As anyone in the events industry will tell you, managing client expectations is key to your success in pretty much any aspect of this business. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done: today’s clients are more demanding than ever before, and they know they can get away with it, too. After all, this industry now offers plenty of choice for clients when it comes to selecting their providers, and if you baulk for even a second at one of their demands, they know they’ll be able to look elsewhere for services.
It’s probably fair to say that clients in our line of work have always been demanding. The difference nowadays is that events has become a far bigger industry than it was in the past, with many, more more people getting involved in either a casual and freelance basis, or through the ‘old fashioned’ way or setting up a company and working via a firm.
On the one hand, this explosion of events professionals has reinvigorated the events scene to exciting new levels. On the other, it means that each and every one of us has to be at the very top of their game, ahead on every trend, and clued up on a wide range of skills in order to compete on the market… and in order to meet those ever-heightening client demands.
Naturally, events professionals are perfectionists to the core. We see ourselves as genies-for-hire; capable of achieving the impossible, making wishes come true, and weaving magic when it comes to organising the most lavish and exciting happenings.
The problem is, plenty of clients out there know this to be true… and expect magic and perfection in every aspect of what we do (so long as it’s under budget and delivered well before the deadline).
At Ultimate Experience, we’ve had our fair share of challenging client experiences, and we’ve learned some top tips to help you manage such encounters. Check out our guide to managing impossible client expectations below!
Proper Goal Settings
The best way to deal with managing impossible client expectations is to avoid the situation arising in the first place. The most effective way of doing that? Quite simply, by setting out realistic, accurate, and correct goals before any work commences.
By establishing goals, milestones and KPIs in advance, your client will have a far clearer idea of what to actually expect from the work you’re offering, and you’ll be able to rely on this layout should any issues arise further down the line.
Make sure that you:
- Establish exactly what it is your client wants and expects from the very beginning
- A series of milestones which can be submitted one by one, to ensure satisfaction is achieved with each step of the process
- Work out the end of goal of the project, and any desired ‘extra’ features which may arise before the completion date.
This is especially important in the (increasingly common) occurrence that your client decides to request last minute changes to your project. Should this happen, you have a clear choice ahead of you: you can either choose to take on the extra work involved in implementing such changes, or you can refer back to the goals and KPIs you established at the very beginning, and make it clear to your client that the obligations discussed have been completed as requested.
Creating a Detailed Plan
As with any business endeavour or project, making detailed plans is key to ensuring everything goes smoothly. With events management and creation, planning is perhaps even more important - you really do need to know exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be finished, and how it is going to progress every single step of the way.
As well as general planning and establishing key stages of the project, there are two further factors which simply cannot be overstated in their importance. These are:
It’s almost impossible to complete a events management project without the use of timelines. By setting out what needs to be completed at which stage of the contract, and establishing when they need to be completed by, you’ll not only be able to manage your work more efficiently and effectively, but you’ll also be able to demonstrate to your client that you’re fulfilling their expectations as each milestone is reached.
This also helps in the event that your client expects extra work to be completed off the cuff; you’ll able to show them that you’re on schedule, how much you’ve already finished, and how much further you have to go… and let them know that by asking for extra work at any point, you’ll risk missing the deadlines you’ve established together. Timelines are easy to create… and can really make a dramatic difference.
It goes without saying that as much transparency as possible really makes a huge difference when managing client expectations - and that really does mean transparency on both sides. You’ll need to make crystal clear at every step of the way not only what your events team can do for the client (and how quickly, efficiently etc), but also your expectations from them as a client of your business. As with everything in life, communication really is key!
What Happens if the Plan Changes?
Let’s be realistic for a moment: plans do have a tendency to change, and this isn’t always a sign of a client being difficult. Things come up, situations that may not be in the clients control can arise, and the world of events has no shortage of unexpected twists and turns. However, being prepared for plans changing is all part of the job, and how well you handle this situation can really determine the success of the event.
The key here comes down in part to the transparency mentioned above, and also to generally being upfront about expectations, abilities, budgeting, and timescales.
By being completely upfront and honest, your client will clearly know their own limitations when it comes to changing plans, and will perhaps be more hesitant about asking the impossible.
