working towards great client service

Managing Client expectations – an art of communication

‘Managing client expectation is not only a work, but also a kind of  ‘art’ for people in communication industry to perform their skills’

Nguyen Tien Anh is a 24-year-old man who is working as an account executive for Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam – one of the global leading advertising agency networks. The meeting with him provides me some interesting tips in managing client expectation that I haven’t learn before.

Nguyen Tien Anh – Account Executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam

University teaches you that there is a need to manage the clients’ expectations from the outset; however, what does it exactly work and what are some of the actual ways that the account executive should know to apply for managing their clients’ expectation? This is clearly to understand that in all industry, the client always want to have the BEST products and of course, they do not want to be disappointed in the final products that the agencies give them.

Once you present to them a wonderful ideas and then your final products make them disappointed, you fail to keep the relationship with that client. Nobody wants to pay for what doesn’t make them satisfied at all’, Nguyen Tien Anh said in the intervie

Horowitz (2012) also states the same point: ‘If we don’t do an adequate job of managing expectations, we set ourselves up for a failed relationship. We fail to build trust’. Moreover, in some situations, the clients might claims seriously at the agency and the agency would have negative impact on its reputation.


 Figure 1. Reproduced from Project Management Tips

           In the interview with Nguyen Tien Anh, he states that the account team plays a key role in managing clients expectation and the more the account team plans carefully to do that, the better the relationship with clients is. The job of an agency is to always bring the BEST ideas for their clients and wants the client to expect on their quality of work. The first expectations are the one that a potential client first brings to you when they are considering hiring your firm to take on the project (Kelleron 2012; Horowitz 2012). However, there are thousands of reasons affect the process when ideas turning to the final products, and as a results, the final ones are usually not like the same with the client’s expectation at the beginning. If we are not carefully in communicating with the clients, the end goals might not correct and attainable. Mr Nguyen Tien Anh suggested some ways to limit disappointment of the clients for something that has to be happened in reality

          Firstly, building a good relationship with your clients

          There is nothing better than you understand clearly what your clients WANT and NEED. Actually what clients need are different from what they want, and your job is to give them something that fits their actual need. It’s a way to reduce the high expectation of what they want and brings them realistic ideas. Therefore, face to face meeting is necessary to build up a closer relationship with your clients. The more you keep contact with them, the easier you are when helping them engage in the process of the campaign. Many clients are not sure about what they want to accomplish or not good at delivering the ideas. Therefore, that’s the time for you to be a good listener and catch exactly the key message. Olguin (2012) also suggest the similar idea of being a good listener to manage client expectation

Figure 2 – Reproduced from American Financial Partners

         Make the clients directly participate in every step of the process

          The disappointment of clients will be extremely high if they do not engage in the process. Nguyen Tien Anh states that making the clients to actually participate in the process would make them understand more about the difficulties of doing the process and it can make the clients feel that the agency works with transparency. By showing them clearly how each step goes, the clients can give us feedback and what they want to change to make things more appropriately and practically so we can improve it. This suggestion of Tien Anh is quite similar to the suggestion of Solomon (2008): ‘make your clients understand how you approach a given assignment; what the steps are and what the agency will deliver at each step’. However, Tien Anh provides me deeper explanation of what we should do to help the clients know clearly what is going on. Whenever every step of the process is done, contact the clients immediately and show his/her what this step looks like. Then, ask his/her for a signature to approve for this step. The clients are the people who give out decision for every part of conducting the campaigns/products. Moreover, we have to contact the clients when any problem happens, say sorry first, and then give them advice/solution for that problem.

 “Everything needs approvals of the clients, even from the color to the material of the costume. Everything!”

 Olguin (2012) also suggest a similar tip for managing client expectation: regularly communicate and address problems directly:When communication is direct and transparent, trust forms and helps to create a foundation for long-lasting relationships’

          Lastly, turning everything into contract

Figure 3 – Reproduced from Carib Flyer

         This is one of the most important steps to prevent the agency from clamming and unexpected situation. For every product/campaign, there are lots of times the clients want to add/delete some parts. They might want something yesterday, but they want something else today and then they ask us to change into another thing tomorrow. This is a very normal ‘need’ of the clients; however, there are also some situations that the clients do not remember what they told the agency. After that, they claim the agency for doing what they do not say and this might lead to an increase in disappointment with the final products. Including everything in the contract is a solution and a safe way for the agency to ‘protects’ themselves and makes everything more clearly for the clients to remember.

There are still many other tips to help manage client expectation and that depends on each situation. The three tips Nguyen Tien Anh gave me is the common ones that are very effective for big agencies, especially when working on big projects. An account executive is not only a person that clients hire, but also a friend who can understand the clients’ need and always be beside to help them solve the problem.

Word Count: 1085


ABOUT: Nguyen Tien Anh has worked as an Account Executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam for nearly one year. He used to study Bachelor of Commerce and MBA in RMIT Vietnam Saigon South Campus and has just graduated at the beginning of 2011. As a very active and creative person, he used to work for VAA Production – a company of the famous Vietnamese actress Ngo Thanh Van, which trains talented people and helps them to ‘bright’. At that time, he nearly finished his bachelor of commerce and he planned to study more to upgrade his knowledge. Therefore, he stopped working in VAA and started his master of business administration program. After graduating, he worked for Ogilvy – a very famous advertising agency for half year and then moved to Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam. Saatchi & Saatchi is a global advertising agency network with 140 offices in 80 countries and over 6,500 staff. It was founded in London in 1970 but now headquartered in New York City.


Horowitz, A 2012, ‘Managing clients expectations’, Journal of Financial Planning, January-February, pp .6-7

Kelleron, B 2012, ‘Tips for managing your client’s expectations, Kitchen & Bath Design News, March, Vol.30, Issue 3, p.30

Olguin, M 2012, ‘6 Tips to managing client expectations’, Small business ideas and resources for Entrepreneurs, 7 May, viewed 9 May 2012, <;

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan, Newyork


Name: Dang Thanh Thao

Student’s ID: S3298804


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2 thoughts on “Managing Client expectations – an art of communication

  1. Good book ends for your tips: start with face to face then move on to paper (contract) communication of expectations. ~Mel C

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