Managing Client Expectations

How to Manage and Exceed Client Expectations: 13 Agency Experts Share Their Advice

Making your clients happy is your most important job as an agency. That means you have to actively manage and meet their expectations to build a sustainable relationship. That way, you’ll be able to retain them for a long time.

But how to manage and meet client expectations and even exceed them?

We’ve asked 13 smart agency experts who exactly know how to answer this question.

  1. Set Expectations with Clients Upfront
  2. Go Above & Beyond The Scope of Work
  3. Set Expectations Low and Exceed Them
  4. Be Ahead of the Promised Schedule
  5. Manage Client Expectations Around Response Times
  6. Stay in Constant Communication
  7. Engage the Client on a Personal and Business Level
  8. Promise and Deliver
  9. What Would Success Look Like
  10. Truly Understand Your Client’s Pain Points and Goals
  11. Be Transparent and Open
  12. Actively Involve Your Clients
  13. Provide Truly Authentic Customer Service

1. Set Expectations With Clients Upfront

The best way to exceed client expectations is to clearly SET the expectations up front. Clearly communicate what the clients can expect from you, when they should expect to receive deliverables, and the steps or to-do’s they’ll need to accomplish along the way as well. You can’t over-communicate when it comes to clients, so continuously communicating where your project is, what you’ve accomplished and what’s still to come is crucial to managing your entire client experience. – Susan Boles, Founder of ScaleSpark

2. Go Above & Beyond The Scope of Work

I have several strategies for exceeding expectations. Get clients quick results – that goes for anything from securing interviews to final reports. Always get them the information early and use cool graphics to ice the cake.

Go above the scope of work – from additional media coverage to an extra video or image card for social sharing, give your clients more.

Answer questions before they ask – think of what the client is going to ask next, and answer it before they even have a chance to ask. You’ll look like a champ.

Be Smart – when you keep giving clients ideas that help them amortize an investment or leverage their time, you’ll look smart. For example, video a client spokesperson between interviews for a TV Tour so you have more content for the client when the Tour wraps. – Risë Birnbaum, CEO of Zcomm

3. Set Expectations Low and Exceed Them

I think that our priority in the process of onboarding clients is around hedging expectations in a healthy way – helping them understand that results take time and for us usually that means clear upwards indicators in their website traffic in 3 months, and clear R.O.I. around 6 months. That being said, occasionally we create serious spikes in traffic, and recently increased a clients organic traffic 80%+ year over year for the month in the first month. I think the real trick to exceeding expectations is suggesting that results may take a little longer than is possible so that when you can beat that expectation is creates a positive impression. I’ve seen salespeople do the obvious – suggest results will be quick and easy. It may lead to more quick sales, but it’s much more likely to lead to less client retention. – Tim Brown, Owner of Hook Agency

4. Be Ahead of the Promised Schedule

To exceed clients expectations it’s important to be ahead of the promised schedule and to offer value where they were not expecting it. We always give a deadline/expected delivery date of 5 days after what we actually tell ourselves the deadline is.

Furthermore, if you’re expected to perform certain tasks and achieve certain results, always find a way to add something new. E.g if you promised to do an SEO marketing project, also offer a free video (if you can afford it) project and achieve great results, as this will bring long term commitment. – Antonio Wedral Founder of statement.digital

5. Manage Client Expectations Around Response Times

My suggestions for exceeding client expectations are very simple. The most important part of client satisfaction is to manage expectations around response times, the services provided and results. If expectations aren’t managed, then it’s possible for the client and the agency to be on different wavelengths, which is a recipe for disaster. The second most important piece is to treat their business as you would if it was your own. You can’t ask someone to trust you but you can prove that you are worthy of trust by truly caring about their results, just as much as they do. – Amy Bishop, Owner of Cultivative Marketing

6. Stay in Constant Communication With The Client

To exceed your client’s expectations, I recommend staying in constant communication. Although communication is such a basic component of a successful business, it really does get overlooked. People get busy and emails pile up, but staying on top of communicating with your client will keep them extremely impressed. Whether that’s sending lots of email updates or calling them the moment you see a potential problem, this kind of communication shows the client you truly care. Scheduling time to communicate in person is also important. When it is possible, putt a face to all those emails. This is crucial in building successful client relationships. There is so much to be learned with face-to-face or even screen-to-face interaction that you just can’t gain via email. – Morgan Bachemin, Digital Ads Director at Online Optimism

