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When You Can't Manage Expectations

The Savvy Advisor recently presented a Facebook Live with special guest Sean Mouttet about managing client expectations. You can check it out here to learn about the many tools and techniques to use, but the bottom line is you must be transparent, honest, and empathetic.


But sometimes, no matter what you do, your clients may become angry with you. You may lose them as clients, or you may have to fire them.


This is the case that recently happened with me. To summarize a very long situation, I had a nice, repeat client who did nothing but praise my commitment to her regarding a cruise cancellation. Unfortunately, her friendliness quickly turned sour when her refund didn't come fast enough. Despite working for hours on hold for refund requests and status updates, for providing as much information as I could with my client, for being there for my client throughout all hours of the day and night, she just didn't want to hear anything I had to say anymore. It wasn't my fault, but she blamed me. She wrote defamatory emails. She attacked my character and integrity.


I cried.


Yes, I admit it. I cried. Out of frustration with Covid, for the incredibly long refund delays, for the attack on my integrity, for her lack of understanding despite sharing every piece of evidence with her to back up everything I said, for the client I had to fire when this was all over... I was just done.


What did I do wrong? Why wasn't I able to manage her expectations at the end? Looking back at the situation I am content with how I tried to manage this client. How does one try to stay in control when everything seems like it's failing?

  1. Stick with the facts. I only shared factual information with my client and left my feelings out of it. There is no need to further ignite an unhealthy relationship by trying to get someone to believe they are wrong and you are right.

  2. Offer empathy. Let you clients know that you understand their feelings. Even though my client was wrong to blame me for a situation completely out of my control, I still felt terrible that she's waited so long for her refund.

  3. Be available, but don't be used. I made myself available throughout all hours of the day and night through texting, emails, and phone calls. This was a big mistake -- no one should be able to use your time in this way unless it is an urgent travel matter.

  4. Document everything. Keep copious notes of everything from emails to phone calls to texts -- everything! Have a system in place to store these notes (a great CRM is perfect for this; I also use Evernote to store all emails and texts.).

  5. Talk with a colleague. Discuss the situation with your colleagues and ask for their constructive feedback. I did, and felt so much better afterwards. My colleagues talked me out of "having the last word" (this is a, ahem, fault of mine) because it's not important to try to prove your point over and over again. Once is enough. Your colleagues are wonderful resources -- utilize them.


The bottom line is this: some people will never be happy in spite of every attempt at working on their behalf. And, you know what? That is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. You must move forward without letting these people suck the life out of you. Do your due diligence, then bless and release so you have closure. Don't be afraid to move forward without wasting another moment of your time and talent.

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