You Can’t Manage Client Expectations If You Don’t Know Them

Many agencies strive to meet client expectations. But in a highly competitive post-Great Recession era, that’s not enough. Instead, I believe agencies must CBE: Consistently Beat Expectations.

What’s the key impediment to doing so?

Lack of mutually agreed-to expectations.

I’ve been surprised to learn that some agencies don’t  establish or update these. This got me thinking about why agencies, which in my view have everything to gain and nothing to lose from having written, mutually agreed-to expectations, fail to do so.

Is it because they’re:

  • Afraid they won’t meet them?
  • Afraid clients expectations are unrealistic or are based on measurements the agencies know don’t illustrate PR’s real power?
  • Afraid that they don’t really understand the new, more sophisticated measurements available?

If the last bullet is an issue for you, get up to speed on the new measurements pronto.  Here’s a good place to start.

More important, you’ll notice that these bullets are all about fear. While these fears are understandable, know that you can’t make good decisions with fear lurking in your brain. Nor can you drive client satisfaction when you’re afraid to learn your client’s definition of success.

To succeed in this area, you must walk through your fears in this area. And one of the best ways to do so is to take action.

First, go back to what was agreed to at the Client-Agency Start-Up/Expectations Setting meeting. If you never did this, the start of the new year is a great time to meet with each of your clients to hammer this out.

Perhaps these expectations are contained within the Communications Plan or the Scope-Of-Work. If these documents are buried in a file drawer gathering dust, your desire to beat client expectations should be a good motivator to take them out, dust them off, and review the sections which articulate expectations.

Since these may have been written six months or a year ago, the expectations should have changed  based on changing client needs, an evolving consumer marketplace and media environment, and from key learnings you’ve gained after a few months of program implementation.

Whatever the current state of these expectations, it’s time to:

  • Get or update them in writing. Both client and agency need to have something to refer back to over the course of the year.
  • Make them realistic. If your gut tells you that certain client expectation are unrealistic, but you agree to them, you’ll ultimately regret it. Fight the urge!
  • Make them mutual. That means doing so in person, with sleeves rolled up, around a conference table.

It’s only after you’ve done so that you can start the hard, but ultimately fulfilling work of meeting and beating client expectations.

Do you have written, mutually-agreed to expectations for all your clients?  What’s stopping you?

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.

3 comments
Jlonsdorf
Jlonsdorf

You hit the nail squarely on the head, @Ken Jacobs. Well said!

Trackbacks

  1. […] my post on client expectations, I discussed why some agencies might be afraid to create them, and the first steps an agency can […]

  2. […] If you find this post of interest, you might also want to review two related posts: Risky Business: Not Setting Mutual Expectations With Clients and You Can’t Manage Client Expectations If You Don’t Know Them […]

  3. […] 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 […]