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Do you have the habit of saying yes to every demand of your customer in order to make them happy?
I hate to say it. But don’t always do that!
Irrelevant to your industry, every freelancer aims to meet customer expectations. Because a satisfied customer can spread a good word about you, bring more work to your business, and even bring new customers to your doors.
As a freelancer, in your initial phase, you go above and beyond to make your handful of clients happy. And that’s completely okay.
But after a few years, when you’re in a handsome shape with a healthy number of clients, this habit of client-pleasing can hurt you badly.
At this point, your old clients have grown enormous expectations from you. Because in the past you have completed every task (sometimes extra ones too!) they asked for a lesser price. With the new set of clients coming in, the weight of all these expectations can really break your shoulders.
That’s why the concept of customer expectation management has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. In this article, I’m going to explain how to manage & exceed customer expectations in a very mindful way.
First, let’s take a look at some of the most common customer expectations.
6 Most Common Customer Expectations You’ll Face
Customer expectations typically build-up from the overall image of your persona, past experiences of services, marketing/advertising messages, or recommendations from the referrals.
You’ll often find one or all of the below expectations from your customers:
1. Customer Service
Do you know, 86% of clients would pay extra to have a better customer experience.
Good customer service sets your personal brand way ahead of your competitors, even though your product and services are innovative.
Now, as a personal brand you are not going to win hearts by simply delivering the work, you also have to provide support to your customers. It has become a necessity and a very important factor in the competition.
Before and during your contract, customers expect you to resolve all their queries. As only you know your services better than anyone, clients expect you to solve their confusions and provide satisfactory answers.
Your customer wants to be heard, otherwise, there are chances you might get replaced.
You would get annoyed if you specifically ordered a Cheesy Pizza and you don’t see any Cheese. Been there!
Basically, clients want very clear and to-the-point communication with you as a service provider and don’t like to repeat themselves. They expect you to communicate regularly and understand their needs.
You’ll be surprised that 85% of people find it annoying to have to repeat information when working with other businesses.
Whether it is client data, product design, account details, or business plans, clients put their trust in you and expect that you will preserve it mindfully.
Everyone deserves data privacy, right? In the same way, when customers share their data they expect you not to misuse it in any manner.
Not just that, the consequences of a data privacy breach can be catastrophic. According to the 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report, the average cost of data privacy breaches is around 3.86 billion US dollars.
Let’s say you’re a freelance content writer. You have worked with so many clients over the years. Would you write content for a pharmaceutical company in the same style as you write for a travel company?
Every client has a unique audience, needs, and requirements. They want to cater to their customers in a very specific way. And your job is to provide services that’ll help them achieve their goals.
If you follow the same style for every client you work for, eventually, you’ll end up with a lot of rejections. So, it’s very crucial for you to understand customer needs and personalize your service based on their business model.
Trust is a complicated subject to understand. In any relationship, maintaining trust is naturally expected from both parties.
When a customer puts trust in you, they expect the following things:
- Follow the terms and conditions you agreed on
- Never compromise their work for a lucrative deal
- Never hide or misrepresent information
- Never contribute to their loss
- Take care of the work with or without their presence honestly
Trust can be a separate subject to discuss and would take another article to understand thoroughly. But it builds up from a lot of good experiences.
When you work for your clients for a longer run, that usually means they trust you. And they are entitled to expect the same from you.
Especially in the field of designing, customers prefer to have options. They want to know the impact of the design and how it will be reflected.
For example, clients will expect a graphic designer to give at least 2 or 3 options before finalizing a logo for the brand. You would expect the same when you put yourself in their shoes. Think of any of your purchases, you’d want to see options.
How to set customer expectations from the get-go
We learned about the most common customer expectations above. Now let’s learn how you can manage them mindfully.
1. Don’t Over-Commit and Under-Deliver
It may look easy at the beginning, but don’t take the pressure from something you can’t finish. Sometimes in order to win the clients, freelancers tend to over-commit than our actual capacity to deliver.
There’s a joyous feeling when you close a customer but what feels more joyful is when your customer feels content with your delivery. So when you’re taking a new project, ask what are the exact needs and commit only to the things you can finish.
For example, you are a content writer and your limit is to write 1000 words in a day. Do not commit to finishing 3 articles of 1000 words in two days.
You know your limits and going far beyond that can damage your work quality. You can simply convey this message to your client. No client would want to compromise in quality.
2. Present Yourself Truthfully
When you can not meet certain deadlines, be honest and convey it clearly with a proper explanation. Lying to customers about tasks will hurt the trust and you might end up losing the project.
No one is perfect and you should not be a robot to make your client happy. But giving a clear picture of what you can do about the delay can build trust in your service.
If you can’t finish the project within the deadline, explain your troubles honestly. So you and your client can work out a better solution.
3. Share Your Work Plan
Before starting a new project, share your work plan with your client. Explain in detail, how you are going to manage the project and when they can expect results.
