Exceeding Client Expectations. Where is the Praise?

You’re about to embark on a new project where you and your client equally share in the excitement of what this shiny new use of technology can mean to their business.  You have clearly articulated the scope of work and everyone is looking forward to the kick-off with great anticipation.

The day of the project kick-off finally arrives.  It is a day full of ideas, clarity and collaboration.  Together, you paint a picture that includes all the functional strokes of genius that has everyone in the room completely engaged with every minute that passes.  As an agency driven by a passion to deliver amazing work, and with a client who has all the confidence in you to make it happen, everyone leaves the room ready to see how all these great ideas will soon be a reality.  As coffee cups and snacks from the day are being cleared, internal discussion begins around how there is a lot more to the project than what was anticipated in the proposal.  So, what do you do? You do what any self-respecting marketing technology agency would do; design an application that answers every need identified in the kick-off meeting.  You then blow the clients’ minds with a presentation and approach that showcases how much easier life can be when this application gets built with this newfound vision. That’s the good news!

But wait, here comes the bad news.  Building this amazing new application that encompasses everything your client’s heart desires, requires much more effort compared to the original scope.  While you want so badly to exceed your client’s expectations, the new expectations impact both budget and timing.

 

Now Everyone’s Really Excited!

Your client is extremely pleased with the work at this point.  You have uncovered an approach no one could have imagined.  The client is singing your praises, that is, until reality sets in.  You just presented this new application design with greatly expanded functionality, that also significantly increases the agreed upon budget for development.  Everyone involved knows that this newly envisioned project absolutely increases the value to the business, so what can possibly be wrong with this picture?  Your client suddenly realizes this may be more than what they bargained for.

 

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Caught in the Crosshairs Of The Project.

Bringing great ideas to the table is no doubt the right move for any great marketing technology agency, but when the gap between expectations and nirvana is too wide, things change quickly.  If only you had exceeded client expectations within the original parameters (or at least close) of the project.  While an approach that far exceeds scope may be what is ultimately best for the business, the budget may not, and that’s when it becomes a tough pill to swallow.  Everyone values time, but not at a price that can’t be valued by your client.  The situation turned from the client being excited by your work and exceeding expectations, to being bitter over the budget.  Where did all that praise go now?

 

You Live and Learn.

The key takeaway with any project, no matter the size, is to keep collective client and agency teams informed properly to avoid scope creep and surprises at all costs, especially when those costs mean losing positive momentum and trust. Below are a few points that should be checked to make sure everyone operates under the appropriate expectations:

 

  1. In early meetings, when non-scoped functionality is requested, make note of each item and point it out immediately with the appropriate client contact. This does not mean that you will not accommodate the request, but you do need to raise the concerns early so everyone is on the same page from the start. Remember: Not everyone who is making requests for expanded functionality is the decision maker.
  2. In the design process, make sure all teams are aware of the scope boundaries that exist for the project. Designing beyond the scope is always thrilling as it demonstrates exceptional thinking, but it can also lead to trouble if not kept in check.
  3. In early design reviews, compare what was designed against the requirements and what is set forth in your proposal or agreement. Before presenting to the client, make sure additional features are clearly identified and what they may mean to the budget and delivery schedule.
  4. Create an environment where informed decisions about additional cost can be made around new features without jeopardizing the integrity of original expectations. Agree on what additional items will be added to the scope with a separate budget to fulfill these requests.

 

There are no promises that following these points will always lead to client engagement free of five-alarm fires, but at least you’ll mitigate the risks associated with exceeding expectations.  Whether you’re the client or the marketing technology partner hired to deliver exceptional technology solutions, just remember expectations go both ways and you are better off managing them together, rather than waiting for the gavel to drop and the fingers to point.  That way, when it comes to exceeding client expectations, there is only praise that leads to more work and referrals.