12 Essential Tips for Managing Client Expectations

12 Tips for Managing New Client Expectations

Managing client expectations is a fundamental aspect of any business-client relationship, particularly when Working with a new client. The initial phase is often filled with uncertainty as both parties are still learning about each other’s expectations and working styles.

Especially with clients who might be overly demanding or high-maintenance, addressing expectations early on is crucial for a harmonious and productive partnership.

That’s why we asked 12 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

“How can businesses effectively manage client expectations early in a relationship?”

Here’s a word from GoDaddy about how to manage client expectations and set boundaries:

Managing New Client Expectations

managing client expectations - client and entrepreneur

Before you get too deeply into the list, here’s a concise table you can easily reference:

Set Clear DeliverablesProvide a detailed list of deliverables with realistic deadlines.Duran Inci, Optimum7
Be AuthenticAvoid fluff in proposals. Be transparent about challenges and potential of the relationship.Shawn Schulze, Names.org
Establish Regular CommunicationUnderstand clients' preferred communication channel and frequency.Angela Ruth, Calendar
Personally Get to Know ThemUnderstand client's values, goals, and interests to establish a strong relationship.Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
Always Sign a ContractUse contracts to detail expectations, eliminating miscommunications.Kate Hancock, OC Facial Care Center
Set Realistic ExpectationsClearly outline and deliver on realistic expectations to prevent disappointments.Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
Be TransparentShare stories of past client relationships to establish mutual understanding and responsibilities.Peter Kozodoy, GEM Advertising
Be HonestProvide clear, itemized lists and be upfront from the beginning.Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
Ask the Client About Specific GoalsDive deep into client's vision of success. Enhance through in-person visits for meaningful dialogue.Douglas Baldasare, ChargeItSpot
Think Like the CustomerAnticipate the client's needs and concerns, even if unexpressed.Cynthia Johnson, Bell + Ivy
Don't Be Afraid to Walk AwayEnsure clarity on deliverables, and be prepared to reiterate or terminate the relationship if necessary.Philip Michael, NYEG
Have a Client Kick-Off MeetingBegin with a comprehensive kick-off meeting to set clear deliverables and expectations.Derek Broman, deguns.net

In a business world where relationships can make or break success, managing client expectations becomes not just a strategy but a necessity. So, how can businesses effectively address these expectations? Let’s explore these insights from the expert members at the YEC community:

1. Set Clear Deliverables

“Send your client a highly detailed list of deliverables that contain realistic deadlines for each line item. Review these deliverables with your client one by one and answer any questions they may have prior to moving forward with the project. This will ensure that both you and your client are on the same page and share the same expectations.” ~ Duran Inci, Optimum7

2. Be Authentic

“There’s too much fluff in most business proposals. People love to overpromise, so be authentic, talk to the client about what you are willing to do for them, and what you hope to achieve from the relationship and be transparent about the challenges and obstacles involved. An honest assessment of the potential (and challenges) of the relationship is more effective and sets realistic expectations.” ~ Shawn Schulze, Names.org

3. Establish Regular Communication

managing client expectations - team communicating with each other and client

“Start with good ways to communicate and reach out to each other on a regular basis to stay on top of expectations and perspectives about how the relationship is going. That means asking clients how they want to communicate and how often. Using the channel they like is a great way to start it.” ~ Angela Ruth, Calendar

4. Personally Get to Know Them

“Personally getting to know the client and showing you’re a real human can really help you develop a strong business relationship. Understanding their values, goals, struggles and interests as a person can help you figure out how to work with them, what expectations to set and easily knock down any boundaries early on. This will transfer over to your business relationship and lead to success.” ~ Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

5. Always Sign a Contract

“Drafting a contract prints in detail what the expectations are of the client and the business supplying the service. Having such details in writing eliminates any miscommunication and makes it easier for both parties to understand the terms of the agreement.” ~ Kate Hancock, OC Facial Care Center

6. Set Realistic Expectations

“Expectations must be outlined accurately in the beginning, and then both parties need to deliver on them. The best way to manage or exceed expectations is to make sure they are grounded in reality. These discussions need to be had early on. If a client expects something that is impossible, you are setting them up for disappointment.” ~ Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

7. Be Transparent

managing client expectations - clear expectations

“Over time, you’ll develop a list of reasons why your client relationships go wrong. Now, we make it a habit of sharing some of those stories transparently to illustrate how and why we might fail. That way, prospects understand that they have a role in achieving our common goals, and that shared understanding helps lay the groundwork for an honest, transparent relationship going forward.” ~ Peter Kozodoy, GEM Advertising

8. Be Honest

“It’s really important to be clear with clients about what they are going to receive. This is something that can be done when you review the signing contract. A clear itemized list reviewed over the phone will provide a great deal of clarity. The most important thing is to be honest from the beginning.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

