Are you feeling like your expectations are getting lost in translation with your clients? Do you ever feel like your clients’ expectations of you are unreasonable? Does it seem as if you’re answering client’s emails at all hours of the day and night? If so, this episode of Priority Pursuit is for you!
Felicia Dale of Emerald Lotus Events is an entrepreneur, wedding and event planner, and educator based in Lafayette, Indiana. With 22 years of experience working in customer service combined with eight years of working in the event field, Felicia knows all the ins and outs of how to provide the best services for her clients on their special day. There is no stone left unturned when Felicia works with her clients, because she has built her business around setting expectations and clearly communicating these expectations with her clients.
In this episode of Priority Pursuit, Felicia offers practical tips and tricks so that you too can learn how to set and communicate clear expectations with your clients to (1) serve your clients well and (2) to be able to have boundaries that your clients respect.
When you’re working with your clients, it’s important for them to know exactly what they can expect from you and the services you are providing. Felicia shares three reasons this is so important:
According to Felicia, you need information from your clients to do the job they’ve hired you to do. As a result, your clients need to know exactly what information they should relay to you. If your clients don’t know how your process works, it puts you in a continual state of following up and keeps you from getting the information you need.
For instance, Felicia suggests reaching out to your clients a week prior to your meeting times and explaining what you will be talking about in those meetings. This helps your client come to the meeting prepared. It is your job to minimize the confusion between your process and what your clients can expect.
When communication is clear, your client experience will certainly be enhanced. For instance, when your clients know how and when they should contact you, when they can expect to hear from you, and when they can expect updates and deliverables, your clients will feel cared for and well served and won’t be able to help raving about you!
Believe it or not, you’re not responsible for everything when it comes to meeting your clients’ needs; they are responsible too. When you set and communicate clear expectations with your clients, they become accountable and know what they need to do so you can do your job well.
So, we’ve talked about why it’s important to set and communicate clear expectations with your clients, but now it is time to take action and learn how to do this.
According to Felicia, being able to clearly set and communicate expectations with your clients starts by making sure you can articulate your expectations in writing for yourself. Felicia suggests making a list of what your expectations are by starting with communication and then thinking about common questions you get asked by your clients.
Keep it simple; communicating your expectations with your clients doesn’t have to be hard.
Once you have your expectations in writing, you can then start communicating these expectations with your clients.
Now, every business and industry is a little different, but in this episode, Felicia shares a few practical ways you can let your clients know what to expect when working with you.
First (and free), Felicia suggests making a template email for your onboarding process that shares pertinent information with your clients from the start, such as your office hours or how to prepare for your first meeting.
Felicia also recommends making email templates that can be sent out at specific times while your clients are working with you. For instance, Felicia sends an email a few weeks before weddings letting her clients know that they need to assemble decor before dropping it off at their reception site.
The great thing about creating email templates is that you only have to create them once. Then, you can use them again and again to communicate expectations with all of your clients moving forward. Plus, this is absolutely free!
A great way to communicate with inquiries and to set expectations from the start is to use an automated responder. Chances are, you can’t always respond to inquiries right away, but if you simply use an autoresponder to let inquiries know something like,“Someone will respond to you within 24-48 hours,” inquiries won’t be surprised when it takes a bit to hear back from you.
When using an autoresponder, Felicia also recommends explaining why the response time is that long (e.g. I’m likely away from desk working a wedding) and then follow through with your response within that time. Whenever you do what you say you’re going to do, it builds trust with your clients and helps you serve them better.
Another way to communicate expectations from the start is to have an FAQ section on your website where clients can see things such as what your business hours are, what services you do and do not provide, and answers to questions or clients and inquiries frequently have.
Depending on how long your client will be working with you, it might make sense to send your clients a guide. For example, I (Victoria), send my couples a bridal guide that they can regularly refer to throughout the wedding planning process.
While your website, email communication, etc. can help you communicate expectations to your clients, Felicia argues that it’s also important to have a solid contract in place—even if the work you’re doing is for friends or for gratis. This will ensure that what is and isn’t expected of you is legally binding
The bottom line is that every business is different. As a result, you’ll have to decide which of these tactics will work well for your customers. That said, in order to set expectations, you have to communicate them. So, don’t gloss over Felicia’s suggestions, and do take the time to determine how you can clearly communicate expectations to your customers.
Now, are you finding that even though you’ve set and communicated clear expectations with your clients, they’re pushing back and asking for more? If you’re finding that this is a regular occurrence, then you have to ask yourself,“What kind of clients am I attracting?” Because, if this is happening consistently, you likely aren’t attracting your ideal client and need to figure out why.
In the meantime, Felicia does have a few suggestions for helping get your current clients back on track. For example, if clients are contacting you outside of your business hours, kindly respond letting them know you received their message but will respond during your business hours. This reaffirms the expectations you’ve previously communicated while still letting them know you are being attentive. Don’t forget to follow through with responding to their message during your business hours.
If a client is asking for more than they paid you for, don’t be afraid to review what they purchased and explain what is included for the price they paid. Then, you can share what services can be added with additional cost. One way to avoid this kind of conversation altogether, is to clearly explain what your client has purchased when they signed a contract with you.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, when working with a client, communication is key because no one likes not knowing what is going on or feeling out of the loop. Take the time to make sure that your clients have the information they need, understand your work process, and are comfortable with the care you are giving them.
When you set and communicate clear expectations with your clients, they know exactly what it’s like to work with you, and they will have peace of mind because they know you can do the job they’ve hired you to do. Plus, clearly communicating your expectations with your clients will increase your level of service, encourage great reviews, and make your clients happier in the end.
So, friend, put these tips and tricks into action so that you too can set and communicate clear expectations with your clients.
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