Delving into the intricacies between client and agency.
Ray Williams once said: “The first step to exceeding your customers’ expectations, is to know those expectations.”
Client expectations – probably the single most important element in maintaining a healthy and positive relationship between a marketing company and a client. However, with daily client deadlines, juggling multiple clients simultaneously and life’s unexpected bumps and curve-balls, is there a secret formula to balancing client expectations in this world? The simple answer? No!
Life is far too unpredictable and the fast-paced industry in which we work means preparation, communication and honesty, along with a fair amount of “on-the-spot” adaptability is your best bet in mastering this balancing act. However, here are a few tips and tricks I have found have helped me find my feet at this stage in my career:
Understanding internal operations:
Sounds simple, yet it is probably one of the most overlooked elements in dealing with client expectations. Account managers, client service, sales managers etc.– pretty much all client facing employees who do not part-take in direct ops work are notoriously good at selling pretty much anything and everything to potential and current clients, from small one-line changes, to full design makeovers, all of which come with tight deadlines that often require rabbits to be pulled from hats. The reason for this of course is to please the client Clients from time to time, lack the understanding of what truly goes into the relevant task, understanding what other important deadlines the ops teams have on their plate, and how many cogs in the wheel are actually required to complete that “Oh yes sure, this is a very simple and quick task, we can definitely have that to you by tomorrow midday” promise. My first tip would be for all client facing staff to get to know and truly understand the services being sold, so that when making promises, they can provide their client with fair, reasonable and realistic deadlines to complete the task at hand, as they have an intricate understanding of what goes into getting the job done properly and efficiently.
Listen, understand, take briefs and ask questions:
A very real and common way to fall short in meeting client expectations, is to miss a brief entirely, especially if the client took the time to meet with, discuss, explain and elaborate on what they are looking for. Automatically this results in expectation from clients being disappointed as they feel they wasted their valuable time. Clients don’t mind mistakes, but continuous small mistakes can really disappoint a client in the long run. A trick to dealing with client expectations is to listen to client as closely and carefully as possible. Understand what the client wants and write everything down. If anything is remotely unclear and you are worried you might jeopardize the outcome of the project at hand, ask the client questions, a million of them if need be for you to understand the brief clearly, because trust me – a client will respect and appreciate more questions at the beginning, resulting in a close to perfect job now than half a brief and a total disappointment of a project. This way, you also build rapport with the client and you make a concerted effort to deliver work that is of the best quality and in accordance with what they are looking for. Finally, it is pivotal that you brief internal ops as clearly as possible.
Setting realistic deadlines:
Once the brief is captured from client and passed on to ops, it is important then to set out a deadline that is fair to both parties involved, so depending on the urgency of the job, while staying cognizant of internal operational commitments , together you can decide on a deadline that is reasonable and present it to client. Once approved, client service needs to stay on-top of that deadline, follow-up internally and make sure to deliver when promised. One of the greatest achievements is to under promise and over deliver, as client feels truly valued and a sense of great work delivery. Therefore, client service slowly starts to build trust and credibility with the client.
Constant communication and honesty:
Building a strong relationship based on openness, honesty and transparency is paramount in managing client expectations. So, if life throws its curve-balls, and someone in the office breaks a leg for example, client service needs to provide the client with ample notice that a deadline will, for whichever reason, not be met, not waiting until the 11th hour, which leads to running around frantically and making excused (which clients can see straight through), as to why they are not receiving any work. This can go even further e.g. if campaigns are not performing, if analytics are not showing results etc. , , a client needs to know as this can lead to disappointment and distrust, and should be treated proactively and honestly. This transparency shows true respect to the client and allows them to trust you wholeheartedly.
Show passion, commitment and investment in the client:
Lastly, by building a loyal relationship with the client, and showing them that you have a vested interest in them and their work, and will go above and beyond to ensure work is delivered on-time and to the utmost standard, immediately puts you in a position to effectively manage client expectations.. By showing that you are as vested in the brand as they are, allows you to have a relationship strong enough to back yourself and manage any client wobbles, as the client trusts you and knows your commitment to make the brand as powerful and strong as possible is there consistently.
Finding the balance and juggle everything, like anything in life takes time behind the wheel. I myself am learning every day, especially when curve-balls are thrown my way a, but we take things one day at a time, and deal with situations in the best way we know how – through honesty, transparency and full accountability. Enjoying what I love each day also helps me to deal with this stressful, all-consuming industry – and leads me to want to provide the best service to my clients, and the best assistance possible to the ops teams to inevitability make the magic happen.
If you’re interested in learning more, contact us today!