How to Exceed Expectations and Never Overpromise
So, you’ve signed on a new client and walked them through everything your product or service will award them. You have a timeline, a set of deliverables and a process you’ve gone over via phone or in-person meeting. They’ve signed up, and it's time to begin working together. What now?
Ater the sale is complete, a protocol is set into place on how you’re going to serve them, and even if this is followed and matches all of what was promised in initial phone calls, there’s likely still room for disappointment. In 2018, Salesforce conducted a study with 6,700 participants, and half of them reported that companies usually fall short of their expectations for great experiences. The same report said that three-fourths of those respondents believe it’s easier than ever to take business elsewhere.
To ensure that clients are never disappointed, it’s critical to exceed expectations while also never overpromising. But this is easier said than done, especially if your client roster is growing quickly. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re going above and beyond for every client, while communicating transparently.
1. Manage expectations
First, you can’t exceed expectations unless the expectations are first set in stone. The more transparent this can be, the better. It can be a time investment to create a thorough list of these guidelines, but it’s a time investment that will pay off and save time in the long run. Ideally, this will be a customer-centric guide to working with you that clearly lays out what they can expect in terms of number of check-ins, "guaranteed" quotes to be met, timelines for deliverables, etc. The more transparent this is, the easier it will be to manage clients moving forward.
In addition to this guide, the best way to counteract false expectations is to prioritize abundant communication. Set reminders in your email and calendar to give status updates to clients as often as you feel is appropriate. Simply put, the more you communicate with your clients, the more they’ll feel that they can trust you and that you’re doing the best job you can to reach their goals.
2. Create clear guidelines for what you can and cannot promise
Real disappointments occur when a client is promised something that’s impossible to deliver on. This can make clients feel that they were misguided in the sales process, and is the quickest way to lose their business. To make sure that you’re always promising exactly what you can deliver on, make sure that you and every member of your team is aware of what is able to be promised. Then, in communicating this with your prospects or new clients, Hubspot's Jamie Oetting blogs that it's important to “share case studies and examples of your previous work. Reveal what previous clients wanted and how you accomplished their goals even though there were adjustments to the original asks.”
Continue to reiterate your processes and lean on past client testimonials and success without directly promising anything. Instead, talk the client through your process so they understand what it is that you do. Let them hire you and rely on you for your work ethic and your innovative approach to solving their problems rather than any promised end result.
3. Seek to delight
Once clear guidelines around promises and expectations are made, the fun can begin. Establishing a clear and satisfactory bottom line for client relations and processes is great for protecting you and your business, but going above and beyond and surprising them in the process is what keeps clients coming back and referring you to others. To do this, aim to give just a little more than what you promised.
Zara Harutyunyan, founder of CRMC Aesthetics, says the key is to level with your client on expectations, but also understand what their dream scenario is. “It comes down to truly knowing what will make your client over the top happy," she advises. "Spend time getting to know them and their goals, orient them in your typical expectations, then do what you can to meet their highest wishes for your service.”
This can be taken differently depending on what you do for a client, but consider ways you can help them further. Maybe it’s an introduction to someone who could help them in another area of their goals, or maybe it’s simply giving daily status updates because they feel safest in constant communication. As Harutyunyan reminds, “Legacies are made by exceeding expectations."
Once you’ve achieved clarity on what you can definitely promise and transparently shared these expectations with your clients, you can start to brainstorm ways to go above and beyond. Remember that exceeding expectations and never overpromising are two sides of the same coin. You must both seek to delight and stray far away from disappointment. If you create a clear process for how to do this, you’ll be well on your way to exceeding expectations for all clients moving forward.