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#495: Set Expectations With Your Client, Not For Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 04, 2011
Updated: Friday, February 04, 2011
How do I deal with a client whose expectations for my recommendations are not realistic? Many times my client has far too high expectations for the results of a particular proposed action.

According to the IMC USA Code of Ethics, management consultants must mutually establish realistic expectations of the benefits and results of their services with their clients. One way to help ensure that realistic client expectations are set is to explicitly describe the anticipated impact of each your recommendations. In addition, there are a number of ways to augment these descriptions. Here are just a few:
  1. Label the area that will be positively impacted (e.g., "Increased Revenue", "Improved Market Penetration", "Improved Product Quality", etc.).
  2. Where possible, provide a realistic range of the expected impact this recommendation will have (e.g., Days in Inventory could potentially decrease from between 1-5 days).
  3. Rank your recommendations in order of significance or impact.
  4. Use a labeling system to indicate potential impact, risk, or effort required (e.g., "High/Medium/Low" etc.). Make sure to provide a clear key of what each value represents and explain how it was determined.
Tip: Recognize that when you submit a proposal, clients will jump to different conclusions about the likely impact unless they gain all required additional information, disclosure, and guidance. It is your job to ensure that your client possesses a realistic and complete understanding of the potential benefits and risks of your recommendations. Actively manage their expectations by developing those expectations jointly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  engagement management  recommendations  reputation 

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