Friday, July 09, 2010

How to Look Like a Hero

by Miles Burke

We've all heard that old adage, 'Under-promise and over-deliver', but how often do you make promises that you end up not sticking to, or -- worse -- end up spending more time or money on the project than the client expects?

There's nothing worse than being told you'll get that report by Friday, to then have to chase it up the following week. It leaves you disgruntled and annoyed. The reason for that is simple: your expectations weren't well managed.

Managing expectations is a large part of what we should all be doing, yet that often seems to be ignored. There's a very good chance that your clients don't know how busy you are, don't know how long a task should actually take, and aren't sure when they should expect a deliverable.

It's up to you, then, to embrace the idea of under-promising.

Say a client asks you to provide some new design concepts. Let them know you'll do some initial rough sketches and that you'll provide two alternatives. Then, you spend that time crafting more polished concepts than they were expecting, and three alternatives in the same time that you've quoted.

You can imagine how the client will feel; you've gone beyond the call of duty here, and provided better quality deliverables than what they were expecting.

The key here is to set the right expectation. Perhaps you always provide three concepts, for all of your projects. This new client doesn't know this -- they expected less from you. But you've given them more, and now they're excited, not just satisfied.

The same advice applies to budgets and timelines. If you believe a job will take 25 hours, suggest it will take 30. You've been smart in adding some buffer time, since you may actually require it, but if you do manage to do the work in just 25 hours, the client will be very happy.

Take our printers, for example. Recently, we sent them a printing job that they said should take only five to six business days to complete. We expected to hear from them in a week or so, but you can imagine our delight when they called three days later to say the job was ready to be picked up!

The printers likely knew, based on their schedules, that they could get the job to us in four or five days. However, urgent jobs come in, and unexpected events happen, so they erred on the side of caution with their five-to-six day estimate.

They likely didn't work any harder to turn the job around faster; all they did was manage our expectations well. I literally told our contact at the printers he was our hero when we picked up the job.

How easy is it for you to be the hero in your clients' eyes, just by managing expectations better?

No comments: