Managing Client Expectations

Business Deal Handshake
November 16, 2018
74 / 100

We’ve all been there: our best client calls asking for a sit-down regarding the last project or purchase. As a business owner, it’s a stomach-dropping moment; mind racing over the past delivery: Did we mess up? Did the product fail? Were we good enough? It’s never a happy ownership moment when the client initiates a review.

Sometimes, the fixes can be easy. Patch a tear, add a comma, straighten a sign. Other times the fix can be a bear. The client hates the final product and wants a major rework, or – gulp! – a refund.

The time to manage your client’s expectations is at the first meeting. By establishing a good rapport with your clients, you can unearth their needs to better figure out how to fulfill them. All good business starts with relationships, and all good relationships need transparent and honest communication.

“A lack of communication is usually at the root of most problems associated with clients,” says Michael A. Olguin, President of Formula PR. In an article on  6 Tips to Managing Client Expectations, he advises business owners to be proactive in communicating both good and bad news to their clients. This helps to develop trust and nurtures long-lasting client relationships.

For some clients, this is the easy part. All they want to do is talk about the project and tell you their ideas and hopes for the final product. These gregarious chatterboxes make for great clients, at least upfront, because you can usually find out what they want and determine if you can deliver on those wishes.

Managing Client Expectations 1Not everyone is so easy.

Tight-lipped clients who aren’t comfortable explaining their needs or can’t articulate what they want can set up headaches for business owners down the road. The worst possible scenario is to fill in the blanks or extrapolate a client’s meaning. The major hurt for all involved comes at the end, when the project falls short due to the client’s unrealized expectations.

Business owners should always put on detective hats when talking with clients. Ask, prod, poke – basically, do whatever it takes to get the vital information from them that will alleviate misunderstandings down the road. You’ve always heard the advice, measure twice, cut once, and that applies to project development. Ask, listen, parrot, repeat. Ask what your client wants, listen to their words, understand their needs, repeat what you believe they said back to them, and repeat this process.

I once spent an hour-long meeting with a potential client before I understood they wanted a product I could not deliver. You may wonder why it took so long, but we had been talking about similar but completely different ideas and only when I got some examples online to show him, was he able to explain exactly what he wanted. He was grateful that I referred him to another sign shop for the work.

That’s a case where a picture was worth a thousand words. Remember that everyone has different ways of communicating. Some do better with words and other with pictures. Use real-life examples, photos, or digital images to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

Once you understand what your client wants and you get the project underway, it’s vital to keep communication open. Your relationship is forged by constant communication, not annoying intrusion, but rather, thoughtful updates on your behalf.

In our sign and graphics center, we use a three-step program to keep everyone’s expectations on a realistic delivery.

Managing Client Expectations 21. Full disclosure.

In a face-to-face meeting (no email or phone), we painstakingly cover the project or products, detailing final concepts and delivery dates. We also honestly note what downsides might occur during the process. We hammer home what we plan to do, and what obstacles might prevent our timely delivery.

We don’t just set up caveats, either, which are important, but we also assure our clients that we have game plans in place to handle any curve balls. Our top clients trust us, and keep coming back to us for large projects because they know we stand behind what we do. They know we’ll make it right.

Afterwards, we summarize the details discussed and send it in an email to reinforce what we’ve communicated and to create a timestamped, written copy.

2. Update.

We inform our clients of our progress during the production and installation phase. Even though they can see the development for themselves, we let them know where we are in the project, and what we’re encountering.

For instance, on outdoor installations we are the mercy of Mother Nature. So, if a remnant hurricane is dumping walls of water on the windows we need to vinyl, we reset our delivery date with the client’s involvement.

When communicating updates, sometimes we just shoot an email or text, other times we call or stop by.

A walk-through during production can be a good time to show and explain. In our business, production can be messy. We assure our clients that we will clean up, and that the beige R-Tape that looks like masking tape is going to end up in the trash, not covering the vinyl or wadded up on their floor.

Managing Client Expectations 33. Assess.

Twice. After installation or products delivered, we ask the client for feedback using probing questions. We ensure that the quality and craftsmanship are to the client’s satisfaction. This is not a throwaway close-ended query, but an inquisitive conversation to determine which parts they like, which parts aren’t so great, and then, knowing the result, what would they have done differently.

We repeat this assessment process again for larger projects a few weeks after delivery to ensure there aren’t lingering doubts. Sometimes, we rework a part of the project on our dime, and sometimes the client orders — and pays for — a redo with more expensive materials or a different design.

We had a client order eighty-five, twelve-foot mesh banners for a long fence line. Due to the size, we had to special order printing from a shop three states away. While we were at the mercy of our vendor’s delivery, we kept our client in the loop as we were updated. A simple, call, email or text to a client can ensure them that you are on top of the project even when they don’t see results.

Head off the “where are we?” email by proactively informing your client of project status. Don’t wait for your client to ask, offer the answer first. This goes a long way to establishing a good working relationship.

