Setting Expectations: The Key to Prosperous Client Relationships

July 9, 2018 Victoria Hoffman

Setting Client Expectations

Client relationships are critical to your accounting or bookkeeping firm’s success. Strong, productive relationships with your clients will reduce churn, help your firm differentiate, and ultimately help you to increase profitability.

If your clients are able to understand exactly what to expect regarding your deliverables, as well as what’s required of them to help you deliver high-quality work, they’ll be more invested in your services, will better understand your value, and will look forward to the end product. As a result, they’ll be empowered to trust you, become a better business partner and, consequently, forge a stronger relationship with you.

In order to effectively set client expectations, it’s important to understand what’s potentially making your current expectation setting practices ineffective. There are two common misconceptions that can cause accounting and bookkeeping firms to struggle in this area – let’s explore each below!

Setting expectations proactively (vs. organically)

When it comes to setting expectations, often you don’t know what sort of expectations are required until they fail to be set. As a result, you experience the client’s confusion, disappointment, or lack of interest/participation.

Every client relationship is a learning experience; however, it’s also important to understand that many expectations regarding your working relationship are not simply established organically as you work with your clients.

It’s critical to take a proactive approach by documenting your workflows and properly onboarding your clients. If you’ve defined your ideal client, established a niche, determined your service offerings, and work with a standardized technology stack, very little will differ in the way you work from client to client.

However, it’s also important to avoid taking a “set it and forget it” approach to expectation setting. Which brings us to another common misconception...

Setting ongoing expectations (vs. “setting and forgetting”)

Another common misconception is that expectations are primarily set during the onboarding phase of the client’s journey. While onboarding is certainly one of the most important times to set expectations, the reality is that expectations start to be set long before a client signs on with your firm, and should continue to be set as you start to provide monthly services and manage change in your workflow.

Along with setting proactive expectations, it’s also important to focus on setting ongoing expectations. Understanding how your clients’ needs evolve as they make their way through the client journey (i.e., from acquisition, to onboarding, to retention) will further help you to set the right expectations at the right time.

This approach will also help you to better manage change. As a forward-thinking accounting or bookkeeping firm, your processes are bound to evolve as the accounting technology ecosystem evolves. Accounting for these types of changes when managing expectations will further help you to build prosperous client relationships.

How do I better manage expectations?

Understanding that you should focus on setting expectations proactively and on an ongoing basis is important – but how do you actually put this into action? What are some of the things you should consider in order to more effectively set expectations with your clients? How exactly do client needs differ at every stage of the client journey?

To better understand what to consider at each stage of the client journey, we partnered up with Aero Workflow and Practice Ignition to create a checklist that outlines how to set better expectations with your clients. 


Download our free checklist for setting client expectations at every stage of the client journey here!

About the Author

Victoria Hoffman

Victoria is the Content Marketing Manager at Hubdoc. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto's Semiotics and Communication Theory program and has 5+ years of experience in digital marketing. She appreciates a fun pun and is always looking for a good book to read.

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Learn how to effectively set client expectations in our free checklist!

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