This will be helpful to you if you’re handling more than one project or customer at the same time. I would seriously recommend opting for a project management tool for yourself. There are so many excellent options available for freelancers and solopreneurs.
Sharing your work plan prior to working on your project can give your customer a trustworthy feeling that you’re aware of the process and also they will follow up as per your given timeline.
4. Be Clear About Quality And Quantity
An open discussion about customer’s exact needs can be really helpful. Take notes of every small detail. That can help you decide the exact quantity for the project.
For example, an e-commerce brand slowly wants to grow on Instagram and sell on the platform. You can suggest 20+ Instagram posts per week. In this process, you need to talk about their most valuable products, and how you’ll represent them on Instagram.
Once you land on these important parameters, you must be clear with your pricing. Make sure to discuss your charges for each task very clearly. I would suggest you go for accounting software for freelancers. That will help you manage all your expenses and invoices under one roof.
5. Give Regular Updates
Give daily updates about the progress of projects. This will give your customers a satisfactory feeling about your developments and you can keep them well informed in an organized way.
Let’s say, you are a freelancer digital marketer. There are countless activities you can perform every single day. But, at the end of every week you can update your client on the following metrics:
- Percentage of traffic gain to website
- No. of articles created
- No. backlinks generated
- No. of conversions
- Percentage drop in bounce rate
6. Set Up A Common Communication Time
You need to set up a particular communication time for your customers in such a way that is suitable to you as well as your customers.
Setting up a common time for communication can convert your impression from ‘“anytime available” to “Organized and punctual”.
Also, try to use a single communication channel. That’ll save some pain and frustration for your clients.
7. Educate Your Customers About Your Workstyle & Industry Standards
It is not necessary that customers know everything about every industry.
In order to avoid over expectations, you need to educate your customers about the services and your work style in a client onboarding session.
For example, if your customer is asking an unrealistic number of website visitors in the first month. As a marketer, you should explain about industry standards that SEO does not work like that.
This way, clients would know how to manage their expectations.
8. Monitor Right Metrics
Before starting your project on full-scale, discuss what metrics you’ll track.
You need to track a bunch of metrics so you and your client can identify the progress. Simply ask your clients where their interests lie. You can create a list of metrics and regularly discuss them in weekly meetings.
This is a very crucial point in customer expectation management because you both agreed on a specific set of metrics. So, there can not be any deviation in expectations.
7 Tips To Exceed Customer Expectations
We carefully understood how customer expectations can affect and how you can manage them mindfully.
But, we all know as a freelancer, making our customers happy is our responsibility. You can still exceed customer expectations with a series of careful actions. Here are some tips:
1. Be a Good Listener
Listen to every tiny detail – that will help you to serve them with extraordinary personalization.
Listen to what they tell you about their vision, mission, and goals for the project. If you understand their psyche, you can deliver what the client is looking for. And you can only achieve that with good listening skills.
Remember, the project is not about you. You’re just helping!
2. Deliver Before Time
Try to finish the project before the given deadlines. I know it is not possible every time.
You create a delightful experience when you give something unexpected. That’s the same feeling when you order pizza online and it shows half an hour, but you get in 15 mins. That feeling is amazing and it’ll create a memorable moment.
3. Try To Deliver Extra/Surprise Them
Who doesn’t love surprises?
When customers expected something from you and you deliver a little extra, that can be an amazing feeling. Of course, an excellent way to create an everlasting impression.
Let me give you an example. If you’re a content creator and your job is to create social media descriptions for your client. Next time, come up with two options (one, a little bit different and creative from the usual).
Notice how your client reacts. I’m sure you’ll get positive feedback for the extra efforts.
4. Follow Up With Your Customers
As a business owner customers are always going to be involved in many things at a time. In the mayhem, if your client misses out on a few things, take the necessary follow-up.
It shows that you are following your timeline and dedicated to it.
5. Help Them Selflessly
Everything does not come with a price tag. Sometimes you should help your customers selflessly. When in need you should advise them about their projects or give them suggestions on future endeavors.
I’m definitely not saying you should do things for free, but there are times when you should work beyond hourly wages – that’s customer relationships. If you build them from the roots, they will be resourceful to you in the future.
6. Maintain Consistency
Consistency is the key to achieve a target, the same way it is the key to keep your clients happy.
When you regularly show up, take feedback, ask questions, and complete your assigned task, you do not need to worry about fulfilling customer’s expectations.
I hate to admit it, not maintaining consistency and delivering results are the top reasons freelancers lose their clients. If you are consistent and delivering what is expected, you are already winning.
7. Appreciate Them Publicly
If you like someone, you let them know, right?
The same goes for your clients.
Tell people on LinkedIn and Facebook why you enjoy working with your client, how they support you, and how the relationship has grown over the years. If you periodically do this for your regular customers, they’ll never think about going to another place for their needs.
Freelancers are a one-human army. You know your customers from all angles. You know every expectation. So, it is crucial for you to manage these expectations and exceed them also.
I sincerely hope these tips and strategies would be useful in your career. Cheers!
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