Managing client expectations with checklists

Not managing client expectations is a common complaint of unhappy clients and the problem often stems from the very first meeting. In Client Culture's experience, it is critical to set out a clear roadmap from day one.

July 23, 2023

Many professions have successfully improved consistency by introducing checklists into daily practice – surgeons and airline pilots are just two examples. So why not service professionals? Many professionals assume they know intuitively what to say. But, if you want to deliver a consistent experience (not just for yourself but for your whole team) checklists can be a great tool.

Goals and objectives

If you want the service to be valuable to your client you better make sure you know what it is that they value. Don't make assumptions. Talk about it.

Clarify the scope

Unless you are clear about exactly what you will do and importantly, what you won't do, misunderstandings can arise. Be crystal clear about what you and your team will and won't do and also, what is expected of the client.

Meet the team

Introduce the entire team. Clarify what each team members roles are and who the client is to contact for what. Empower the credibility of the team members. Demonstrate that you have faith and confidence their expertise.


Perhaps nowhere is as likely to cause misunderstanding that in the area of fees. Don't gloss over this. Have a deep and detailed conversation about fees. Don't rely on any pro-forma documents that get routinely provided to the client as part of your explanation of the fees. Make sure the client understands this area of the client engagement completely.


A lack of communication, a feeling that you are not being kept up to date with progress in particular, is a key source of complaint by clients. How much communication is enough? Well it depends on the client's expectation. Now is the time to manage that expectation, not later. Be super clear about frequency of communication and how the information will be communicated. Will it be an email? A briefing over the phone? Who will provide it? There is no more important issue to get right at the beginning of an engagement.


Explain clearly the milestones along the way. How do you expect the matter to progress. What are the points where you will stop and check-in with the client and explain progress.

Success measurement

What will success look like? This is not always easy to define but it must connect to the client's goals and objectives. If you can't define it at the beginning of the engagement you will have no chance of defining it later.

Put it in writing

Give the client a written summary of the discussion. This can be a document that the client can go back to to remind themselves of the process and what to expect. It is also a good way to make sure that your onboarding processes have been followed.

Client expectations and service quality

Client expectations are crucial in determining what the client ultimately thinks and feels about the service they receive. Although the quality of the work done for the client could be objectively measured, at the end of the day, the service can't be. Service is judged by the client and this is a combination of their expectations and perceptions about the work quality.

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