The pain to understand how to manage client expectations ain’t no issue – anymore.
& here’s why!
Every digital agency is fueled by projects – projects which are being done for certain clients. Naturally, your customers have chosen you for a reason: they trust your judgment and have certain expectations that they feel you can fulfill.
However, seeing as we are living in the digital age, where competition is fierce and ‘the other’ digital agency is just a few clicks away, there is a subconscious need to fight for each client. To achieve this, you can either:
- deliver superb results,
- lower your price drastically,
- improve your client management significantly.
If you’ve chosen the third option, you are in luck, because we are bringing you seven ways for your digital agency to improve the client’s expectations.
1. Include client in project process and make sure you have timely communication
Complete understanding of each other’s wants and needs, clear communication and well-defined goals are prerequisites for successful client – agency collaboration.
To make sure everything runs smoothly it would be best to keep your clients in the loop at all times.
A steady flow of progress reports will keep their mind and ease, and allow you to focus on what matters. Every client report should contain only relevant data, of which the most important should take up the first page. It should be easily readable and jargon-free if possible. However, including actionable recommendations is a must.
- Make reports short – What client feels is urgency. So what they want is immediacy. Lengthy reports are usually not a good idea because most clients skim through, or simply ignore them. So instead of laying out 20 pages spreadsheet, try creating a report on a single screen and highlight the crucial information using different colors.
- Automate reports – This is an excellent move if you want to save time and keep your client in the loop without worrying too much about them. What this includes is creating one report that will automatically become updated and sent to all interested parties. By using report automation, you demonstrate the added value you bring to your client’s business and strengthen client loyalty and relationship.
- Choose the right reporting tool – It’s not only cost-effective, but it saves time as well. With an appropriate reporting tool, you will be delivering insightful content. Also, it has a significant advantage for the entire working team because all the information your team needs is on one device.
- Face-to-face meetings – Sometimes it is simply impossible to provide timely reports to your clients. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to arrange a meeting or a face-to-face client session and discuss everything that’s on the agenda. Thus avoiding any misunderstandings, and improving a mutual relationship.
2. Leave your ego out of it
Experience can make you bold and sure of your work.
However, the line between confidence and arrogance is thin.
No matter the opinion about your client, you should always keep your ego in check and try to comprehend client’s wants and needs fully.
Many potential collaborations have failed as a result of frustration caused by the clash of egos. Allowing yourself to be caught in this trap is less than flattering.
Nothing says humility like a good listener.
Although most of us want to impress others with our extensive knowledge and skills, it’s sometimes more important to focus on listening to your client’s needs. Allow them to provide you with the information that will help you to complete the project more efficiently and deliver the best possible results.
Their opinion and their feedback, they will add more value to the efforts you are putting into the project.
3. Urge your client to be specific with their requests
Uncertainty is a prerequisite for disaster.
So, before you even start your initial meeting, get a paper and pen ready – and get everything in writing and put together a contract. It should be a very detailed proposal, listing all the things included and excluded from the project. That will give you an excellent starting point for a further project development.
Also, if any misunderstandings occur, you will have something to turn to and prove your arguments,
Another major factor that can impact client collaboration is developing mismatched and undefined client expectations.
So If a client asks you to complete a project within an unrealistic timeframe, there is no need to sugarcoat it. Just decline or ask for a deadline adjustment. It’s always a better idea to give your team some cushion for the unexpected and meet deadlines or even finish ahead of time.
There are particular types of clients who fit rather well within this category, called the Clueless clients. Deprived of any vision or idea what they want, these customers will let you follow your gut and do the work the way you see fit.
The problem arises, however, when the job is finished.
It is only then that they dismiss your work as an unsatisfactory.
The solution to handling them is in the prevention: detailed negotiations before the project even starts, as well and carefully managed expectations.
Keep them up to date, and ask for their approval on with every single change you make. Otherwise, you might find yourself re-doing the same work over and over again.
4. First underpromise, then overperform
Even frowned upon by some, many consider “underpromise-overperform” mantra to be crucial when it comes to managing client’s expectations.
