We are living in uncertain times and businesses are having to work harder and smarter to survive and to succeed. When there is a lot at stake, there is a tendency to over commit because we want to make a good impression with the customer.
When we over commit, we can put ourselves and our teams under enormous pressure to meet these unrealistic expectations. Whether we are working with internal or external customers we need to take the time to negotiate and manage expectations with our customer. We need to be able to stay calm and stay in control while we negotiate a shared understanding of what is expected by the customer.
By taking the time to listen and to clarify any assumptions that our customers may have, we are then able to reduce the risk of misunderstanding, potential conflict, and complaints. This in turn helps us to build rapport with the customer and to develop a stronger customer relationship. We know that by listening and showing empathy towards the customer that we are more likely to build a sustainable relationship that is based on mutual trust and cooperation.
So, how do you set expectations for your customers? Here are some tips:
Set Realistic Expectations for Your Self (in the context of your role)
- Identify your limits and boundaries
Take the time to identify how much time and effort you can commit with this project and with this customer. Be clear on what resource you need to meet the agreed expectations.
- Avoid making promises you cannot keep
Remember the boundaries you have set to avoid overpromising. Overpromising can result in disputes and dissatisfaction with the customer if you cannot keep the promises you make. Keep in mind that it is better to “under promise and over deliver” than the other way around.
- Consider potential complications
Before making promises or commitments, think about potential complications that may impact the project. Every project has inevitable difficulties and risks that you need to consider when setting expectations with the customer.
Setting Realistic Expectations with the Customer
- Be honest and discuss openly
Ensure that you and the customer have a shared understanding of what you both need to do to complete the project. Focus on timely discussions and be prepared to adjust the project until you agree.
- Communicate regularly (define what regularly means for each party)
After the initial discussion, keep constant communication with the customer to ensure you are both well informed about the changes and progress of the project. This approach helps the customer to be prepare if there is a need to adjust deadlines and timeline. And define and agree on what is meant by regular communication. If the customer expects daily updates and you consider weekly updates as regular, their may be an unexpected mismatch in expectations
- Explain project complications ahead of time
Identify and clearly discuss the potential complications at the beginning of the project discussion and create a plan on how to reduce the risk. Have worst case scenarios and best-case scenarios so that you can manage expectations within these.
To learn more about dealing with your customers, join Violet Dhu in her upcoming online workshop on: How To Handle Difficult Customers on 19 Aug.