Managing Client Expectations

Managing Client Expectations

Improving The Consumer's Experience Online & Offline

Revised March 1, 2017
Originally Published October 8, 2008

A key component to success and happy customer relations in any business is the management of customer expectations.

Customers come to a company to conduct business, buy a product, or receive a service. While today's customers are often already educated to a point, these customers still view the employee as the expert, and therefore look to company personnel for guidance on what to expect and how to proceed.

These same customer expectations apply to doing business both online and offline. Just as companies must employ the "principles of expectation" to a store or office location, so a business website and online presence must provide customers with these same principles for a positive online experience with the company.

Prospects and customers are visiting a company's website or physical location, looking for specific information, and/or to purchase products or services from the business.

If the company wants the sale AND a happy customer, a website or physical storefront must give clear direction to:

  • what offers are available

  • how to obtain the desired offer

  • as well as what to expect once the customer confirms they would like to purchase or receive the available offer

If a business fails to address these principles, the company risks losing the sale to the competition.

Clear Navigation

A successful business will provide clear navigation and direction to all information and offers available within the storefront or online presence. Just like a physical store location must have clear signage directing customers around the store, it's just as imperative that a website is easy to navigate and find information quickly, or the customer and sale may be lost.

The following guidelines will help in providing clear navigation and direction throughout the website:

  • The navigation menu should be clearly visible and remain stationary. Visitors should not have to look for the navigation menu in a different place for every page or section. Keep the navigation stationary and obvious.

  • No part of the website navigation or links should require special technology plugins or downloads such as Flash to work. The navigation menu should work with any standard HTML browser.

  • Links should be clearly visible and stand out from regular text or hyperlinks. Links should be clearly visible so that visitors can easily find and click.

  • Link formats should not change from link to link, but instead follow a standard format. If a company's website uses one color for links, then all links should be that color. Don't make customers guess what's a link and what's just fancy aesthetics or text decoration.

  • Menu Titles and Link Titles should be clear and concise consisting of no more than 2-3 words. These titles should be meaningful and clearly state what the visitor can expect to find on the other end of the link.

  • Page titles and paragraph headings should be obvious, meaningful, and keep a consistent format from page to page.

  • The home page should give obvious clues as to where, and how to find any major section of the website; while remaining uncluttered, easy to read, and digest. Any special sales or promotions should be clearly defined on the home page.

  • The website search box should be prominently displayed and easy to find.

Overall, providing clear direction means having easy to use navigation to all information within the website.

Often too much information cluttered together creates confusion and frustration, possibly leading to a loss of sale. If it's too hard to find what someone wants, the potential customer may leave and go to a competitor's website.

How to Obtain the Offer

Once a customer has been directed to the information or offer of interest, the site or store location must easily lead the customer through the process of obtaining the desired offer. Whether in-store ads, posters, or other online ads, the marketing collateral must reveal, in plain language, how to proceed to secure the product or service offer.

Since some people still find the internet cumbersome and confusing, this is an important stage for businesses with an online presence, and often requires spelling out step-by-step what needs to be done to complete the offer.

  • In the example of obtaining information, if a company's information is in a downloadable PDF, audio, video, or other similar file, the site must clearly describe what must be done to initiate the download process.

    • It is imperative that a website give clear notes as to what additional software may be required to run/view the download file.

    • For example with PDF's, the visitor may need to download a PDF reader. For audio or video files, they may be required to use a special player to view/hear the files. Make it clear and obvious what is required to obtain the file and run it.

  • If a website is selling a product or service, there needs to be clear instructions on how to purchase the product or service, and how to proceed through the checkout submission process.

    • Every step of the checkout process should be clearly defined and easy to complete.

Each step necessary to obtain a website offer needs to be clearly identifiable so that even the least computer literate person can understand and complete the sale.

If there's any step which is at all confusing, the business risks loosing the sale.

What to Expect Next

Once the customer is committed to obtaining the offer, there is still direction needed.

If a business wants a customer to be happy with a company's service and become a repeat customer, the business or website must give clear instruction to let the customer know what to expect next.

  • In the example of obtaining information, there should be clear instruction on how the download will begin, or whether it will be emailed in a ZIP file, or mailed on CD or DVD.

    • If the customer requires support, there should be clear instruction what support is actually offered, and how and where to obtain the support.

  • In the example of selling a product or service, it must be clearly mapped out on how the product or service will be handled, and when the customer can expect to receive their new product or service (e.g. confirmation email with shipping date, receiving date, scheduled appointment date, etc.).

    • If there is the possibility of exceptions, be sure to outline how the customer should expect to handle such anomalies. For example, should a package get lost in shipment, what can the customer expect to be done to rectify the situation. Who should the customer contact for resolution?


By following the above guidelines, a company's online and offline presence can manage customer expectations, leaving no room for doubt on what to expect from doing business with the company.

Pending a company's personnel and employees conduct business according to the company-instituted guidelines for online and offline interaction, the customer and new client should be happy, and have a smooth experience conducting business with the company.

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