Help Your Team To Consistently Beat Client Expectations

I hope my previous posts on the importance of knowing client expectations, and the risky business of not making them mutual have encouraged you to take substantial action in this area, and you and your teams have set or are actively setting mutually acceptable expectations with all your clients.

Now comes the truly challenging step of meeting–and preferably beating–those expectations. And doing so consistently. I call this CBE.

First, know that this sort of endeavor is doomed to fail if you’re the only one at the agency who’s “caught the spirit.”

So how do you translate this to your staff? How do you encourage them to be as committed to this as you are? How can they bring this to life in their daily interaction with their clients in a real and practical way?

  1. Make CBE Part Of Your Agency DNA: For this to be successful, the notion of  knowing, meeting and beating client expectations must be a driving force, part of your agency’s very DNA. Speak to its importance at every opportunity: In group meetings, in one-on-ones, and in agency emails about client service. Other ways to show how important this is to your firm is to make CBE part of your evaluation/review process, reward with bonuses those staffers who’ve excelled in this area, and publicly cite those who’ve done so.
  2. Make CBE Part Of Your SOP: Build some important agency practices around this. For example, create standard monthly reports that don’t just list agency activities, but instead discuss how specific agency activities met specific client goals and expectations. I’d also recommend being proactive and articulating where some activities didn’t meet mutual expectations and what the agency is doing about it in the next thirty days.
  3. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver: Your teams must know what will satisfy their clients, not only on the program, but for each initiative, and even for each task. Armed with this, they should constantly under-promise and over-deliver. Your team can foster big improvements in their client relationships by consistently delivering just slightly more than anticipated. Conversely, just slightly missing the mark, even a few times, can have a  an outsized negative impact.
  4. S-t-r-e-t-c-h: Encourage your team to have stretch goals for every campaign, initiative and task. Know what results the clients will consider beyond their wildest dreams. While your team can’t possibly achieve these each time, the constant striving to do so will absolutely impr0ve results, individually and agency-wide.
  5. Collaborate: Program expectations can and should fluctuate over the year, because the marketplace, the media and consumers do. Make sure account leads are collaborating with their client contacts on a regular basis to assure that both parties are providing input and are in sync. Then you can be certain that expectations are realistic and truly mutual.
  6. Take The Extra, Extra Step: In a highly competitive service business, taking the extra step has become de rigueur. Since your competition is probably doing this, you need to encourage your teams to take the extra, extra step. As in point 2, make doing so a key performance indicator in staff reviews, and reward and publicly cite those who do so.
  7. Make Reviewing CBE Part of Weekly Team Meetings: At many weekly meetings, the team focuses on achieving client goals, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But can you imagine the positive effect it would have on client relations if the team made it a point to specifically discuss how they’re doing in meeting and beating client expectations? I believe it would be a powerful one.

How do you encourage your team to CBE?

Ken Jacobs

I’m the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which helps public relations and communications agencies and organizations grow and manage business, and enhance staff performance, leadership and communications skills.We do so via consulting, training, and coaching. To learn more, please click on the “Jacobs Communications Consulting” tab on the top.


This model fits very well with my industry of commercial insurance sales. Once we have the customer, the relationship will typically last 5-7 years. Some much longer, but the 5-7 number seems to be the average.

It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day stuff and also out trying to secure new accounts to maybe not give the proper attention to your 'bread and butter'. If you pro-actively are discussing these opportunities on a regular basis and instilling CBE as part of your culture it is certainly conducive to creating loyal customers over just satisfied customers.

This is something I will share with our managers; thanks for sharing and good to see you at Gini's.


I love this Ken! I'm grateful my days include time for reading again. You have hit the nail on the head with the idea of over delivering and going beyond a client's expectations. The thing firms need to remember is that it doesn't cost more, and takes minimally more time to think this way. It's all about an attitude of outstanding service that focuses on the client's goals instead of your own. And the s-t-r-e-t-c-h that has to occur first is in some staff member's minds to help them begin to think this way!

By the way--I love that you include an evaluation/assessment step in almost everything you offer up!


Thanks, @bdorman264 As you can imagine, it's great to get reinforcement that these suggested approaches are truly parochial, and not limited to the PR/advertising/integrated/ communications agency model. I'm particularly delighted that you feel they're valuable enough to share with your managers! It's always good to meet at Gini's!


@MimiMeredith Thanks for your comments, as always. In particularly, I love your points about the fact that it really doesn't have to to cost more, and your additional, valid definition of stretch! BTW, I enjoyed and tweeted your post about "one foot on the floor"


@KensViews Thanks, Ken. The foot on the floor post came from my deep desire to just stay in bed today. I am launching an all out job search and the return to gainful employment has been much harder than I thought it might. So, each hour, I find new ways to pump myself up and avoid taking a nap...or drinking before five...