Staying on top of clients’ expectations

Content provided by a guest contributor.

The new Consumer Protection Act is a vehicle for all business owners to review their practices and procedures when dealing with client expectations. We can choose to see it as a threat or we can see it as an opportunity to improve our mode of interacting with clients. In fact, this act forces both parties to do their homework properly.

The important starting point is to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of a client’s requirements. This sounds pretty obvious, but the reality strikes when there is a client who is unhappy.

So take time to find out exactly what the client expects to see or receive as an end result: what service do they want, what do they expect regarding the quality of the service, how  and when the service is to be delivered and what measurements they will use to determine whether they are satisfied.

The detail around each of these aspects is critical. Often we fail to truly register the smaller details; we could be pre-occupied with work issues, thinking of the next question to ask the client or we may feel they are fussing about unnecessary details. The bottom line is that unless we stay focussed on the conversation with the client, we may miss important details.

It's helpful to put your understanding of what the client wants in writing e.g. per email or in a formal proposal. Provide a written, detailed quote and indicate what will be included, and excluded as part of the service. Make sure that any terms and conditions are added and get feedback from the client before proceeding. Amend the document and then have the client sign it.

In other cases, it would be more practical to talk to the client, take some time to reflect on the client’s request and consider any aspects that still require clarification. Taking more time initially will cut out any delays or rework later. The client will also feel that their needs have been understood and that you are genuinely interested in delivering a good service.

Over time, we may also find circumstances may change and impact on our service to a client. It is then advisable to go back to the client to talk this through with them and decide on the way forward together!

Many clients thrive on being consulted and see this is as genuine interest. Keeping the communication lines open and on-going will lead to less issues later on. As you interact with them, check on whether they are happy with the service or what you intend delivering.    

Work out what the critical aspects are that are important to the client. Is it meeting their requirements? Or adhering to service deadlines? Is it cost? Keeping them informed of progress? Whatever their key issues, we need to focus on this aspect together with our service delivery.

As always, having documentation specifying the requirements and providing written feedback will ensure that there is factual evidence when there are comebacks.

There is a well known quote: "The devil lies in the details!" So check the details.

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