By Alan Graner
Do you cringe when you hear customers’ or clients’ comments like:
- That’s it?
- Why did it take so long?
- This isn’t the price we agreed on.
- What are you trying to pull here?
As Strother Martin declared in Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
What you’ve failed to do is manage their expectations.
- They were expecting a delivery on Tuesday. You delivered on Thursday.
- They were expecting finished software. You delivered a beta version.
- They were expecting a product 3 mm thick. You delivered 5 mm.
Now they’re expecting to fire your ass.
Manage expectations, manage the client
There’s an old saying: You can have it fast. You can have it cheap. You can have a quality job. Pick two.
That’s what managing expectations is all about.
Most people aren’t unreasonable. What they hate are “surprises.”
If you explain in advance what they should expect, if you explain potential problems, if you explain what factors might affect a price or fee, then if those things happen customers are less likely to become upset because they’re not surprised.
That’s managing their expectations.
If a client askes for a quick turnaround you may tell her it’s possible, but…with rush charges it will cost twice as much. In this instance speed may be more important than cost, and she has the information she needs to make a decision.
That’s managing her expectations.
We occasionally get clients who don’t really understand PR. For example, they may expect results the first month, and if they don’t get those results they’ll blame us. So before we begin a campaign we point out that, based on industry averages, they might not see see many results for the first six months (which is true). And we explain why.
By managing their expectations we create an amicable working partnership based in reality.
The moral of this story
All too often you get so caught up in your business you forget outsiders may not truly understand what it is you do.
For that (and other) reasons it’s important to listen to their expectations and then inform them what’s reasonable and what’s not.
That way you’ll both be satisfied.
How do you manage clients’/customers’ expectations?
Image: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr®
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.