The key to helping our clients’ expectations meet our delivery abilities is to have ongoing communication during the project installation or delivery of product. Our clients are happier and more willing to use us again and recommend us to their colleagues. And isn’t that what we really want?

Cat LewisMeet the Author:  Cat Lewis

Cat’s background includes writing, editing, advertising and mentoring.


More Posts:

5 Unexpected Industries That Need Social Media Marketing

In today’s digital age, social media has become an essential tool for businesses to connect with their target audience and promote their products or services. While it’s common to see industries like retail, hospitality, and entertainment using social media for marketing, there are several unexpected industries that can also benefit from social media marketing.

How to Keep Your Business Safe From Cybersecurity Threats

How to Keep Your Business Safe From Cybersecurity Threats Find more business software and technology tips at Leadership Girl. Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses big and small. Every year brings a new record number of cyber attacks and by 2025, cybercrime...

When it’s Time to Hire an HR Professional for Your Company

As your business continues to expand, it might be a wise decision to employ an HR specialist who can help you manage and optimize your workforce. An HR expert brings with them essential services that will streamline the operations of your company while keeping your...

Manufacturing Tips Businesses Should Follow

To be a victorious business, it takes more than having an outstanding product. Knowing the significance of manufacturing and how it impacts their financials is integral for any organization that wishes to thrive in today's marketplace. To keep up with the competition,...

What I Wish I Had Known When I Started My Business

Starting a business is hard work. There are so many things to think about and do, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Trust me, I know from experience! When I started my business, there were a lot of things I wish I had known. But thankfully, I've learned a lot...

The Power of Women-Owned Small Businesses

     Women-owned small businesses are on the rise, and their impact is undeniable. In fact, in 2019 alone, women-owned nearly 12 million businesses that employed nearly 9 million people and generated over $1.9 trillion in revenue. From retail to technology to finance,...

Nyago Michael Emmanuel

We invite many people who can invest in our Akiba Ya umoja community benefit savings and investment group of Uganda to enable us expand our operations in Uganda

Product Mistakes You Might Be Making at Your Business

Running a business isn’t easy, and making product-related mistakes can cost your company time and money. From creating products without doing market research to holding excess inventory or failing to file patents, there are numerous pitfalls that you need to be aware...

How Entrepreneurs Can Stave Off Burnout

Have you been feeling more stressed and exhausted than normal lately? Everyone experiences burnout at some point in their career, and this is even more common with entrepreneurs due to the many responsibilities that they have. Here are a few ways to stave off burnout...

A Five-Step Guide to Starting a Logistics Company

If you've been considering launching a transportation and logistics company, now is the moment. The transportation and storage sector is very important and profitable. Statistics show that by 2027, the global logistics market would have grown from its 2017 valuation...

All Categories

Business Operations

Entrepreneur Interviews

Marketing, Networking, & Social Media

Self Care & Personal Development

Working Moms

Business Software and Technology

Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Organizing Tips


Career Building

Family Businesses


Starting Your Own Business

Work-Life Balance


Hiring Help

Management & Leadership

Time Management & Priorities

Women in Leadership

Recent Posts

5 Unexpected Industries That Need Social Media Marketing

5 Unexpected Industries That Need Social Media Marketing

In today’s digital age, social media has become an essential tool for businesses to connect with their target audience and promote their products or services. While it’s common to see industries like retail, hospitality, and entertainment using social media for marketing, there are several unexpected industries that can also benefit from social media marketing.

How to Create a Professional Image When Building Your Brand

How to Create a Professional Image When Building Your Brand

First impressions matter, especially in business. So, let's explore how to create an image that sparks trust, admiration, and success. Dive into the depths of brand-building with determination and drive, blossoming into a professional powerhouse.  Build a Positive...

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Effective Leadership

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Effective Leadership

Emotional intelligence is crucial for effective leadership. It involves recognizing, understanding and managing emotions in oneself and others. The five components of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Leaders can improve their emotional intelligence by listening, connecting with employees, unlocking motivations, and seeking to understand others and themselves.

Why Companies No Longer Give Workers a Pension

Why Companies No Longer Give Workers a Pension

Pensions would seem to be a thing of the past. You may hear an older person talk about getting their pension, but it’s not anything almost anyone these days can access. They used to be fairly commonplace, however, so what changed? Why do companies not offer their...

Signs it’s Time to Find a New Office Space

Signs it’s Time to Find a New Office Space

For any business owner, their office space is an essential aspect of success. It's the place where you and your team devote countless hours a day working alongside clients or partners. In some cases, it may be time to relocate to a different workspace. Here are...

Why Now is the Time to Make Your Office Green

Why Now is the Time to Make Your Office Green

Going green has never been more opportune! Now that environmental issues and our contributions to climate change are gaining international recognition, businesses across the world have begun shifting their practices toward sustainability. If you're contemplating...