Managing your clients’ expectations is one of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a rewarding relationship.
If their expectations aren’t being met, then chances are you’re going to lose a client.
If they are being met (and hopefully being exceeded), then you will have a loyal and satisfied client base who will generate your practice revenue for years to come.
In a book called ‘Moments of Truth’, the author Jan Carlzon describes three customer experiences:
- Miserable – expectations were not met
- Neutral – expectations were met
- Magical – expectations were exceeded
Clearly, we should all be aiming for the ‘magical’ experience there…
But how do you intend to exceed your clients’ expectations if you don’t have a process for managing them in the first place?
Without a process for managing your clients’ expectations, you allow them to create their own.
For example, if I give you my mobile number and say, “here’s my mobile number for you to contact me in emergencies”, without actually agreeing what an ‘emergency’ consists of, chances are we’re going to have very different expectations…
By having a process in place for managing expectations, you not only make your life easier, but you also know exactly what you need to do to meet and exceed them.
And when this happens, your increase client retention, maximise your practice revenue and generate even more word-of-mouth referrals.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways you can manage your clients’ expectations to ensure they have a ‘magical’ experience:
1. Be clear on exactly what you will AND won’t do
Most accountants get the first bit right but ignore the second. If your clients don’t know what you won’t do then they’ll try and ask for everything, and when you tell them that you can’t/won’t do it, you risk damaging the relationship. This is especially important for additional services.
2. Be clear on exactly what the client will and won’t do
This isn’t a one-way relationship. Agree with the client what is expected of them, and what is not. For example, if you expect their records to be in by a certain month so that you can complete your work, then let them know that.
3. Agree how and when you will communicate
If you don’t agree how/when your clients can and can’t contact you, then you can’t really be annoyed when you get a call on your mobile at 6pm on a Friday… Obviously, this one might vary based on client grade e.g. your A+ clients might have your mobile number, whereas other client grades might just have contact numbers for members of your team.
4. Communicate consistently
This one might sound a little counterintuitive to the previous point, but your clients’ expectations are likely to change throughout your relationship. By communicating with them consistently, you can address any expectation issues that they might have and manage them accordingly.
One of my clients implemented a courtesy-call system, where clients were called on a monthly or quarterly basis by managers (depending on their client grade) to check how they were getting on and manage any expectations they had. The result was that a number of clients highlighted things where their expectations hadn’t been met e.g. they expected to receive something by a certain date. It was then very easy to rectify this early on and manage any further expectations going forwards.
5. Set goals and agree on milestones
You can’t manage expected success without setting mutually agreed goals. This is an important step in getting you and the client on the same page, and working towards the same result. It’s also important to agree on how success will be measured e.g. in £X more profit per year or only working 3 days a week in the business.
6. Under-promise, and over-deliver
It’s very easy to promise clients that you can do everything, and it’s even easier to under-deliver as a result. Be modest about what you can deliver and by when so that you and your team have some cushion for when the unexpected happens (which will always occur!).
7. Ask them what they expect from you
This can be a ‘curve-ball’ question to ask your clients and one that can sometimes throw up interesting answers. Even with processes in place for managing their expectations, they’re likely to have some of their own (possibly from working with a previous accountant) so by asking this question when they first join up, you can identify any mismatches and address them.
Managing expectations is an ongoing process
One thing to bear in mind is that managing your clients’ expectations is not a one-off event.
Your expectations (and theirs) are likely to change as time goes on, so it’s important to manage them as they do.
By managing your clients’ expectations throughout your relationship, it becomes much more likely that you can meet and exceed them, providing them with a ‘magical’ experience which will result in higher client retention and even more referrals.