How to Set Realistic Client Expectations

by Craig Anthony

2 min read

As a business owner, you want to set realistic expectations to keep your clients happy. If customers believe they are getting what they want, they are more likely to remain loyal and recommend your services to other people. There are steps you can take to make your client’s expectations align with yours.

Don’t Overpromise

You don’t want to make unrealistic promises to your clients. If you fail to deliver on your word, you run the chance of not meeting their expectations. To ensure your customers have realistic expectations, it’s important that you don’t over promise. Let’s say you own a small freelance writing business. If a client asks how much content you can produce on a weekly basis, give a deliverable that you can guarantee. Once you are aware of the customer’s expectations, you may decide to promise additional content. Offering more to a client after it is already satisfied can help exceed its expectations.

Discuss Potential issues

Before you start working with customers, make them aware of potential issues their project could encounter. If you own an architect business, you want to make your clients aware of council planning permits and deed restrictions that could impact their design. Consider documenting potential issues in writing so there is no confusion or ambiguity. If the problems you discussed with your clients affect the project, they will have realistic expectations and not be surprised. You want to inform customers immediately if you encounter a problem so they can adjust their expectations accordingly.

Give Flexible Timeframes

Try not to lock yourself into an exact time for a completion date. Instead, offer a time frame for when you expect the work to be completed. If a client seeks to know an end date for a small business audit, you could provide a time frame for finishing the work that spans over five days as opposed to giving a specific date. You want to explain to your client why you can’t give an exact finish date. This tactic is particularly useful if you have several deadlines looming at the same time. Delivering the work to the client at the start of the time frame also helps exceed expectations.

Compare Expectations

Familiarize yourself with your clients’ wants. Set up a meeting to discuss their expectations and ensure those expectations align with yours. Say you own an asset management business that primarily invests in stocks; make sure the client wants to invest in this asset class. If the client’s expectations don’t align with yours, point out differences and work together to find a compromise. If you can’t find a suitable compromise, consider recommending the client to a firm that better suits its needs. Chances are the client will appreciate your honesty and may reward you with future work when your expectations both match. You want to carefully manage your customer relationships to ensure they remain healthy. Your small business can use tactics that help clients set realistic expectations. Customers who get what they expect often become your business’ biggest supporters.

References & Resources

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