Contracting for professional services is a formalized and documented process of expectation management.
The ultimate goal of contracting for professional services should be that when the project is completed, the client and consultant look at each other and say, “Yes, that is exactly what I expected”. Here are some suggestions that can help achieve that goal:
- Be as thorough as you can in preparation of the Scope of Services. Carefully identify what the deliverables will be.
- Document those potential scope items that are not included, especially those items that are discussed during scope negotiations and which the client has specifically directed not be included.
- Be sure that your staff understands what is and what is not included in the Scope of Services.
- Develop a close professional and personal relationship with your client. Aim for a relationship in which the client thinks of you and your staff as an extension of its staff.
- Communicate often and well with your client.
- Document all communication with your client. Send the documentation of what you understand to be your client’s direction back to the client. That way, they can see in writing what you understand that they communicated to you. That may or may not be what they intended but until they see it in writing, they only know what they intended to communicate to you. If your understanding is incorrect, the client’s expectations will not be met. The client will appreciate the opportunity to clarify the direction.
- Address problems quickly. Unlike wine, problems do not improve with age, they only become worse. But, whenever possible attempt to have a recommendation for how to solve the problem before you share the problem with your client.
Expectation management is clearly the responsibility of the consultant. Accept the responsibility cheerfully and enjoy the benefits.