A successful relationship between commercial agents and their landlords or tenants should not feel like a supplier and client dynamic. Instead, a mutually beneficial partnership is key. If all parties feel like they are on an even keel, the contract will likely last for a considerable period.
Managing client expectations is key to enhancing this professional bond. At Imperial Building Solutions, we work tirelessly to maintain good standing with our patrons. Here we share our insights, enabling you to enjoy the same positive interaction with your client base.
Why managing client expectations matters
Managing expectations is critical to a business and its clients alike. The reason for this is comparatively straightforward. Setting targets and goals as a commercial agent will keep your agency motivated and encourage personal and professional growth.
Of course, managing client expectations will also lead to a positive working relationship. Boundaries must be put in place, ensuring that all parties understand what will be offered as standard, what should be considered added value, and what would be considered an unreasonable expectation.
A big part of setting appropriate expectations with your client base is under promising and over delivering. The opposite approach – blindly making assurances and agreeing to cater to every request without due consideration – will almost certainly end with a negative outcome. Staffing teams will be exhausted and overworked, standards will slip, and clients will be dissatisfied in the longer term.
How to manage client expectations
Having discussed that managing client expectations is non-negotiable for any business, it’s important to understand how to achieve this aim. There are four steps to the process that will enable any commercial agent to enjoy a strong relationship with a client base.
Agree reasonable and realistic targets
If you’re going to manage expectations with a client, you’ll need to discuss and agree to them in advance. A commercial agent must meet clients’ needs, but this needs to be achieved in a realistic manner and time frame.
The best way to ensure that you keep these expectations on track is to adopt SMART goals. By keeping your aims Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, you’ll know if you risk promising more than you will realistically be able to deliver. Equally, it will help your clients to understand what is reasonable to expect from you.
Another tip here is to anticipate what your clients may need. If possible, do not wait to be asked. There is a fine line between anticipation and assumption, though. As a commercial agent, it’s your responsibility to stay on the right side of this division. Use your previous experience to tap into what may be needed, offering this in advance – without creating a rod for your own back.
Maintain constant contact
Communication is essential to maintaining a positive relationship with clients and managing their expectations. Remain vigilant about sharing information – good, bad or indifferent – with your client base. It’s arguably even more important to share bad news and potential delays to delivery as early as possible, whether the initial issue was within or beyond your control.
This dedication to communication applies internally as well as externally. If your entire team assumes that somebody else is taking care of client needs, critical tasks may fall through the cracks. Keep touching base with your employees and colleagues, as well as those that have enlisted your services. In the process, you can also ensure that your entire team understands the thought process behind business decisions.
Keep in mind that communication can also come in many forms. Agreeing to a shift in deadline over the phone or during a face-to-face meeting is noble, but it can end in confusion. Always follow up with your clients in writing when discussing needs and expectations. This protects your reputation and provides clients with a record of a new agreement to refer back to.
Set limits to added value
One of the best things a commercial agent can offer their clients is to make them feel valued. When a business or personal client takes on a commercial property agent, they agree to set deliveries for their financial outlay. We all enjoy the concept of something for nothing, though, and by offering more than has been promised, a client is sure to be thrilled.
Take care when providing added value though. Once additional services become expected, they are no longer added value. To continue impressing, you’ll need to push even harder to deliver more and more – without being financially compensated for your efforts.
This does not mean that a commercial agent should avoid providing added value to a client base. Just set limits and boundaries on what you are willing to offer, keeping it reasonable. If you step up and work a weekend as a favour to resolve an emergency, that’s great. Just ensure your clients understand this was a one-off based on extenuating circumstances, not a permanent adjustment to your working parameters.
Regularly review performance
Finally, arguably the best way to manage client expectations is to meet regularly and discuss performance. That means reviewing the dynamics of the relationship internally, as well as periodically discussing progress with your clients. If all parties are on the same page in terms of performance, disputes in expectations are less likely to arise.
This does not always need to take the form of lengthy, potentially awkward sit-down meetings. Consider requesting anonymous feedback periodically, using sites like Survey Monkey. Keep a list of all ongoing projects in a shared space, such as cloud software like Basecamp or Trello, so everybody can see that tasks are being completed.
Perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to ask questions. You can only know what you know – if a client is unhappy with a level of service, it’s better to learn this while you have time to rectify the discontent.
If you are comfortable with your performance as a commercial agent, compare notes with your clients. If you can feel with all sincerity that you are meeting reasonable expectations, and have communicated this accordingly, take solace from this. Not all client and agent relationships are destined to last forever. Take what you have learned and apply it elsewhere.