Many business owners are happy to go that extra mile for their clients – especially if they’ve just started their business, want to expand their customer base, or need to solidify their market position.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, however, 45% of business buyers and 53% of consumers say most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences.
Walking the fine line between fulfilling client needs and struggling with unreasonable demands can be challenging. So here are 5 tactics you can use to better manage client expectations.
1. Be clear and straightforward upfront
Whether you’re selling a product, taking on a one-time project, or entering into a long-term work agreement, spelling out how you can – and equally importantly, can’t – meet your client’s needs is essential.
Clarify their requirements or scope of work upfront, then lay out your detailed solution or process in return. If you outsource services or charge extra for certain customizations, make your client aware of that fact from the get-go.
2. Adhere to the concept of honesty as the best policy
Avoid guaranteeing fool-proof delivery or execution of any product or project based on assumptions or what you anticipate.
Instead, try to establish a policy of honesty by taking time to identify and highlight those areas where:
- Results may differ with the use of your product
- Pricing may fluctuate based on intermittent outcomes
- Delays may reasonably be expected
Be transparent, for example, in your discussion of potential shipping issues, technical glitches, or staff illness and vacation.
3. Engage in ongoing communications
Successfully managing client expectations starts with active listening on your part to ensure you understand your customer’s needs.
From that point on, it should also include ongoing communications to:
- Quickly sort out ambiguities as they crop up
- Keep your client informed on progress
- Make them immediately aware of any unexpected holdups and the steps you’re taking to put things right as soon as possible
Staying in touch and following up with your customers at the conclusion of a purchase or project, meanwhile, will help ensure their satisfaction and prime them to deal with your business again.
4. Set specific goals for yourself and your business
Your project or daily work goals need to align directly with what you’ve promised your client in terms of a timeline.
To consistently meet both your objectives and your clients’ expectations, take careful stock of how you’ve structured your:
- Business processes and workflow
- Delivery systems or channels
- Personal time management habits
Setting specific objectives and having your customer agree to them in advance will help prevent project scope creep and keep you from catering to last-minute changes without being properly compensated.
5. Always aim to delight
If you regularly under-promise and over-deliver on your client commitments, so much the better for cementing your customer relationships.
Under-promising doesn’t mean downplaying the benefits of your product or the things your business does well, however. It simply means building some extra padding around the obligations you take on.
You may, for example, plan to offer your client a complimentary product or service add-on, but only choose to reveal that bonus to them post-purchase. Alternatively, you might outline a slightly longer delivery schedule than you’re likely to need, with the full intention of beating it if possible.
Business has come a long way since the product – rather than the customer – took precedence. To meet and manage client expectations in a time when instant, online comparisons and fleeting buyer loyalty are the norm, you need tactics driven by a sincere, collaborative approach to working with customers.