Setting Expectations With Your Client

This week’s theme is - Expectations. We should always set expectations – for every step – for everything we do in an agency. Pretty simple – right?

Since most jobs start with the client, we’ll talk about setting expectations with them.

You have an established relationship with your client. That means over the course of time you have either trained your client to demand and get, or to ask and receive. Yes, we train our clients – through our actions.

Demand and get – no scope, budget, and the timeline is immediate. You react. The project (or change) is costly, prone to mistakes, and no one is really happy with the outcome. You bend, and the client requires you bend even more. And because you just said 'okay, I'll do that' they don't expect to pay more for that additional work.

Ask and receive – agreement on scope, deliverables, cost and a reasonable timeline (as in, let me check to make sure when we can deliver it). Then you confirm with your staff, and get back to the client with a clearly defined solution. You’re not bent this way and that, and the client – from experience working with you – knows that your word is good.

Never over-promise and under-deliver. But you know that already.

And that’s what setting – and sticking to – expectations with clients is all about. Everyone wins.

Now I’m well aware that there are times where you have to jump on something. There’s an error. There’s a huge unexpected opportunity. Yep, those things do take precedence – while taking into consideration everything else that’s on everyone’s to-do lists.

But in the day-to-day, if you’re the AE who is always pushing through jobs because your client is relentlessly demanding – you have an expensive problem to fix.

If your client doesn’t accept expectations, it’s time to take a close look at the cost of serving that client. You should be tracking everything, because that provides the measurement to determine if they are worth keeping. And if not, that data is your ammunition to fire them.

Keep in mind that cost is more than dollars – demanding clients burn out your staff, overload resources and wreak havoc on morale. Or worse, become such a joke that no one cares and turn out crap. You don’t want to be remembered for crap – do you?

As an AE, you need to take stock in your ability to control clients. Facing difficult clients can suck the life out of your soul. It doesn’t have to be like that.

You can be pleasant, and stick to a specific set of rules. If those rules – which are expectations – are agreed at the beginning of the relationship, you’ll both know what it takes to do business – together.

Fortunately, most clients are great partners. Once established, you both know what you need to give in order to get.

But when your client is running you (and your agency) ragged, it’s time to pull-back, have a frank discussion and set expectations.

You need rules. Or it’s unfair. To everyone in your agency.  

Because, your entire agency pays for the clients who demand and get more than you planned to deliver. So be clear about expectations – you’ll make more money and life will be much easier.