Guide To Managing Client Expectations
Avatar of Deian Isac
Deian Isac
Head of Agency Success
Last updated on September 21st, 2023

Your Guide To Managing Client Expectations

Key points

  1. Setting clear expectations with clients is essential to a successful client-service provider relationship.
  2. With agencies, expectations are often set on the pricing page or in proposals, so they shouldn’t leave any room for interpretation.
  3. Showing results with easy-to-understand reports is key in order to ensure that client expectations are met, or even exceeded.

Clients’ expectations don’t always match what your agency is offering. It’s essential to start your working relationship on the right foot. In the long-term, you’ll find this will decrease your stress levels while maintaining your clients’ satisfaction.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how managing client expectations can be done effectively.

Why you should manage client expectations

Properly managed clients are a crucial aspect of your business as a whole. If you fail to meet their expectations, customers are unlikely to stay with you.

Whenever someone commits to a transaction of goods or services, they have a mental image of their desired outcome in mind. Ideally, it should be in line with what you’re offering. That’s sadly not always the case, leaving your business asking the question: why?

In any case, failing to meet expectations has the same outcome, whether they were reasonable or not. You’ll have an unhappy client on your hands, disgrunteled team members, and in the worst case, have to issue refunds and deal with negative reviews.

Luckily, you can prevent these scenarios.

How to manage customer expectations on a project

Did you set realistic goals when you began working on a project? If not, you’ll be in for a surprise when your client voices their unhappiness.

When this happens, I like to describe it as an “expectation disconnect”, which is the differences that arise between your business’ service offering and what the client expected to receive in return.

Let’s take a look where these disconnects happen, how to avoid them, and how to build a lasting relationship with your customers.

Be clear on your pricing page

Pricing pages can be a major source of confusion between what a business offers and what a client hopes to receive. This is due to the fact that a pricing page is one of the first places a potential customer will become aware of your services.

Inline image

As such, it’s important for businesses to ensure their pricing pages are up-to-date and accurately reflect the services they offer.

Keep service descriptions accurate

We get it, services change over time, but it’s your responsibility to keep your pages up-to-date. If you fail to do so, your clients may have an outdated understanding of your offering, leading to disappointment when they don’t receive the services they had hoped for. service descriptions

Also, ask your clients what they think of your descriptions. Is there potential for improvement to make things clearer? Do some services require a call with a sales rep?

Focus on generating high-quality leads

Many agencies put too much emphasis on closing the sale without targeting the right people. This is more of a lead generation problem, but puts sales people in an awkward situation as well. The end result is not in your favor as clients walk into the deal with unrealistic expectations, leading to disappointment down the road.

sales transparency of

To avoid these issues, focus less on generating a large amount of leads, and instead on their quality.

Refine your onboarding processes

Many businesses don’t invest too much time (or none at all) in onboarding their clients. Without this process, customers are often confused, don’t know what to expect next, and of course, hold you to higher standards that what you had in mind. onboarding process list

Think about major pain points past clients have had, and how you can avoid them in the future. Is it worth it to begin every new partnership with a short kickoff meeting? Or should you rather create an onboarding video all customers can watch in their client portal? While there’s no single answer, a clear process that sets expectations and let’s customers know what to do next will help both parties.

Improve your client communication

Good client communication is key to forming a healthy client relationship, avoiding scope creep, and meeting deadlines. Sadly, many agency owners struggle when it comes to getting the right message across. We understand it’s not easy to stay on top of projects, but there are many project management tools you can use that help you with your day-to-day tasks. Service Provider Pro, for instance, makes it very easy to communicate with clients inside your portal. You can even set up out-of-office responders and automations via Zapier.

12 tips on how to set client expectations

Now that we’ve identified where disconnects happen, I want to share 12 tips that will help you deliver more than your customers could’ve imagined.

1. Identify the level of service they require

As a service provider, you need to be very clear about what you offer, and what kind of deliverables are included. For productized services, the pricing page usually has the task to deliver this message accurately.

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However, some services are too complicated and might require more information during a Zoom call. The good thing about discovery calls is that you can also ensure that leads are a good fit for your business.

2. Pinpoint their needs and wants

There’s a difference between wanting something and needing it—not always are customers aware of this fact, though. It’s your reponsibility to help them prioratize their needs over their wants. For instance, if you’re a web design agency, don’t just sell the most expensive service to a small business looking for a onepage website. They might not need multiple service pages or a blog.

3. Write down client expectations

Merely hearing and understanding the expectations of your clients isn’t enough. Our memories aren’t as good as we’d like to believe. With this in mind, take note of your clients’ expectations, either in your CRM, or SPP’s note section in the client profiles.

SPP client profile notes field

Whenever you have a conversation, it’s always a good idea to send a quick email follow up providing a summary of what was discussed. AI tools can even write these summaries for you after analyzing the call.

