One of the most important things a manager can do in any service-based business is to efficiently manage the client’s expectations. Often times this is the farthest thing from anyone’s mind when talking to a new prospective client. Even after you’ve already signed a contract, it’s easy to talk of the wonderful things you can build, the amazing website or platform they’ll end up with, and the virtually unlimited potential to make their dream come true. That’s the fun part!
The not-so-fun part that’s often overlooked is making sure the client understands clearly what exactly is being delivered, and how much those amazing features will cost him. Here’s some quick tips for making sure you keep that balance of an excited client, with realistic expectations.
We all try to sell our clients more than they originally ask - or at least something different in some way. It’s not a malicious scheme to get as much money out of a client. In my experience, it stems from a genuine desire to make something amazing, to create something that we’re proud to tell people we had a hand in building, and to deliver an end product that will honestly serve the client better than expected.
What’s often harder to communicate is that, most of the time, the awesome, must-have feature you’re pitching to them doesn’t come free. In a service-based business like web development, what we’re really selling clients is time. I take my time, and my skills, and put them to use on behalf of the client. How much you charge the client generally depends on what level your skills are at, applied across that time. Bottom line, stuff that takes you longer costs the client more. Don’t forget to be upfront with that fact when you pitch a client on a new or better idea.
Every client seems to want what they asked for, cheaper than they asked for, and have it delivered yesterday. In general, the faster you can get something done, the more pleased the client is! But can you really build an entire component or website for them in 2 days? Is that feasible? Most likely not - but you still have to set a deadline! How do we set a deadline that realistically gives the client an expectation that you can actually deliver?
Remember what we said about service businesses - in the end, all you have to sell is your time. At the same time, time is often needed for other things like other clients, family, building your business, and on the rare occasion, even sleep! Setting realistic deadlines upfront that work for both yourself and the client will help you avoid a lot of headaches around the corner.
Everyone’s heard a story, or probably had it happen to them - the client that wants the magical combination of Facebook, Craigslist, Linkedin, and the Yellow Pages - it’s going to be the next thing to take over the world! Not every project request is as dramatic as this, but inevitably you’ll run into a similar experience. A client will sometimes want a specific feature that is either simply not possible, prohibitively expensive, or sometimes simply detrimental to the intended purpose of their website and users. (If you want to read a funny comic about this check out The Oatmeal by clicking here.)
The adage “The Clients Always Right” kind of puts us between a rock and a hard place when it comes to scenarios like this. But don’t forget what the client hired you for - your expertise. A well-reasoned objection, sometimes coupled with an alternative can go a long way towards avoiding scenarios where you’re forced to turn down projects, fail to deliver what the client expects, or even turn out work you know isn’t the best.
What if I'm the Client?
One of the best things you can have going for you when building a website or software is the team you work with. For the most part, you can find great technology everywhere - what you can't find everywhere is a team of individuals that shares your vision for your organization, and is focused not only on connecting the technology pieces, but is also looking to help you build a future that is brighter because of the work they do. At CNP Integrations, we focus on building and deploying systems that extend our clients' business, and help them reach more people, with greater capabilities. Keep an eye out for our next blog post on this topic. If you're the "Client" side of "Client Expectations", we'll give you some tips on how to get the most out of your web development team!
When it comes to happy clients with amazing products, we’re often out to please in whatever way possible. Sometimes the two worlds collide though - the clients expectations slamming into reality. Being able to efficiently manage your clients expectations can set you up for great long term relationships with clients that keep coming back for your amazing work!
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