The previous post, Save The Surprises For Your Loved Ones, detailed why surprises are bad for clients and the nasty situations that can arise when expectations are not managed appropriately.
Of course it would be best to avoid those situations altogether and doing so is actually quite simple.
The key is to step up, take action and invest the effort into consciously setting the expectations.
Clients who are misaligned will quickly become angry, the trust and credibility you’ve worked so hard to build will disappear. Coming back from this is extremely difficult as it requires rebuilding the relationship and can only be done over extended periods of times.
Investing significant amounts of effort here will pay off enormously!
Remember the client is not to blame here, you should be controlling the expectations.
You cannot spend too much effort ensuring everyone is aligned and there is a common understanding.
The below can help here
- Put a lot of effort into kicking off the project. The initial project meeting lays the foundations for the project moving forward and is an excellent time to clarify and align expectations.
- Ensuring the client understands the delivery methodology, what will be the outcome and what they need to do.
- This is also the time to clarify and correct any assumptions that have been made, both from your side and the clients.
- A great way to do this is to highlight what is not in scope. When you explicitly state something is out of scope you will be called out if its important, avoiding the problem before it arises.
Force the difficult conversations
- Don’t let misunderstandings fester, hunt them down with vengeance.
- This will lead to difficult conversations, there is no way to avoid this, however the magnitude is proportional to when you raise them. If you jump on the misunderstandings quickly it is much easier to control.
Control your response
- It sounds fundamental, but do not lose your temper or be crass. There will be situations where you will be yelled at, belittled and threatened with legal action, the initial response will be to fight back with your own version of abuse.
- Do not do this in any case. It is a very serious career limiting move.
- The most powerful response is calm, collected and patient. If you do not have all the answers do not commit until you do.
- This is also good to remember when dealing with toddlers
As an example, in a previous life we had a 6 month project to deploy and integrate a client’s systems to our product, or so we thought….
The team went to the kick off, eager to get started and work through the details.
When discussing the timeline the client stopped us
“Why are you saying 6 months? We agreed to 3 months!”
There was silence. There was no way we could deliver 6 months of work in 3 months.
It turns out that during the sales cycle, a date for go-live had been mentioned that was 6 months out.
The sale then stalled for 3 months.
The effort hadn’t changed, however the client still thought it would be implemented by the original date.
This clarification was tense and awkward, however the troops were rallied and the client agreed to rebaseline the project at 4.5 months.
They turned out to be one of our happiest clients, all because we managed the expectations…