28 May Understanding Expectations is NOT Enough
Understanding Expectations Is NOT Enough!
If you’ve been reading along with this Blog, you know how passionately we feel about the importance of understanding the client’s expectations, making them corporate, prioritizing them and creating a work plan to exceed them. Before we go to work, however, it’s important to emphasize a missing step.
Taking the time to proactively manage the client’s expectations is the missing step that is often overlooked. It’s easy to overlook because we want to follow the path of least resistance to getting agreement, particularly in a new business opportunity. We’ll bet you’ve been there – “If we just say yes, we can close this deal right now!” The problem with this expedient way of thinking is that it jeopardizes the ability to retain the client down the road, puts trust at risk and sets up operating people for failure. Of course, none of these are a good idea.
Once the client’s expectations are on the table, the service provider needs some time apart – a sidebar – to consider one by one the achievability of each expectation given the resources available in the company and built in to the operating agreement. Each must be candidly subjected to a three part analysis: 1) “Can we meet this expectation?” 2) “Could we meet it if it were modified in some way?” and 3)” Is it not achievable (given existing resources)?”
Once these questions have been asked and answered (with the full concurrence of the operators who will be charged with delivering the results) the meeting should reconvene. Now the real negotiation must begin. Each of the high priority expectations is put on the table and accepted, modified, or rejected. In the event of modification or rejection, it is vital that the provider give clear and compelling education to the client on why the expectation can not be accepted in it’s original form. It is critical that this education be delivered in a fact-based and collaborative form. (Often it’s not that the expectation was unrealistic, but that the resources to achieve it, under the contract, were inadequate.)
Managing expectations requires a big dose of “corporate courage” and a willingness to think in the long term. It’s always the right thing to do though. Take comfort in knowing that at this exact point in the process, you enjoy the highest level of “Relative Power” that you will ever have. Don’t rush now. Make it right.
Remember Tenacity Client Retention Commandment #2: “Start The Contract According To The Client’s Expectations.” If you can’t do that – for Goodness sake, don’t start!
John & Steve