Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Managing Client Expectations

Recently, I attended a roundtable discussion presented by the AAF Greater Frederick on how to manage client expectations. Seriously, anyone who is in the service industry can definitely relate to this topic! While the end product of any project is, of course, important, oftentimes the process—you know, the back and forth between client, the relationship you build throughout the course of the project—is what can make or break the ultimate end result and client satisfaction.  So, what can you do to manage your clients, insuring that both you and your client's expectations are met? Glad you asked, read on, my friend…

Here are just a few things to remember when dealing with clients. Sure, they may seem pretty easy, and obvious, but it's always great to remind yourself of the following:

1. Plan the Project Well: know what you need to charge and how long the project will realistically take. Be sure to relay all the information to your client up front, so they are on the same page.

2. State What Is Included: Be as detailed as possible about what you will be delivering. Break the job into stages and outline how many ideas, meetings, rounds of edits, etc are included. Make sure your client knows all of this information up front so they can work with you to make sure the project is delivered with all expectations met—their's AND your's.

3. Who Are the Key Contacts: Make sure there is one point of contact (on both your end AND the client's end) that is consistent throughout the course of the project. A client needs to know who they should go to with questions or issues just as much as you need to know who to go to with your questions. Keep the point of contacts as consistent, with as few people as possible, throughout the course of the project.

4. Regular Client Meetings: At the beginning of the project set a schedule for the different stages of the project that you will meet with the client. This could be face-to-face meetings, conference calls, or other modes of communication.

5. Schedule Payments: Be sure your client is aware of your payment terms in advance. Set up a schedule that works for bot you and your client, so there are no misunderstandings.

6. Be Accountable: Fess Up! Don't be afraid to admit if you've gotten something wrong, or misunderstood feedback. You clients will appreciate you being up front, so the more honest and transparent you can be in all your communication, the better your client relationship will be in the long term—it's all about building trust.

7. Get It In Writing: Be sure to put all the project's estimated costs and scope in writing. Have you and your client sign this, and make sure you both have a copy. This will protect both you and your client.

8. Bite Your Lip: While we all hope and strive for perfect clients, the truth is that we'll all experience that "nightmare client" at least once in our career. When this happens, don't give your client a reason to complain about you. Simply bite your lip and get the job done to the best of your ability within the terms originally agreed upon. (see #7)

9. Under Promise, Over Deliver: It's always best to exceed your client's expectations. Be sure not to promise them the world if you can't deliver. Be practical, edge on the side of caution when it comes to a project's time line and/or estimate.  That way, if you're able to get things done faster, or within a smaller budget, your client will love you for it. And if it takes the amount of time estimated, you're still meeting your client's expectations.

Do you have any additional advice on how to manage client expectations? We'd love to hear them!

1 comment:

Worx Graphic Design said...

This is fantastic information and so very true! I particularly enjoyed the very first one about being realistic with yourself and the client. Planning is such an important part of the process and unfortunately sometimes one of the last pieces to be addressed. Nice work, ladies!