Client Relationship Management : Managing Client Expectations

Author: Larry Woods on 04/15/2014

Managing client expectations is as essential to the success of the client relationship as delivering exceptional work and being an industry expert. Managing client expectations is also many other things, challenging, rewarding, a quandary, common sense, and the list can go on and on. As a matter of fact, anyone who has provided a service or product can relate to the juggling act that is managing client expectations.

I’ve learned the client/agency relationship is like a family. You love them but you don’t always like them. Telling a client no or that their idea is dumb (just kidding, don’t say dumb, say stupid) is uncomfortable at best. But being able to celebrate their successes, feel protective of them when they are wronged and help them through their failures shows how much you care about them, not only as work, but as people. And at the end of day, we are all working with people not nameless, faceless clients.

As someone who manages client expectations on a daily basis, I can say, there are some fundamentals.

  1. Learn their business. This falls into the common sense bucket (you would think) but understanding their business and their goals is key to providing results.
  2. Build a REAL relationship. Do not approach every interaction with a checklist to cover then leave and move on to the next. These are people, learn about them and who they are outside of their role.
  3. Learn to tell them no. Listen, it’s not easy, but they are going to respect and value your guidance if you are more than a yes woman or yes man. Telling clients yes all the time is detrimental to your business and their business.
  4. Communicate OFTEN. This is another no-brainer but is absolutely essential to your relationship with a customer or client. Of course you can’t be available 100% of the time, but show your client that when they need you, you’ll be there. Do more than just email, visit with them, pick up the phone – and try to do it in a timely manner. Duh
  5. Educate your team on who the client is. Internally everyone is busy doing client work but do they understand who the client is? You are the voice of the client and the advocate for them. Make sure the team sees them as more than just a work ticket – but try not to be obnoxious about it.

None of the concepts above are rocket science but it can’t hurt to be reminded of how important customer service is to the success of your agency, business or organization. In our extremely busy society sometimes we forget a good old-fashioned approach can do wonders for building great relationships with your clients.