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Deian Isac
Head of Agency Success

Guide To Managing Client Expectations

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 article, we’ll discuss how managing client expectations can be done effectively. The following tips will reduce your stress while ensuring your clients stay happy.

Why managing client expectations matters

Whether you’re running a small agency, or a medium-sized one: client expectations can catch you off guard. On one hand, you want to exceed their expectations. On the other, your agency needs to stay profitable and be able to scale.

What often happens is that the client’s expectations are not aligned with what an agency is providing. The issues can start at multiple touch points across your funnel.

1. Pricing pages

Some agencies have a pricing page with a more or less detailed overview of what buyers receive. If this pricing page is not very detailed, it’s best to not let prospects buy a service directly. Instead, create landing pages for each service with a more detailed explanation.

2. Client onboarding

We’ve recently done a small webinar on understanding the gaps in your current onboarding process. What we’ve noticed is that some agencies overwhelm clients with too many questions while others are not asking the right questions at all.

All the information you share, be it on your blog, social media, pricing pages, or onboarding documentation, needs to be clear.

3. Working together

Clients might expect you to go out of your way to satisfy their needs once you start working together. This might be a sign of a problematic onboarding process where ground rules weren’t set properly.

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.Having these boundaries in place is important. If you do decide to answer an email outside your hours, your clients are appreciative rather than expecting.

Write client expectations down

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. SPP.co has multiple options you can choose from. Write a note inside an order/ticket, or add a note to the client’s profile:

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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. You can also include the next steps and the outcomes you’re looking to produce following the conversation. By writing everything out, you’re keeping track of what you and the client are agreeing to do. As a result, you can expect fewer misunderstandings.

Once you’re on the same page, you can also add tasks to the order, and work on them one by one. Once you complete a task, send your client a quick update to let them know about it.

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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.

Use reporting to show results

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.

First, this allows customers to sign in and get up-to-date reports on their campaigns and results. Second, it helps establish your values as a service provider (assuming those reports reflect you in a good light).

It’s also very easy to embed Google Data Studio reports right in the client portal, and show each client a custom report. Basically, any sort of resource should work as an iFrame as long as the host is not blocking embedding.

Share project milestones

By showing the progress of a customer’s order, you’re helping to limit the communication between you and your clients. When your clients know where they are throughout the month, there’s no need for them to micromanage the process.

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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:

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

Define desired outcomes

Defining the outcome you and your client are working towards is amazingly helpful for eliminating confusion.

Thankfully, it’s a core part of the productized services ideology. The specifics can vary from client to client. 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 project/task intake forms. Assuming you’re selling a recurring service, you can set it up in a way that allows clients to submit new tasks. Each of those tasks could require them to fill out an intake form with detailed information.

Having this information submitted by clients ensures that there’s no miscommunication, and it helps avoid disputes later on.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Some agencies make the mistake of overpromising to find new clients. While this can help gain some traction initially, this is a short-lived approach. When it comes down to it, overpromising will produce unnecessary problems down the line as a result of unrealistic expectations.

The key here is to maintain realistic expectations — so keep it simple, and under-promise.

What do you know your service is capable of doing for your clients? Now scale that back a bit, and promise what you know you can achieve. Anything extra your services does will be viewed as over-the-top, ensuring you going beyond expectations is met with gusto every time.

Over-communicate

Communication is essential for an excellent service-client relationship. This is precisely why you should constantly communicate everything that’s happening over the course of your interactions.

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Reach out to your client and let them know what you’re working on. Also, don’t hesitate to explain what you’re planning to do for them in the future.

Maintaining continuous communication with your clients means you’ll always understand their expectations. This also gives you the chance to build their expectations through your interactions.

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 are fine letting them know once the work has been completed.

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 a step towards managing expectations. You’re telling it how it is, and your clients will appreciate the effort.

Rather than making false promises and giving unreal expectations, you give it to them straight. You don’t beat around the bush, and you’re honest with your assessment.

You’ll highlight the potential, as well as the challenges of working with them. And as a result, you can expect your clients’ expectations to stay within reason.

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 customer 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 SPP.co 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 bootstrap.com.

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

In short, do what you say you’ll do

We all make mistakes, but having our head in the atmosphere can be a real hassle! When you operate a service, it’s your duty to have a clear idea of properly managing client expectations.

In short: do what you say you’ll do, and avoid making promises you can’t keep. That way, you’ll be well on your way to running a profitable productized service agency serving many happy clients.

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