12 Rules to Better Manage Client Expectations Early On

manage client expectations

When a client signs on with your business, they have certain expectations about what your performance will be. The best way to end up with a happy client, however, is to manage these expectations early on. If you don’t, and a client feels as though they should have gotten more from your business but didn’t, their testimony could severely damage your future business and your reputation. To ensure you don’t end up in this situation, 12 experts from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share their insights on the following question:

“What’s one rule you’d suggest for better managing client expectations early in a business relationship, and why?”

Follow this advice to avoid disappointing your client and instead provide even better service.

1. Be Honest at the Start

“Be honest and upfront from the get-go. Being honest from the very beginning about how you can help and explaining how your process works is the key to managing client expectations. Many misunderstandings can be avoided if the client knows how each step of the process works before moving forward, along with the confines of the project. Remember, it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver.” ~ Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

2. Clearly Define Your Process

“We provide software development services and we like to clearly define our process at the onset of any business relationship. Defining our process helps us set clear expectations and hold each party accountable. When we or the clients deviate from the process, we can easily identify the issue and correct the discourse.” ~ Piyush Jain, SIMpalm

3. Set Iterative Milestones

“Being transparent and setting iterative milestones will help build the relationship gradually and will also set realistic expectations. Constant communication throughout the process is key to relationship- and trust-building.” ~ Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC

4. Don’t Overpromise

“There’s nothing that will destroy a client relationship faster than overpromising and underdelivering. We are wildly transparent with our clients regarding feedback, capabilities and deadlines. Because of this level of transparency, we are often the first company a client will reach out to when they have a need since they can rely on our no-nonsense approach.” ~ Steve Gentile, Pinpoint Promotions

5. State Your Boundaries

“Early in a business relationship, it’s crucial to state your boundaries and stick to them. If you don’t, then it’ll be easy for clients to take advantage of you, ask you for more than you agree to and pay you less than your work is worth. Unfortunately, many people fall victim to this bad habit, but you need to communicate both sides’ expectations for a successful outcome.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

6. Put Your Agreement in Writing

“You can manage client expectations by putting your agreement and terms in writing. When it’s written down, it can’t be argued with later on. Clients can’t come back and say that you didn’t do what you agreed on unless it explicitly states so in the contract. I know many freelancers and none of them would dare take on a project until they have a signed contract with their clients.” ~ Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. Set a Realistic Timeline

“Early on, I was providing best-case scenarios and consistently failing at meeting them. We’ve found that setting a realistic timeline that is somewhere between the speed that sales wants it done and the time operations needs it is the right place. Coupled with realistic timelines, communication is critical. Most clients are OK with changes as long as communication is constant.” ~ Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting

8. Hold Weekly Meetings

“You can manage client expectations by holding weekly meetings with your business partners. I’ve found that these gatherings make it easy to go over numbers, strategies and progress on projects, which ensures that there are always manageable expectations with a path to success.” ~ Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

9. Ask Direct Questions

“Open dialogue is the key, but can easily get lost in the day-to-day activities. To ensure these conversations happen, schedule a separate call with your new clients that excludes your account teams. This will give clients an open space to have real dialogue, be heard and give unfiltered feedback so issues don’t become problems. Be very intentional about asking direct questions, like ‘Are we meeting expectations?’” ~ Dan Golden, BFO (Be Found Online)

10. Elongate Your Sales Process

“We surprise prospective clients when we tell them, ‘No, we won’t send you a contract after the first sales call.’ We want to have at least three sales calls before we get to the contract stage because we need that time to talk through their goals, their expectations and our services in depth. This ensures we’re on the same page from day one before a contract is signed.” ~ Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.

11. Start a Small Success Team

“The best way to manage client expectations is to start a small success team. Success teams are different from customer service because their goal is to help users get the most value from their product, not help troubleshoot or solve problems. Your success team can bridge gaps and keep clients’ expectations in line with the features of the product or service.” ~ John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

12. Discuss Ownership of Tasks

“It’s important to discuss the ‘ownership’ of tasks and responsibilities when working with a client. One frequent conflict that takes place is between content writers and business owners who aren’t familiar with marketing copy. Owners insist on content that doesn’t work in digital marketing and expert content writers end up compromising too much. Talk about ownership early on to avoid problems.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress

Image: Depositphotos.com

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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.