We all have expectations. Expectations of everything in our life including our significant other, our job and even our dogs, but there is something we don’t think about as much. Do people actually know these expectations? Unless they are explicitly communicated and reviewed, I doubt it.
Disappointment is a trap that is easy to fall into, especially when we miss this all important step. For the purpose of the post, I will only be discussing expectations between clients and agencies and not the expectations a client might have about working with an agency. This post will specifically include expectations of the performance and goals of the account. Following these four steps will ensure there is no stone left unturned and you can meet the expectations of your client.
Step 1 – Ask What The Expectations Are
When it comes to account work or performance, the first thing you need to know is what the expectations are. Does the client want to see 100 changes a month in the change history or CPA’s under $10? Specifically ask what KPI’s the client is reviewing and how they are being judged. Getting a clear picture of what and how they are looking at should be important to you.
You should also know what the context is to the expectations. Do they think 100 changes means you are spending enough time in the account or is the $10 CPA goal based on something they achieved in the past? This information will give you a good background on what is expected and why. How the client thinks is as important to know as the goals themselves. Ask as many questions as you can to get the whole picture of where the client is coming from and what they ultimately want.
Step 2 – Restate The Expectations
Next, you will want to restate the expectations once they are finalized through the discussion mentioned in the first step. Did you hear them correctly? Did they change at all through the discussions prompted in step one? A lot can change between the time the expectations are stated and this step.
This step is crucial to making sure you understand what the client is asking for and in-turn, the client will know you have been listening. This will also be a time when you can talk and share your insight into the expectations and how you feel about them. More information may come up in this step, so make sure you are really listening to the response so you know how to craft the next step.
Step 3 – Gain Buy In
You have asked what the expectations are and you have restated them. Now make sure this is the final version of what the client wants. It is also another good time to give your feedback about the expectation once more. Is the $10 CPA goal one you think can’t be achieved because of changes in the market? Don’t just say it can’t be done, but cite reasons why it can’t be and then craft a response that shows you have listened, but are taking the new factors into consideration.
Again, things might change in this step, but working through it is critical to success. It is the turning point to moving forward in the right direction. Confirm the discussion by either sending an email and having them confirm, or use a project management system to house the confirmation. At Hanapin, we use Basecamp for items that need approval. The client receives an email and actually has to hit the “yes” button, permanently marking their approval. Either way, having this confirmation is essential.
Step 4 – Review
Finally, review expectations from time to time. Not simply to hear if there have been problems meeting the expectations, but to determine if the expectations have changed. Maybe there are other expectations now. You never know what could be happening. The business model might have changed. The main players may have changed or even the competitive landscape. Asking is the first step to knowing and knowing helps combat disappointment of not meeting expectations. If you uncover more or new information in this step, start back at step one and gain clarity on how to meet the new expectations.