It’s nothing more than a rookie mistake to nod along and agree to everything, or make promises you might not be able to keep… but if you make that mistake once, you’re unlikely to do it again in the future.
Despite all of this, there are times when your hands are tied and changing plans becomes unavoidable. Our advice to avoid disaster in this instance? Always, always, always have a plan B (or C, D, E, etc…) for those moments when it really looks like things aren’t going to go your way. Be honest, be open, and maintain the sense of trust and rapport you have with your client, and you’ll be able to weather almost any storm thrown at you.
Be Upfront About Your Methods
If there’s one key point to take away from this article, it’s that being upfront and honest about your capabilities and client expectations will really get you a long way in this business. You need to be able to explain:
How the team works
Do you run a large team with several departments, or a small group of creative individuals? How do you come to important decisions? What are your problem solving strategies? All of these and more besides are questions you’ll want to answer to a new client.
Who is responsible for what
Every great event is the result of effective delegation, and hopefully, each member of your team will know exactly what their job involves. Inform your client as to who does what, and make sure that any of their enquiries or requests are directed to the right professional.
Points of contact
If the client comes up with some new demands, has a handful of questions they need answering, or simply wants to check on progress, they need to know who to get hold of in order to gain the information they require.
Alongside these vital points, we’d also strongly advise you to come up with a list of rock-solid promises and company policies; points which you can always adhere to and refer back to should a client become doubtful, or should their demands go beyond what you should be expected to handle. These promises should be on the following subjects.
Your response time
Nothing agitates a client more than waiting around for responses to emails or questions. Establish a maximum time they can expect for a reply, and make sure you never exceed it.
Your billing structure needs to be as simply laid out as possible, and crystal clear from start to finish. Get everything on paper, and fail to do so at your peril!
Written approvals for aspects of your project
This goes without saying, really. Getting written approval for decisions regarding the project is an absolute must, and avoiding any risks in connection with this is crucial to handling client expectations.
Underpromise and Overdeliver
If you really want to impress your clients and ensure you’re handling their expectations in the most effective manner, then under-promising and over-delivering is going to become a strategy you’ll use time and time again.
By slightly lowering the client’s expectations, you’ll give yourself plenty of scope and room in which to absolutely blow their minds with the completed project, ensuring repeat contracts and a long client relationship.
You can achieve this by shrewdly calculating and predicting any unexpected issues, overestimating deadlines and budget requirements, and by generally keeping your cards close to your chest until the last moment.
On top of this, it’s a good idea to communicate ‘worst case scenarios’ to your client, and leaving them impressed with your problem solving skills and efficiency. Cheeky? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.
Communication is Essential
At the end of the day, event planning is often an unpredictable and turbulent industry - the fact that it constantly keeps us on our toes is a big reason why we love our jobs so very much. However, because of this unique nature of this industry, communication with clients is of the utmost importance.
Keep your clients updated...
If you want to effectively manage client expectations and ensure everything runs smoothly, you need to keep your client constantly in the loop. Regular updates, KPI reports, boxes ticked, papers signed… all of these things help keep the client on your side, and satisfied with how things are coming along.
...and keep your team updated, too.
This all works both ways, though. Because event management is a team effort, you need to make sure that the client has a clear channel of communication to the people in your team who are responsible for certain decisions. If that’s you, then great - you know you’re able to communicate effectively. However, if Steve in your creative team doesn’t get to hear about your clients demands, don’t be surprised when his work doesn’t tick the right boxes when it comes to the delivery date.
All in all, by maintaining clear communication, and by establishing the provision of concise, understandable, and actionable information to everyone involved, you should be able to handle even the greatest challenges, and make it look effortless in doing so.
That, in a nutshell, is what events management is all about… and even the most impossible client expectations can be managed and overcome. Trust us, we’ve been there!
Client Expectations: Get Them Right, and Find Success
As we’ve seen, effectively managing client expectations can be a real challenge. However, by managing and handling them effectively, you’ll not only be able to produce better outcomes for all involved, but you’ll also be able to establish lasting client relationships that can lead to lasting rewards. It’s not always easy, but nothing valuable in this life is.
Ultimate Experience are old hands and all of the issues raised in this article, and through our professionalism and dedication to excellence, we’ve risen to become one of the top-notch event services providers in the country. Get in touch today, and find out more!