customer-relationshipsWe’ve all done it.  We didn’t think it was going to be a problem.  We never expected things to get out of hand.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about setting poor expectations for clients.  Did you know that of 100 entrepreneurs surveyed about areas of opportunities when working directly with clients, 90 stated that their biggest opportunity was with setting expectations for clients (Newbourg survey 2012).

You see, we mismanage expectations and as a result we create client monsters, just like Cecilia has.  I’m answering her question in this week’s episode of Incredible Factor TV:

“Hi Darnyelle.  I am a business consultant and I think I’ve created a monster.  I have a client who drives me insane.  She calls constantly and challenges everything that I suggest to her to grow her business.  I am trying to figure out how to turn things around because I can’t fire her I need the money.”

Check out this week’s episode here:

As you watched this week’s episode, you may have thought I was a bit harsh on Cecilia.  But the fact is, it’s hard to rebound when you haven’t managed a client relationship effectively.  Because it’s unclear who is the client and who is the consultant, I like to borrow from Kenny Rogers and say that this is definitely a fold ‘em moment.  Overbearing clients aren’t worth it.  Period.  They will NEVER pay you enough for the misery you have to put up with.

But Cecilia’s experience can save you a word of trouble…

Before you take on another client, I highly recommend that you create a client management program and procedure.  In that program, you’ll need to lay out quite a few things including:

  • Your policies and procedures – having policies and procedures will not only govern the relationship but it will help to ensure that they are clear about how you work with them.  Remember, it’s your company; so you get to set the policies, procedures and expectations. When you set expectations formally and in writing, it allows you to serve them more fully. You should include your office hours, appointment procedures, payment processes, cancellation or refunds policies and client do’s and don’ts in your policies and procedures.
  • How you’ll communicate updates with clients – letting clients know up front that they will have an update meeting with you each week or two sessions a month and how to schedule them will go far.  If you offer email correspondence as a part of your service, be clear to share when you’ll respond to their message. Doing this will not only avoid confusion but ensure that you are building clients for life.
  • Your client agreements – never take on a client without an agreement that is in writing.  I know you never expect your client to turn out like Cecilia’s did but anything is possible and you want everything to be clear.

Now, to set appropriate expectations for your clients, I recommend the following:

1. Set clear boundaries (and always adhere to them).  If you say that you’ll only respond to emails Monday through Friday at 9 am and 5 pm, no matter how much you want to, you can’t respond outside of those times.  When you go against your own rules, you give your clients permission to do the same. And when they break the rules because you did first, you can’t get mad at them.

2. Communicate clearly and consistently. You have to be clear, listen to the needs of your clients and respond accordingly.  And you have to do this all the time, not just when you feel like it.  Being consistent in your communication is the key to building client relationships that last beyond the scope of your current work together. Your communication style need also include listening more than you talk, that’s why you have two ears. 🙂

3. Set goals, timelines and strategy together. Be sure that your service delivery with your next and future clients include at least one “kick-start” session where you set expectations, goals and timelines together.  This will eliminate the confusion that has the potential to ensue when you don’t. And when the client is not adhering to the timelines you set TOGETHER, be firm and get them back on track.

Here is a tweet for you: Remember, a client worth attracting is a client worth managing. @DarnyelleJervey  If you’re not going to manage, perhaps you shouldn’t attract them. And once you start a client relationship keep the boundaries and expectations clear as they will be the difference between an Incredible client and an over-bearing one.

Now I want to hear from you, what’s your two cents? How would you handle a client management issue?  Have you created your own client management plan? What tips can you share with Cecilia and others in the Incredible Factor community?

©2013 by Darnyelle A. Jervey. All Rights Reserved. Darnyelle A. Jervey, MBA, The Incredible Factor Speaker, Business Coach and Marketing Mentor, is the founder of Incredible One Enterprises.com, Incredible Factor University® and the Leverage Your Incredible Factor System®, a proven step-by-step program for more clients, more income and more leverage in your business. For more information and a FREE audio CD “7 Critical Mistakes Entrepreneurs Must Avoid When Unleashing Your Incredible Factor So You Attract More Clients, Make More Money and Gain More Leverage” just fill out the form below.

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