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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Insights on embedding successful Key Client Management

Part 3 of 6

Setting & meeting expectations

If you want to develop a successful relationship you must meet or exceed your clients’ expectations. It is your responsibility to do what it takes to understand what the client expects. You play a role in influencing clients’ expectations through the commitments that you made during the business development process and typically client-focused organisations under-promise and over-deliver.

Managing client expectations successfully depends on understanding, influencing, setting and agreeing those expectations at every stage of the relationship:

  • When discussing new projects
  • When negotiating fees
  • At the start of a new project
  • At regular stages during the delivery programme
  • At the end of the project

Frustration on both sides is often caused, not by a failure to agree the technical specification, but by the soft issues. For example:

  • How the two sides are going to work together
  • How they will communicate
  • Who the client should speak to if they have a concern about progress
  • How can we keep critical momentum on a project without seeming to be authoritarian
  • How information should be presented in reports

Everyone in the client team must know exactly what the formula is for delivering to this client’s satisfaction. Meeting client expectations is as much about the management and motivation of people as it is about producing a report on time.

Little issues like not receiving information on time or not finding it that easy to deal with a member of the team may not provoke a complaint, but will influence the decision on whether to appoint us on future projects.

Therefore it is vital that at regular stages we establish our performance against the client’s criteria. All those influenced by our work need to be questioned, and with sincerity. We need to record their views and check that our understanding of them is accurate and then we need to do something about them.

If the service you are selling in the market place is perceived to be the same as others or a commodity where the only differentiator is price, then you may want to look at two contrasting strategies: 

  • Your service can become the ‘low cost producer’ in the market. This can mean developing and combining more efficient ways of working, reducing headcount, paying lower salaries and getting people to work harder than they do now.
  • The alternative is to constantly invest in developing new expertise that adds greater value for the clients. Focus on innovation and on selling better, more leading edge services for better returns. It then becomes possible to differentiate by delivering a totally tailored service that consistently exceeds clients’ expectations. This will enable you to generate the optimum level of work from those clients, achieving attractive rates and building a reputation that allows you to secure new clients who will pay well for the service that you provide.

The correct strategy depends on what your clients and potential clients see as valuable to them. 

Create time to carry out these actions and if time is taken up, decide what not to do. If not we will end up with a wish-list that doesn’t get completed and the client will get the same old service that they can get from a number of our competitors.

Want more information? See our case study on how we helped Cundall revitalise their Win Work capability here 

See part 1 of 6 here  

See part 2 of 6 here 

See our LinkedIn company profile here

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