Keep in mind that verbally communicating doesn’t have the same effect as written communication. When you agree to conditions or terms, having everything in writing with precise wording ensures there’s no misunderstanding.

4. Set clear boundaries

Lots of service owners are guilty of overdoing things at times. Unfortunately, this can result in clients taking advantage of your team and your time.

Have you ever replied to an email on a Sunday, although you’re only available Monday to Friday? If so, you’ll notice how client expectations suddenly shift. When that happens we’ve found being straightforward and explaining your limitations in a way clients can understand is the least painful solution.

For example, setting hours of operation and maintaining them ensures your customers aren’t expecting replies to their messages on weekends. With that said, there are bad clients who might simply not respect your time or work. They ask for more than you can offer, often at a lower rate. It’s best to recognize this customer type early on, and not to engage with them in any business activities.

5. Use plain language in all documentation

Most business owners are aware of the importance of plain language, and take it into account when writing sales copy. They avoid jargon and get straight to the point.

However, this practice sometimes falls by the wayside when it comes to more technical documentation like policies, terms of service, and contracts.

Despite the prevalence of long-winded, complicated legal documents in our societies, it isn’t a requirement to write in a way most people won’t understand. In fact, many people see it as a major flaw.

The benefits of using plain language include:

  • Increased comprehension

  • Improved accessibility

  • More reasonable client expectations

Tip: For help improving the readability of your business documentation, check out the Plain Language Workbook from the FCC.

6. Show results with custom reports

If you’re providing SEO services, you may already be using reporting tools like AgencyAnalytics to do rank tracking for your clients. Many of our sellers are showing these reports directly in their client panel thanks to our integration.

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The benefit of using custom client reports is that it provides a progress report customers can view when it suits them, taking some work away from your team members.

7. Regularly share project milestones

Sharing project milestones can be fully automated these days. For example, with SPP clients can see the status of their order changing as it’s going through the production process. This results in fewer questions or concerns because clients are constantly in-the-know (as long as orders are completed within the agreed time frame).

SPP order status settings

For example, with SPP clients can see the status of their order changing as it’s going through the production process. This results in fewer questions or concerns because clients are constantly in-the-know (as long as orders are completed within the agreed time frame).

If your clients require a bit more hand-holding, you can set automated messages every time the order status changes. Thanks to our native Zapier integration, it’s very easy to set up:

You can set up a Zap for each order status change and personalize the message to the client.

8. Define desired outcomes & set goals

Defining the outcome of a project is a core part of the productized services ideology. Having a clear deliverable helps alleviate your clients’ worries about what your services provide.

To ensure that both parties are on the same page, we recommend using intake forms. Assuming you’re selling a recurring service, you can set it up in a way that allows clients to submit new tasks when they need them. Each of those tasks could require them to fill out an intake form with detailed information.


9. Under-promise, over-deliver

Some agencies make the mistake of overpromising during the lead generation step to capture new clients. While this can help gain some traction initially, this is a short-lived approach. Overpromising results in unnecessary problems down the line as a result of unrealistic expectations.

Instead, ask yourself: what results can my services achieve? Try to communicate them to your leads, and prove results with the help of case studies.

10. Over-communicate

Communication is essential for an excellent service-client relationship. This is precisely why you should regularly inform the client about what’s going on in your project.

over-communicate in orders

That being said, there’s a fine line between communicating well enough, and overwhelming clients with too much information. You’ll have to adjust your communication strategy for each client. Some require detailed progress reports, others only need to know when the project is completed.

11. Maintain authenticity & transparency

The proposals many businesses are putting out into the world contain a lot of false information. Over-promising is a severe problem in the services industry. So when you maintain your authenticity, you’re already a step ahead of your competition.

By staying authentic, you’re taking an important step towards managing expectations. Rather than making false promises and giving unreal expectations, you

  • don’t beat around the bush,

  • are honest with your assessment, and

  • will highlight the potential, as well as the challenges.

As a result, you can expect your clients’ expectations to stay within reason.

12. Have clear terms of service

Terms of service define your working relationship with the client. Make it clear…

  • What is it they’re getting,

  • Who owns the rights to it,

  • When the client is charged,

  • What happens if they don’t pay their subscription, and

  • How you handle refunds.

Some agencies require an airtight contract signed by both parties, especially when the client doesn’t pay upfront. Most productized service sellers who use go only as far as adding a simple terms and conditions checkbox to their order forms.

If you don’t want to link to an external Terms of Service page, use a scrollable box inside your order form. For more information, please check out the Overflow documentation on

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure the details are covered in writing.

Final thoughts

Managing client expectations is a difficult task that requires careful attention. As your business grows, it’s important to set them as early as possible to avoid issues later on. The key to success lies in clearly communicating your services, their value, and goals, setting therefore expectations from the beginning.

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