Lately, it seems that a lot of my work with my clients has been focused on helping them understand the importance of managing their clients’ expectations. And, what I’ve learned through this process is that a lot of the failure to manage expectations comes from their failure to educate the client on the process.
Create an atmosphere of understanding. Take the time to explain the entire process to the client. Don’t skip over any steps. Don’t show them photos and expect them to understand.
Ask questions. Ask probing questions to make sure that the client understands.
Ask more questions. Repeat the client’s statements back to them and make sure that what they are saying is what you are hearing. e.g. When the client says “I want the sunroom to come to the edge of the pool deck.” The service provider should say “I’m hearing you say that you want the sunroom to come to the edge of the pool deck. Are you expecting the sunroom to come exactly to the edge? (wait for response… client says ‘yes’). OK, unfortunately, we can’t make it come exactly out to the pool deck (and explain why). Don’t leave that topic until the client is completely understanding of the process. Then, move on to the next item.
Deliver what the client wants. If at all possible, even if it isn’t how you typically do the process/project, meet the client’s expectations. Recently, we had a concrete project done that involved hand stamping and coloring. Because I’d seen the coloring process done on various HGTV and DIY Network programs, I had a vision of what the finished product would look like. My vision did not match the company’s “normal” application process. In fact, it wasn’t close to their process. Fortunately, the disconnect was discovered in the color selection process. We talked through it and their team came together to provide a product that met my expectation and vision.
Be on time. Show up when you say your going to be there. Call and return calls in a timely manner. Provide quotes in a reasonable amount of time and let the client know what that time frame is.
Follow up. After completion of the project, follow up immediately. Then, follow up a few days later to make certain that everything met their expectations.
Fix it. If something went wrong after you’ve gone through all of these steps, if you can, fix it. Even if it means you’ll lose money on the project, fix it. You can’t afford the potential damage to your brand and the negative word of mouth.
Referrals are priceless. You can’t put a price on the value of referrals and positive feedback. Especially with the role that social media plays in the strength of a brand. Even a small negative experience, and you will be called out on Facebook to any one and every one who might listen. Provide a positive experience for your clients and you will reap the rewards! You will not only be able to feel great about the experience you’ve provided, but you may even see your business grow.
It takes a little extra time to make sure all of these steps are taken, but it’s worth it.