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Set and Manage Your Clients' Expectations with Workflows and Checklists

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One often overlooked aspect of managing client relationships is setting client expectations. It shouldn't be. If you don't set expectations, or you over-promise, you may be setting yourself up for both lower client retention rates and fewer prospect referrals. It is therefore imperative that you establish setting of client expectations as a systematized component of your on-boarding process as well as as your ongoing client processes. 

What expectations you may need to set will vary based upon the services you provide, but at a minimum you should indicate how and how often you plan to communicate with clients, when you are typically available for their inquiries, who they can contact when you're unavailable, what paperwork they should expect from you, and time frames for your deliverables. Throughout the rest of this piece, we'll use the shorthand "client expectation details" to refer to all of these items.

Managing your client and prospect relationships requires that you achieve an optimum balance between staying in touch and on top of things on one hand and not being perceived as intrusive on the other. While you may already have a good feel for the proper balance, systematizing your efforts in regards to achieving that balance is essential, particularly as your business grows. Additionally, having these processes nailed down allows you to differentiate yourself as a firm, making the on-boarding process a consistent one for your office and a smooth one for your prospects who, while not seeing all the moving parts that make the process smooth will nonetheless come away from their interactions with you feeling like you have a handle on things.

There is a lot that goes into onboarding clients! How, using Redtail, can you ensure that you systematize the setting of client expectations? Redtail is well-suited to help you both set and manage a client communication schedule, tailored to the particular needs of your individual clients. As but one example of how this might work, we'll take a look at some elements of a sample Workflow (and a Checklist) you might create for on-boarding your prospects. We won't cover here how to create Workflows within Redtail, but you can learn about that process here. Just bear in mind that you may need to create multiple checklists / workflows surrounding the new client / onboarding process. While this may seem tedious at first, once you've built them it's merely a matter of attaching them to prospects or clients as appropriate, which is easy, and doing the things you know you need to do anyway. Systematizing them just ensures that you don't let anything slip.

We always recommend that you diagram your Workflows on paper prior to building them within Redtail, but doing so is not strictly necessary. It just allows you to visualize all of the Steps involved, all of the possible Step Results for each Step and the Next Step for each possible Step Result.

Once you've added your Workflow Process to Redtail, it might look something like the below (Note: this is for demonstration purposes only, and your actual process might look very different):

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As mentioned above, we won't cover the details on how to create Workflows in Redtail here as you can find those instructions here. Nor will we cover everything you see in the sample Workflow above. What we want to do here is to point out how you can incorporate the setting of client expectations into your systematized processes so that you don't neglect to set them appropriately.

To orient you as to what you are seeing above, Workflow Processes are comprised of three general components (each pointed to in the screenshot above):

  1. The Workflow Process itself, which is essentially the Name of the Workflow and its Description (or what it is to be used for).
  2. The Workflow Steps, which are all the possible steps that may be involved in a Workflow Process.
  3. The Workflow Results, which are all the possible results for each Workflow Step within your Workflow Process. (Note, in the example above, the Workflow Results displayed are those for the Workflow Step "Prospect Meeting," because that is the Workflow Step we currently have selected.

Now, let's consider how we've incorporated "client expectation details" into the above.

First and foremost, we've created two Checklists (not yet discussed) and a Workflow for handling the Onboarding process. The first Checklist is referenced in the Description of the actual Workflow:

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While we're not covering that Checklist (Referral Follow-Up Checklist) here, just recognize that both it and the Workflow work together when on-boarding referrals to ensure no steps (including setting client expectations) are missed.

Our second Checklist is referenced in the Description of the third Step in our Workflow:

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What we're seeing here is that our Workflow instructs our staff member who handles setting up our Prospect Meeting and adding it to the Calendar to then attach our "Setting Client Expectations" Checklist to the prospect's record within the CRM. The individual to whom the actual Prospect Meeting Step is attached can then print out that Checklist or refer to it during the meeting to make sure they cover all of the details of setting client expectations. We'll take a look at this Checklist a little later in the post, after we finish looking at the Workflow.

The next area that deals with setting client expectations is in the Description of the Prospect Meeting step itself:

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This is just another reminder to the individual handling the meeting to remember to provide the client expectation details.

We next see mention of these details in the Description of the next Step, which is where we add our meeting notes to Redtail for a Prospect we've converted to a Client:

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This Step provides us with an opportunity to note what expectation details we may have neglected to provide during the meeting, an issue we can correct with our follow-up email thanking the new Client for the meeting, as seen in the Description of the Follow-up Email Step:

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So, to review all of the safeguards we've built into our Workflow to ensure we provide client expectation details, let's quickly recap below:

  1. We have a Referral Follow-Up Checklist that includes a Task to attach this Workflow to the prospect's record within Redtail.
  2. After setting up a Prospect Meeting and adding it to the Calendar, we have a Workflow Step to attach the "Setting Client Expectations" Checklist to the prospect's record.
  3. We have a reminder on the Prospect Meeting step to provide all relevant client expectation details.
  4. We have a reminder on the Step to add meeting notes to Redtail to verify that we covered all of these details and include any neglected in our Follow-Up Email.
  5. We have a reminder on the Follow-Up Email Step to include any of those neglected details.

Now, let's take a quick look at our Setting Client Expectations Checklist, referenced above as the third Step in our Workflow. If we had attached this Checklist to a new Prospect record for Albert Einstein, and we printed that Checklist out, it might appear as the below:

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Note that this is just an example, but you can include as many Actions as you need that you feel are the expectations you should outline for new clients. Note as well that each of these Checklist Tasks is currently at a Status of "Not Started."

Unlike Workflow Steps (which are linear and must be worked in order), Checklist Tasks can be completed in any order. This allows the database user responsible for completing them to mark as complete only those which have been handled at any point during the process, either from the Prospect's Checklists page, from the Reminders section of their Redtail Dashboard or from their Redtail CRM Calendar. Note: Reminders for each of these Checklist Tasks will remain on the user's Dashboard until they have been completed, which, again, is a safeguard measure to ensure these details are handled.

What you should find over time is that all of these actions will become habit. You can rely on the CRM for reminders, but as you get in the habit of completing the tasks, you'll find yourself marking them complete because you've already done them.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas to incorporate into your practice that will allow you to standardize the setting of client expectations. While there is some work on the front end, building such Checklists and Workflows should help you to set your office apart as one that not only explains to clients what they should expect but also delivers on those expectations.

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