Because unmet Client expectations frequently result in professional liability claims, client expectations must be managed.
From the Consultant’s first contact with the Client, expectations on the part of both parties are being created. The Client is forming an expectation of what can be expected from the Consultant and vice versa. For the Consultant, it is important that, while presenting its qualifications and potential benefits to the Client in the most favorable light, this information should be realistic and not overstated. Frequently, Clients are persuaded by the marketing information to expect a higher level of performance than they should. When this situation has resulted in unmet expectations in the past, some Clients protect themselves by requiring on future contracts that the Consultant’s Statement of Qualifications be an attachment to the contract for professional services. Statements such as the following should be avoided:
“We assure you that our skill as design professionals will result in contract documents of the highest possible quality. Further, change orders during construction will be the lowest in the industry.”
When included in a contract, this statement offers a level of service far in excess of that required and may even void professional liability insurance coverage. Likewise, an aspirational goal that addresses employee performance in a corporate Code of Ethics can be problematic if it describes performance greater than that required in the Standard of Care.
The potential for unmet Client expectations during the project can be further minimized by timely communication with the Client whenever the contract scope of services may need to be changed.