7. Engage the Client on a Personal and Business Level

Always offer double what your client pays for, they love proactivity and transparency. A text message or a Slack message goes a long way. Clients are people, and that personal relationship building is a sure fire way to ensure that you are empathetical to their goals, priorities and workloads. We always strive to engage the client on a personal and business level to ensure that long term relationship. – Kevin Tash Founder of Tack Media

8. Promise and Deliver

The agency market is extremely competitive and many low-cost agencies promise their clients huge success in short periods of time. When I meet with prospects, most of them are not happy with their current agency as they don’t deliver the results they were seeking. The best strategy is to look at what was achieved in the past with similar clients and decrease the number by 10%, which is a great margin to work with. When you reach the ideal target, clients usually are amazed by the work that has been done. – Andrej Bachtin, Social Media Strategist at Looso

9. What Would Success Look Like

Exceeding a client’s expectations assumes you understand what they expect of you and your agency. It seems obvious but I’ve witnessed countless projects get underway without the foundational conversation about what success will look like at the end — the hard and soft metrics at the core of their expectations. These high-level expectations must then be broken down into smaller expectations that can be codified into your statement of work or contracting documents, e.g. milestones, roles, deliverables, methodology, project governance, etc. If you’ve any doubts about the seniority/authority of your client, loop in an executive sponsor and be sure everyone’s expectations are understood. – James Gardner, Business Developer at MedTouch

10. Truly Understand Your Client’s Pain Points and Goals

Taking the time to truly understand our clients’ pain points is one of our key strategies to being able to go the extra mile. Doing so doesn’t even create a lot of extra work. It can be something as simple as setting our agency up as a cc on client Contact forms and reviewing the submissions weekly. This allows us to really understand what is going on in their business and make suggestions for how we can work with them to help them alleviate issues or areas of concern. – Bethann Buddenbaum, Director of Social Media at BoxCrush

11. Be Transparent and Open

Our biggest opportunity to exceed client expectations is through transparency. We’ve been able to retain clients well above the industry average through being open and honest with our clients. We don’t just generate reports on ROI, we show our clients the actual dashboards and data that are generated from our campaigns. This transparency breeds trust, shows our value, and keeps our clients confident in the work we’re performing. – Kimberly Scholten, Marketing Coordinator at Odd Dog Media

12. Actively Involve Your Clients

One of our favorite strategies in exceeding client expectations is making sure our communication is unrivaled by other agencies. Clients often tell us horror stories of not understanding how a project is coming along, or not being able to contact someone working on the project. This gives them a bad agency experience, which is incredibly disheartening all around.

We make sure that never happens by not only keeping our clients informed with regular updates, but by also giving them access to our project management systems. Clients can see (in real time) what our designers and developers are working on, have finished, and still need to do. Additionally, we make sure that our clients can always contact someone from the team that’s working on their project! Sometimes, we even build dedicated teams for those clients with extremely long term, ongoing projects.

Another way that Codal goes above and beyond to impress our clients is by providing ongoing support. We don’t just abandon our clients after the project is complete! We make sure we give them options for getting ongoing support, and can even help them answer developer tickets as they come in.

But overall, what really helps us stand out in our clients’ eyes is our dedication to their projects. Each project is completely custom built – making it unique and unlike any of their competitors. We take the time to research the industry, the company, their competitors, and users. We create solutions that their users will find intuitive, helpful, and easy to use. The time we spend researching and getting to know a company and its project helps us push them beyond their goals, which is always a winning moment. – Arielle Kimbarovsky, Digital Marketer at Codal

13. Provide Truly Authentic Customer Service


I’ve managed to consistently exceed my clients’ expectations as an agency owner by providing truly authentic customer service. In such a saturated industry as content marketing, value-added service goes a long way… and your initiatives don’t need to be elaborate or expensive to wow clients.

Small gestures can make a big impact—a happy birthday when you notice a client’s birthday on LinkedIn; a personalized thank you note sent periodically throughout the year, thanking clients for their business; a willingness to hop on a call and spend an hour brainstorming ideas with a client, not because you want to upsell or bill them for it but because you genuinely care about the success of their business; etc. These human touches within my agency’s client interface culture have set us apart from our competition and it’s a value that I’ll work tirelessly to preserve within the fabric of our team as we continue to grow. – Dylan Bridger, Owner of ZenRevenue

Conclusion

Managing client relationships can be tough. Things like setting customer expectations upfront and an active expectation management are crucial. So, we hope that these tips will help you to manage and exceed your client’s expectations. Do you have any other tactics to make your clients happy? Don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comments.

Max is a SaaS enthusiast and loves actionable content that provides direct value.

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