Setting Client Expectations

Susan Scobie  

April 16, 2008

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The more I work with clients and manage relationships, the more I appreciate the importance of setting accurate and appropriate expectations. This is a crucial component in keeping a client happy. And I think we can all agree that in general a happy, satisfied client will come back for repeat business. So, what can we do to make sure we consistently meet or exceed client expectations?

1. Clearly Outlined Scope - Make sure the scope of a project is clear and comprehensive. You cannot set expectations if you do not have a solid understanding of what it will take to complete the task.

2. Validate the Requirements - Review functional specifications, or relevant project documentation, with the client to validate our mutual understanding of the project requirements.

3. Identify Dependencies and Assumptions - Make sure to identify and communicate any dependencies or assumptions that may be associated with a task – so there are no surprises if these things impact the task.

4. Explain the Process - A misconception about what it takes to technically implement something could lead to problems. Explain the process in language the client will understand.

5. Be Real - Think rationally about what it will take to complete a task. Don’t let what you ‘think’ the client wants to hear influence your assessment. A minor disappointment early on will be out-shadowed by a successful launch.

6. Adjust Expectations ASAP, if Needed - Unanticipated stuff happens. When it does, and you know there will be an impact to the schedule, budget, or overall outcome of a task, quickly adjust expectations with the client. The sooner the better.

The effort we take to set appropriate expectations up front will be greatly appreciated by the client when we meet or exceed their expectations in the end. It shows them we know our stuff and meet our commitments – that we are the kind of quality agency they want to work with again and again.