In my most recent contribution to Edge International Communique (EIC), I argue that working to modify client expectations – rather than merely manage expectations – is a “license to print” client satisfaction.

I encourage you to check out the entire January issue of EIC; in the meantime, here is a summary of my article:

  • Conventional wisdom says that we should determine client expectations, and then surpass them. However, for a variety of reasons, the expectations of our clients are often flawed in the first place.
  • In the world of expectations, processes seem to occur almost instantaneously. Clients may think a particular process should take a week, when it might in fact take three weeks… or three months.
  • When clients think that a process should take only a few days, after a week or two they will think that we have dropped the ball. They may begin to resent us, and have a negative predisposition towards our fee even before the work is done.
  • A client’s unhappiness is often created by the dissonance between the artificial expectation and the reality, not by the actual reality. Professionals have the opportunity to shape and mold clients’ expectations, making them more realistic. 
  • Problems often begin with a basic, grave misconception: we assume that what we believe and know, others believe and know as well. We need to learn to take advantage of opportunities to modify expectations.

The next time you are in the role of serving someone else, whether a client outside your firm or one of the other professionals within it, take a few moments to explore their expectations, and then help them modify them to fit better with reality, so that the “ruler in their heads” will realistically measure your effort and anticipate the results that are possible to achieve.

If I’m allowed to shape the ruler, I can almost always meet or transcend the expectations of the person in whom that ruler resides. That way I can preclude the outcome of falling short on impossible expectations.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts on this or any other law-related subject, either through the comments below or directly via email.

Note: This article first appeared in a slightly different form on LinkedIn Pulse.