By: Annie Scranton as Featured on Forbes.com 07/22/13
Managing expectations, for me, is the single most important aspect to maintaining a healthy & rewarding relationship with my clients. Through my past career as a TV news producer, I learned a lot about managing the expectations of some pretty important people. Imagine telling Geraldo that the guest you almost had booked canceled ten minutes before a live show. Needless to say, that only had to happen once before I learned a valuable lesson in managing expectations.
Reputation is everything in my industry (public relations) and most likely in yours too. Consistently having positive relationships with clients leads to a calmer work day and a higher level of productivity.
Here are the five steps I always try to follow for managing client expectations:
- Be Honest From The Get-Go. Though it may sound counterintuitive, I always tell potential new clients in the very first initial conversation about possibly working together that there are no guarantees. As with most things in life, there are too many factors at play to make any grandiose promises. I can’t predict whether a producer will like a pitch, or a reporter will quote my client. Although it may feel uncomfortable, I think that saying this clearly and in no uncertain terms, positions the client to take a leap of faith in your work and also helps them to understand the process behind your work.
- Under-Promise , Over-Deliver. This old adage is one to live by! I promise my clients that they will have immediate & constant access to me and my team; that we will, every day, work on their behalf through pitching and meetings with the media; and that if nothing else, it is guaranteed that they will become known to key members of the media. After that, when big interviews start rolling in, it’s much more appreciated!
- Anticipate the Client’s Needs Before They Know Their Own Need. This one definitely takes time and practice, but think about it: no one knows your business as well as you do. You know when things are going great and when you need to ramp up your efforts. It’s so important to share that with a client through a simple email stating “I’m going to spend extra time this week working on your project – I really want to get you out there as much as you do.” It can go a long way.
- Constant Communication. If you’re in the service industry of any kind, that is what you do – serve. That means being bubbly, bright and (almost) always available. While of course it’s important to set boundaries so that you can maintain a rewarding personal life, it’s critical that your clients know they can gain access to you as needed. Hopefully just knowing you’re available and ready to jump on a project as needed will be enough so that your client’s won’t abuse your generosity with time.
- Reports. Probably not anyone’s favorite task during the week, but reports show a clear delineation of work that was done over the course of a week or month. Remember – reports don’t have to be very long, or in a format that clogs up a lot of your time. A simple email detailing tasks completed for the week shows your clients what they’re paying for, and thus, keeps them happy.
Hopefully, by following these steps, you’ll be on a road to an even better relationship with your clients. By following this process, you’ll most likely achieve better results in your work, too.
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