Building a business can be challenging, because not only are you strapped with the day-to-day operational tasks, you have to constantly ensure your clients are being taken care of. Clear communication is the key to a successful business, yet so many business owners run into hiccups that could have been avoided with better managing expectations of their clients. Become an expert communicator, and enrich your client relationships while minimizing room for disappointment, with these tips!
Last week, I was talking with a frazzled photographer who felt like she was constantly beating her head against a wall because clients were constantly asking her the same questions over and over, and getting upset with her for not delivering results she had never promised in the first place.
When we began to unpack the problem, it was no surprise her clients were all over the place and often unhappy. While she did explain her process in an email to new clients upon booking she did little else to remind them of her processes and managing expectations.
Truth is, 90% of issues that come up with your clients could probably be avoided by better managing expectations. Not only after they’ve become a client, but before!
Screening for Success
A few times, I’ve realized halfway into my working relationship with a client that it REALLY was not a good fit from the start. Sometimes, I’ve had my suspicions immediately but ignored them because I really wanted to help, or I was afraid to turn away a new client. Other times, it wasn’t until we started to dig into their business that I realized things were just not going to end productively.
By screening your potential clients thoroughly BEFORE they sign on the dotted line and become clients, you’ll be less likely to run into sticky situations that have you regretting the day you ever got an inquiry from the person.
First things first, you need to figure out who you want to work with (if you don’t already know EXACTLY who they are!). Take some time to figure that out here.
Once you’ve gotten that figured out, check out this post to get tips for screening your potential clients.
Essentially, you want to target your ideal clients in such a way that you repel those who wouldn’t be a good fit and ask well thought out questions that will establish whether or not any conflict could arise down the line. Sometimes it’s a conflict in personality. Sometimes it’s unrealistic expectations. Could be underlying issues that would prevent the working relationship from progressing in a way that will bring growth.
Never sacrifice your sanity by saying yes to a client you don’t think is a good fit because you think it’s your job as a business owner to say yes to anyone who wants to work with you (or buy your products)!
As soon as someone asks about using your services or buying your products, it’s time to give them the lowdown on what your process looks like, from start to finish. How often can they expect to hear from you? What do you expect of them? How can they ensure the best outcome? What is required as far as payments go? What happens if something unexpected comes up (how do you handle rescheduling, cancellations, etc.)? What is your turnaround time? What are your non-negotiables? When can people expect you to return emails? Are they able to text message or call you?
One great way to set expectations is a welcome guide you can include to lay out all of these details and show off your work! Welcome guides can do double duty by being both a marketing tool and a way to set expectations clearly. You can create your own, or do a quick Google or Etsy search to find some templates you can use to create something visually pleasing and packed with information.
Be sure you have a crystal clear contract that tells clients just what to expect from you, and what you expect of them. Be sure you’re having each and every client sign your contract, no matter what! Even if it’s your best friend or your sister. While working with friends and family may feel more laid back and you may be tempted to forgo the contract and not be as formal, it sometimes is EVEN MORE important to keep your regular workflow in place. Skewed expectations and communication issues can put a strain on your relationships, and nothing is worse than business getting in the way of your personal relationships!
Be sure your clients feel comfortable asking questions, and that they know they will always receive a timely response from you. Let them know that it is up to them to communicate any questions or concerns with you because it needs to work both ways! While you can do everything in your power to communicate with your clients, you’re not a mind reader. If they are not communicating with you, it may be hard for you to know what their wants/needs are! If you don’t know what their expectations are, how can you possibly exceed them?
Keep Things Consistent Online
Your online presence is so important, and you want to make sure both you and your work are coming through authentically!
Nothing is worse than ordering a new dress online that you found on Instagram and LOVED only to find out it looks nothing like it did in the pictures and is nearly falling apart. Same goes for your brand!
Be sure your website accurately reflects who you are and that your business related social media accounts give visitors a clear snapshot of who you are and what you do.
Sometimes being you can repel potential clients, but that can actually be a GOOD thing! Say your faith is a big part of your life. Share it! Will some people be turned off? Probably. But so what? I’m all for building an authentic brand that allows you to be you, so if you would like to work with other people whose faith is important, don’t be afraid of turning some people off!
Every once in a while, scope out your accounts and ask yourself if what you see strongly represents who you are and what your business is all about. If things don’t fit, consider removing them, and make a plan to move forward in a way that will allow potential (ideal) clients to better connect with you.
Handle Issues like a Boss
I love these tips, so I’m just going to leave these two resources here for you to check out!
Avoiding sticky situations with clients and customers really is all about setting expectations and communications. It’s easier than you may think to ensure you both are on the same page, so take some time to write down the things that are important your clients/customers know about working with you, and then begin infusing those expectations EVERYWHERE!
Talk about your process on social media. Mention it in emails. Talk about it in person. Create a welcome guide. Add important information to your email signature. Draft a contract.Write a blog post.
While you may think you sound like a broken record, if you drop your expectations into your regular communication, it won’t feel that way to your clients, and they’ll likely appreciate that you’re so on top of your game!
No more hiding from uncomfortable situations, avoid them in the first place, and use the amazing tips in the videos above by Myra Golden to diffuse any hiccups (or hurricanes) that arise!
In what ways do you think you could amp up your communication game? Has poorly managing expectations ever caused issues with a client/customer? Shout it out in the comments and let’s make a plan!
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