trust.

But: Don’t Promise What You Can’t Deliver

Your client may want you to perform tasks you cannot perform, or the time frame may make you nervous. Whatever you do, do not promise things that you cannot deliver on. This will ruin your reputation. By being honest with your client, you will build a reputation for trustworthiness and honesty that will long outlive any disappointment felt over unrealistic expectations.


As a final note, it is important to be sure that both you and your client are on the same page when it comes to their expectations. Be sure to check, and double check to make sure that no minor miscommunication gets in the way of the success of a project. Never make any assumptions. If you talk on the phone to discuss a specific client problem, follow up with an email restating the key points of the conversation. If you have been communicating via email, restate the communication in your own words to be sure you understood right. Afterwards, restate it one more time. It is better to be redundant in restating your client’s expectations than apologizing for a miscommunication driven error.


Source by Raj Modi

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