Sometimes, things do not go according to plan, and it can turn out that the project takes a bit longer than initially expected. Take this into account during the initial meeting and set deadlines accordingly. By doing this, you are giving your team some breathing room if it comes to the unfortunate turn of events, enabling them to deliver work on time.
If you miss a deadline because you agreed to unrealistic demands, all the trust you’ve built up until that moment will quickly go down the drain.
5. Do not allow role boundaries to be crossed
At certain times, a client may start micromanaging entire project, which will leave you feeling frustrated and redundant.
At different times, you will be asked to take on the development of a poorly designed website. Which will make you want to give a piece of your mind to the potential employer.
If either of these situations occurs, try to control yourself.
It may be difficult, but try to adapt to the situation, remain calm and professional.
Sometimes, you will come across some Meddling clients.
They do not care about your workflow or your process plans.
They firmly believe that that job will not be done the way it should be if they don’t provide without their input and explicit approval.
To handle this type of client, you must include them in the process and communicate with them in real time. It will provide them with the sense of involvement. Thus satisfying their urge to be in total control.
However, sometimes things can blow out of proportion. If that is the case, detach yourself from the project:
- all of the control will most likely be taken from you,
- most you can hope for is some financial satisfaction.
The other types of clients that often cross-role boundaries are notorious Dictator clients.
They are the ones who expect you to be at their disposal at all times.
They have many questions of all sorts, and they want all of the answers, all of the time!
Even though these clients know what they want, and are very straightforward with their requests. They do not believe that you can deliver on what you promised.
Handling them is difficult, but rather simple.
You should set clear boundaries:
- clarify deliverables
- determine your availability.
So they cannot pester you whenever they see fit.
If they are unwilling to accept the fact that you are a living breathing human being that requires their rest and personal time, simply end collaboration.
The stress of handling “the Dictator” is simply not worth it.
6. Encourage your client to give you honest and straightforward feedback, no matter how harsh it might be
Feedback can be positive and negative, but it should always be constructive.
Most of the time it is utterly subjective, but even some experts have noticed that a lot of people use absolute terms and words during feedback sessions (like “This is awful” or “This is useless”).
Those final and absolute statements are not only bad for our self-esteem, motivation, and self-development, but they can start a chain reaction, of negative emotion.
Constructive feedback, on the other hand, is focused on and based on applicable advice, that will help you finish your project quickly.
Even though there are quite a few employers that don’t mind harsh words, most clients will try to soften the blow when delivering negative feedback.
So, when dealing with client feedback, keep calamity of the mind. Review it meticulously and respond accordingly.
In most cases, rash, emotion-fueled reactions don’t do any good and can result in relationship breakdown. Keep in mind that most clients will be happier with slow but strategic and action-oriented approach, rather than a quick but scrappy solution.
7. Decline when necessary
To have a meaningful collaboration, a client – as well as an agency – must fit a particular profile. Sometimes, it is ok just to let everything go.
Time, energy and manpower are limited resources, so analyze your capabilities carefully.
- if you are unable to deliver the design client requires,
- if deadlines are too unrealistic,
You find that their budget is unfitting for the realization of the project.
– Your “No” is entirely justified.
Some clients will require you to dedicate all your work hours to one project, leaving you unable to focus your attention elsewhere.
Therefore, if red flags of ‘clinginess’ are being raised left and right, end the collaboration ASAP and do not mull over the decision.
Your time is precious, and there will be others seeking your aid in the future.
Now it’s your turn
A quick wrap-up on how to manage client expectations:
- 1. Include client in project process and make sure you have timely communication
- 2. Leave your ego out of it
- 3. Urge your client to be specific with their requests
- 4. First underpromise, then overperform
- 5. Do not allow role boundaries to be crossed
- 6. Encourage your client to give you honest and straightforward feedback, no matter how harsh it might be
- 7. Decline when necessary
Now, tell us & others what’s your secret sauce to manage client expectations?
This article was written by Rachel McPherson. Rachel is currently working as the vice president of communications at ActiveCollab. After finishing her master’s degree in Communications she pursued a career in most notably in marketing and public relations.