Why Prioritize Expectations
We know that clients judge us not on what we do, but on what we do relative to what they expect us to do. Understanding client expectations is really important. Yet, once we know what their expectations are, we still haven’t obtained all the information we need to succeed…unless we insist that the clients prioritize them.
Here are some account management realities that drive this imperative:
• When the various, key client decision makers are brought together for the Transition Meeting, it is likely that they are hearing each other’s expectations of the service provider for the very first time. New information from their colleagues may well influence their own priorities.
• It is equally likely that the priority they would assign to the expectations will be parochial in nature (i.e. they will rank those that have the greatest impact on their own area of responsibility the highest). They need to be guided in donning their ‘corporate hats’ as they assign priorities. (We have one contract – our client owes us one set of prioritized corporate expectations against which they will judge our performance and assess the value they are receiving). Attempting to manage to multiple sets of expectations under one contract is a recipe for frustration and failure.
• The harsh reality is that we don’t get fired for failing to achieve expectations ranked fifth and sixth. We will probably find ourselves in some jeopardy for not fulfilling numbers three and four, but the chances are we’re going to be “history” for not nailing those expectations they have ranked one and two. Of course we should never commit to satisfying expectations we don’t think we can meet, but it is critical that we know precisely how the client team ranks them. Specifically, which are first and second? (Think of this like a marriage. If your spouse’s first priority expectation is not being met – how’s that likely to turn out for you?)
• Because we are the experts in the service we provide, we already know what the priorities should be. It is important – and perfectly acceptable – to educate the client on them. Still, our scope of work must be client driven and not expertise driven. Remember – it’s not what we do for our clients – it’s what we do relative to what they expect us to do that counts.
Tenacity’s process of facilitating the prioritization of expectations is detailed – some might say tedious. Often when we are training on it, attendees will say, “Our clients will never let us do that! They’ll never sit still for a process that takes this long, gets them out of their seats and forces them to vote on flip charts scattered around the conference room.” Our answer is simple; “We wouldn’t be here today training you to do this if your senior management hadn’t done the exact same thing when Tenacity started this contract. You see, we practice what we preach – we would never ask you to do something we hadn’t already done ourselves. By the way, your executives understood, liked and appreciated the clarity the process brought to Tenacity’s service model. Your client will too. Besides, if you fail to do it, your chances of failure double.”
It’s important to understand your client’s specific expectations, but equally important to understand how they, as a management team, prioritize them.
John & Steve