Why Setting Expectations is So Crucial

Expectations: all organizations have them. But short of developing mind-reading technology, how can we know exactly what our clients expect from us? The answer is simple: by establishing and clarifying agreed-upon expectations.

Defining a Process

Expectations are developed based on what two parties want an outcome to be. For example, if a client would like to have engaging blog copy written for their sales team, they should lay out clear expectations for the copy process so they know how the copy will be developed, what the revision process will entail, and when they could expect to receive the final product.

When fleshing out such a process, keep in mind what your services, timelines, and staff capabilities are—never make a promise you can’t keep. That said, clients should clearly understand your process. They don’t need to have it memorized for pop quizzes on phone calls, but they should be able to easily reference it in case they have any questions. At OBO, we create process and client expectation guides for all of our clients so they know what to expect when working with us. In that regard, they’ll never be unpleasantly surprised by what we produce!

Missing Expectations

If you deliver what you think is a top-notch product to your client, but it didn’t meet their expectations on the outcome, that miscommunication is entirely on you.

Think of it like this: you’re at a car dealership and tell the salesperson you want a car. Specifically, you want a shiny new luxury car. Fairly straightforward, right? But the salesperson doesn’t ask for your expected outcome; he instead offers you a 10-year-old standard sedan. Technically, the salesperson did his job—he delivered you a car, an outcome. But it wasn’t the outcome that you wanted—and this difference is the key to cultivating successful client relationships.

In the business world, expectations are tough to develop when you don’t have any processes or standards in place—this is especially true for growing organizations. However, that isn’t an excuse to not develop processes—because as your business expands, you can’t just assume that your clients know what to expect from you. We recommend reviewing your process with your clients periodically to ensure it stays fresh in their mind.

Turning Disappointments into Victories

You won’t always do the job right, and that’s okay. But it’s important to assume responsibility for any mistakes you made so you can regain your client’s trust. Let’s take a look at an example of how we failed to meet a client’s expectation, as well as what we did to resolve it.

One of the many account-based marketing services we offer to our clients is lead research. Based on our contract with this client, we needed to find a certain number of contacts over a period of time based on monthly quotas. For the first month, we couldn’t find the required number of contacts. Our intention was to simply compensate for this by supplying more contacts in a later campaign, but the client expected to receive the same number monthly. So this client’s expectations were missed; understandably, they were disappointed.

Of course, disappointing our client was the last thing we wanted to do—it was unacceptable. To resolve the situation, we took full responsibility for what happened, did the additional research, and made a point to clarify our expectations in plain English so the client could understand them (since the contract was written entirely in marketing lingo). The client was so pleased, they extended our contract!

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation with a disappointed client, take the following steps to remedy the issue:

  • Acknowledge that you didn’t meet the client’s expectations.
  • Apologize for the problems it may have caused.
  • Explain in detail how you’ll fix it.
  • Provide an opportunity to make things right.

This process shows that you’re actually invested in your relationship with your client and not simply there to pocket their money.

Final Thoughts

In the end, expectations need to be clearly defined to ensure that everyone—client and agency—is on the same page and working towards the same goal. This is accomplished in three easy steps:

  1. Setting proper expectations based on your business’s capabilities.
  2. Making sure you clearly document how your process works and what to expect.
  3. Conveying the expectations to the client before the project begins, as well as periodically for refreshers.

If you do all of that, you’ll find that communication with your client will improve and projects will be completed faster.

For more information on creating and clearly documenting expectations, reach out to us today!

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