9. Ask the Client About Specific Goals

“Expectation setting is critical. It starts with asking the client what they’re hoping to achieve and really driving at specifics. Ask them what success looks like and exhaust that line of discussion. Expectation setting can also be enhanced by in-person visits where you can develop a closer connection and have a more meaningful dialogue with the client.” ~ Douglas Baldasare, ChargeItSpot

10. Think Like the Customer

“Although the client will tell you what they expect, they may not share everything because they are uncomfortable explaining it or they forget. That’s why you need to think like the client and realize what it feels like to be them. That can help you better manage expectations because you see more of what they want and why.” ~ Cynthia Johnson, Bell + Ivy

11. Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away

managing client expectations - person walking away from meeting

“Be upfront and super clear about the deliverables and make sure the client or partner understands this prior to the engagement. Clients can become unruly and lose sight of the original deal. Some businesses are happy they got a deal done, and they’ll let the client bully them. Don’t be afraid to check them. They chose you for a reason, and if that reason is forgotten, don’t be afraid to walk away.” ~ Philip Michael, New York Equity Group (NYEG)

12. Have a Client Kick-Off Meeting

“Start your business relationship by organizing a client kick-off meeting. This way, both the client and the team can set clear expectations on what the deliverables are and when to expect them.” ~ Derek Broman, Discount Enterprises LLC deguns.net

Why it’s Essential to Manage Client Expectations

Managing client expectations isn’t just a nicety; it’s a fundamental aspect of ensuring successful, long-lasting business relationships. Properly setting and navigating these expectations from the outset can prevent misunderstandings, foster trust, and lay the foundation for collaboration and growth. Here’s why it’s so crucial:

  • Clear Communication: Setting clear expectations from the start ensures that both parties are on the same page, minimizing the potential for confusion or misinterpretation down the line.
  • Mutual Respect: By understanding and respecting each other’s boundaries and requirements, both the client and service provider can work in a harmonious environment, nurturing a bond of mutual respect.
  • Efficiency and Productivity: With clear expectations, both parties can align their efforts towards shared goals, making the collaboration more efficient and productive.
  • Conflict Prevention: Addressing expectations early on reduces the chance of conflicts, disagreements, and potential roadblocks in the future.
  • Trust-building: When clients know what to expect and see those expectations met, it builds trust and confidence in the business relationship, paving the way for further collaboration and potential referrals.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Managing Client Expectations

Empathy in Client Interactions

Understanding and managing client expectations isn’t just about clear communication and setting realistic goals; it’s also deeply rooted in empathy. Recognizing the client’s perspective, concerns, and emotions plays a critical role in nurturing a successful business relationship.

Empathy allows you to connect with clients on a personal level, which can lead to more effective communication and a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations.

This empathetic approach not only helps in building trust but also makes clients feel valued and understood, fostering long-term loyalty and satisfaction.

Conflict Sensitivity

Conflict sensitivity in client relationships involves recognizing potential issues before they escalate and addressing them with emotional intelligence. It’s about being proactive in identifying areas of disagreement or misunderstanding and handling them with tact and sensitivity.

This approach requires active listening, patience, and a constructive attitude towards problem-solving. By being conflict-sensitive, you can navigate through challenging situations more effectively, maintaining a positive and productive relationship with your clients even in times of disagreement or stress.

Enhancing Personalization in Services

Customized Client Portals

In the digital age, offering personalized client portals can significantly enhance the customer experience. These portals provide clients with a one-stop platform for all their interactions with your business, from accessing project updates to communicating with your team.

Customized portals allow clients to feel more in control of the process, as they can easily find relevant information, track progress, and make requests.

This level of personalization not only streamlines communication but also demonstrates your commitment to catering to individual client needs and preferences, thereby enhancing overall client satisfaction.

Tailored Communication Styles

Adapting communication styles to match different client personalities and preferences is an effective strategy in managing expectations. Each client is unique, and their communication style may vary — some may prefer detailed reports and frequent updates, while others might favor brief summaries and less frequent contact.

By recognizing and adapting to these differences, you can ensure that your communication is not only effective but also aligns with the client’s comfort zone. This tailored approach helps in building stronger relationships, as clients appreciate the effort taken to communicate in a way that resonates with them best.

The Art of Managing Client Expectations

managing client expectations - client and CEO discussing metrics that are on laptop

In the dynamic landscape of business, client relationships stand at the heart of success. As we’ve explored, managing client expectations isn’t merely about ensuring project deliverables are met; it’s about building trust, fostering open communication, and understanding the nuanced needs of each client.

Every insight from our esteemed experts from the YEC community underscores a universal truth: Transparent, authentic, and proactive communication can preemptively solve many challenges that might arise.

By implementing these strategies, businesses not only set themselves up for smoother project trajectories but also cultivate partnerships that can thrive in the long term.

As we navigate the intricacies of client relationships, let’s remember that mutual respect, understanding, and collaboration are the cornerstones of enduring success.

Photo via Shutterstock

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.