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February 19, 2011

Cindy Penchina, President

meal 245x198I just assumed that the luncheon special included the diet soda!  You mean I have to pay extra for it?

We all want happy customers. It’s the key to repeat business, getting referrals, and to developing a good reputation. If you own a service based business, and find that your customers often expect more than you planned on providing, you may have found yourself “throwing in” services just to keep them happy.  But, how many restaurants would give you a free soda just because you thought you were getting one?  Setting customer expectations at the beginning of a relationship helps to keep everyone on the same page and happy.

Selling a service has its unique challenges and one of them is that you often can’t see or touch the product you’re selling. This is especially true if you sell custom developed solutions. Customers might come to the relationship with a different understanding of what your offer includes than you do.

So, how do you manage customer expectations? A detailed work order or agreement with specific deliverables is one key to the puzzle. Be clear as to what you are going to provide for the price you are quoting even if it seems obvious to you. This includes consultation time, support, meetings and any other activities in addition to the actual product you’re selling.  

Hudson Fusion sells web sites. Here’s an example of what deliverables might be included in our work orders.

    • Number of pages in the site

    • Number of design concepts

    • Number of rounds of revisions to a design concept

    • Detailed functionality the site will provide

    • Number of hours for meetings

    • Number of hours for strategy consultation

It can also be helpful to have a conversation that includes an explanation of what is NOT included within a particular work order. While we offer the following services, not all clients contract with us for them.  For us, it can be things like:

    • Social network page set up

    • Search engine optimization

    • Sign up forms for newsletters

 The bottom line is that you can’t assume that your clients understand your business at the same level that you do. Their expectations may not be in line with yours. Having a clear understanding at the outset will help you to avoid damaging a relationship because your customer feels short changed, and you feel like you’re passing out free drinks.