In any service-based industry, reputation is everything, and it definitely holds true for business management consultants. Maintaining positive relationships with clients lead to calmer workdays and higher levels of productivity. It can be the very foundation on which your consulting practice rests.
To do that, however, requires skill and strategies. Allow us to expand.
The psychology behind managing client expectations
The best way for a consultant or a consulting firm to differentiate itself in a competitive market is by offering exceptional customer service to its clients.
To do this right, it is essential to understand the emotions and behaviours of your audience. Doing so will allow you to adjust your customer service strategy accordingly and help you build stronger relationships with customers when you know their fears, pain points, and goals.
Customer satisfaction leads to repeat customers – an essential aspect of having a sustained business. Additionally, it also sets you apart from your competition and create a mark for yourself in an industry flooded with business management consultants in similar roles such as yours. And not to forget, it paves the path for building a good reputation, and there is nothing more substantial and fundamental than reputation to help your business soar to success for sustained periods of time.
5 ways to manage client expectations as business management consultants
While there are no set tips and tricks that’ll help you always keep your clients happy, there are definitely some fool-proof ways to increase client retention and improve satisfaction by meeting expectations without compromising on your values and methodologies.
1. Ensure you have the right audience
This is perhaps the most basic and essential aspect of having satisfied clients: having the right clients. This starts by knowing who your ideal client is, which requires you to go beyond basic demographic information like age, gender, and location – dig deeper to learn about their needs, interests, and factors that influence their buying decisions.
This can be done by conducting market research that extends in scope by asking questions such as:
- What encourages a customer to indulge in repeat purchases?
- Which customer segments tend to become long-term, loyal customers?
- How can you identify an unhappy customer at the earliest?
The answers to these questions will help you paint a more accurate picture of who you should be focusing on with your marketing and customer retention efforts.
This way, you can avoid taking on projects and working with clients that don’t fit your expertise. If you find prospects who seem unsure of what they want out of working with you, it might be a red flag, because no matter how hard you work for their project, it’ll never be good enough, thus setting you up for failure. Take time to get to know the client and what they need so that you can understand what exactly you need to do to help them. Don’t settle for vague or unaligned projects and clients.
2. Set clearly defined goals & boundaries
Taking a leaf from the above point, ensure you’re headed down the right path by coming from a place of maximum clarity. You can’t manage expectations without establishing what the project’s end goals are.
Managing client expectations becomes so much easier when you set clear objectives, realistic goals, and boundaries. You and your client should share the same end goal before the project kicks off. This gets you working towards the same aim and means that if last-ditch changes are requested, you can redirect the client towards the original objective.
Avoid falling into the trap of saying ‘yes’ to everything the clients ask for. It is perfectly normal for your conversations to end with you letting the client know that the deadline is not feasible or the task outside of your scope of work. As tempting as it can be to say ‘yes’ to everything your client wants, you need to be careful that unrealistic expectations don’t start creeping in. It’s OK to say ‘no’, but always follow up your ‘no’ with an explanation and another suggestion that will help them.
Another tip: let your client be aware of the ways in which you or your company works. Especially if you have a team, make sure they know who in your team does what. For instance, if you have a hard no to working on weekends, let your client know from the get-go and set that boundary, so that they can work around that setup, leaving little scope for them to be disappointed or disheartened.
PS: Simply.Coach lets consultants such as yourself set clearly defined goals and track them too!Don’t take our word for it, try it for yourself – for absolutely no charge! Sign for a free 14-day trial.
3. Adopt complete transparency from the get-go
When talking to prospective clients, companies often focus on closing the deal in any which way. But it may not be the best way to set your customers up for success.
Instead, as an independent business management consultant or agency, you need to focus on educating your potential customers on how they can benefit or derive value from your services, what they can expect from your brand, and what policies they’ll be agreeing to if they become a customer. Be completely and hundred percent transparent about your pricing, refund and cancellation policies, the level of support your clients can expect from your or your team, and more.
Most people will appreciate your forthrightness. As the writer Luc Benyon puts it:
Take time to clarify the confines of the project. Make sure every client is aware that many parts of the project, such as timeline or scope, are probable to change as the job advances. And make sure you clarify exactly how you charge, so your client isn’t surprised when it comes to paying for those additional revisions, meetings and calls.
4. Under promise, over deliver
This is a mantra many successful, veteran professionals live by, so much so that it has almost become a cliché. A cliché that works!
If you set client expectations too high, you set them up for disappointment. Once disappointed, well, they are bound to head elsewhere.
It isn’t just about your product/service or its quality, but also the other key metrics you’ll be expected to deliver on such as costs, communication, and so on. Promising more than you can offer in any of these areas can lead to trouble that can be easily avoided.
Work on going above and beyond client expectations to ensure the client is happy and the project is as successful as possible. ‘Wow’ your client by delivering more than what they were expecting and if possible, even before the allocated deadline. This will lead them to being pleasantly surprised and significantly increase the chances of them hiring you again and even recommending you to others!
5. Get proactive in communication
Establishing lines of communication is an important part of building trust. Think about it like this: Your client is investing money in you and your skills. And they want to know that their hard-earned money was well-invested and want to be kept in the loop instead of having to run around and follow up with you on progress, which eats away into precious time.
Thus, good communication should be a priority — and you should have plans in place for both regular and proactive communication.
Whether it’s good news or bad, the sooner you tell your client, the better. And this can run both ways! Feel free to encourage your client to do the same if & when they have news that they think will affect the project and by extension, you.
To make this seamless, weave this aspect into your methodology. Set a time, perhaps at the end of each week, when you speak to the client, regardless of updates or news. It helps you develop your relationship and pick up issues as soon as they arise, so that no one is in for a nasty surprise too far into the game.
Taking it one step further could entail having contingency plans in place in case things go awry. Think up different scenarios which could deviate your timeline or results and formulate possible solutions to combat it. Staying one step ahead is going to help not just minimise the stresses of your job for yourself and your team, but also work in favour of your clients, who could be impressed that you could think that far ahead and prepare and take control of the situation, thus minimising stress and loss.
We hope you found this guide useful and that you can take something away from it to apply to your own consulting practice. If you think we’ve missed a good tip for managing client expectations, feel free to add a comment below!
Sources: Customerfirst Academy, Forbes, Ring Central, Creative Boom, Teamwork, Freshdesk, Timely
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