Taming the Beast – Managing Client Expectations


Every firm has that one client – the one who monopolizes your time, frustrates all the other staff or makes unreasonable demands. But are your clients always right and should you always accede to their request?

I had a recent encounter with a client who was head-on adamant on holding a press conference to announce the arrival of their top management. The only issue was that there was no big news to announce at the event. After all, journalists are looking for something newsworthy or ground-breaking to report on.  Announcing a visit merely for the sake of it is neither. He just wanted to provide some publicity for the company to appease the higher ups.  Only after several cycles of persuasion did our client finally surrender!

The key to thriving in this type of environment is keeping it cool and managing priorities well to manage your clients’ expectations. Here are a few tips that can help you when your workload is on the verge of overwhelming you.  But first, let’s take a look at the 5 common personality types.

1. The Indecisive

These clients have a constant change of heart. They may say one thing now, but the moment you turn around, they decide on something else, on a whim and fancy.

Quick Fix: Keep an open line of communication and work out the reasoning behind the new direction. Sometimes, clients may need someone to set their thinking straight. But if the behind-the-scene action has already begun and the client refuses to meet you in the middle, it may be time to whip out the original contract and bill them for the extra work.

2. The Lagger

It’s not just about meeting deadlines but these clients continue to ignore your endless requests for information, simply because they can’t get their act together.

Quick Fix: Insist on an alternative point of contact. Riding on the agreed timeline, stay on top of them by sending reminders via email and following-up with phone calls. Help them to understand that the more cooperation you receive, the better the result.  Mark your emails as high priority (if urgent). It is important to cover all bases so that you’re able to do your job effectively for your client.

3. The Know-It-All

These clients come to the table with an extremely specific approach with little room for ideas.

Quick Fix: Re-establish your respective roles. As much as you might want to take the “Serve You Right” action, approach the situation with a focus on solutions. The client’s ideas may not always make sense. It is incumbent upon you to be frank about what works and what doesn’t. Dig up relevant real-life examples, if you need to, to convince your client.

4. The Demander

Possessing the general lack of awareness on the space-time continuum, these clients demand the impossible. To them, this is your area of expertise so you have the power to move oceans.

Quick Fix: Provide the client with a schedule of tasks, deliverables and let them know when they can expect to see results. Clearly outline the project scope and carefully calibrate expectations at the beginning of each engagement. Keep them informed on the project’s progress and discuss complications as and when they arise.

5. The Adhesive

Thinking they are your only client, these people believe they deserve 100% of your time. They may send you emails at 3 am and schedule meetings after work hours.

Quick Fix: Establish clear timetables and communicate, through progress reports, emails, and meetings. Don’t be afraid to say no if they encroach on your time or that of your team’s.

Working in the communications industry, can be a bit stressful at times. Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, you can oftentimes be pulled in multiple directions at the same time for items that all have the same priority levels. It’s the nature of the beast.

Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia

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