Managing Client Expectations

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “Managing Client Expectations.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What is your philosophy regarding client communication? For example, do you respond to clients right away when they email/leave a message or do you wait a couple of hours to respond? Why?

  • I have never received a red exclamation point high priority email that was a true emergency. It is always someone crying wolf. However, I immediately respond to most emails acknowledging that I have received it even if I dont have the answer yet. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • Responses are often fairly quick, but we try to set expectations that they should hear back in under 24 hours. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • Usually respond right away to confirm, but let them know of time/workload expectations. – Gil Hong (@ghong_ssm)
  • I try to respond same day, at minimum to say “got your email and will look into it.” – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • I try to respond as quick as I can. Usually 30 mins to 2 hours. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on the day. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • I generally respond pretty quickly during the weekday…I do respond during the weekends if I decide to do some work. – Matt Umbro
  • Always respond ASAP. Even if it is just to acknowledge receipt of the request & let them know i will get to it later. – Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
  • I read emails/listen to messages right away. Then try to respond asap, even if only to say I’ll get that to you later. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Agree with most here, try to do initial “we got your message” response quickly with when to expect more detail. Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Client Performance Managers filter & respond to client communication so PPC analysts can focus on dirty work. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • We focus on an immediate response; at least to acknowledge our attention to the situation. – Onward Chicago (@OnwardChicago)
  • Just letting clients know you’ve gotten their message can put them at ease. And it’s a really quick, easy thing to do. – Michelle Morgan
  • Depends on the level of the ? Both cases I answer back quickly with either the answer or a timetable of when I’ll have a resp. – Brian Gaspar (@BGaspar)
  • Generally, I abide by the sundown rule. If client emails you before 5 PM, you should email back same day (even if to ackowledge). Having said this, most client emails are answered in full within a couple hours of the message. – Matt Umbro
  • Varies by client 🙂 Will give some sort of response within 24 hours even if it’s just a ‘will follow up’ so they know we got it. – Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
  • Also depends on nature of message. If is “please pause everything” because they are having an issue, will handle ASAP! – Jule Bacchini
  • 100% respond to let them know you received and that you will be looking into issue & ETA on full response. – Ira Kates (@IraKates)
  • I try to put myself in their shoes. I am often frustrated when a Google rep will not acknowledge an email for hours or days. – Joseph Drury
  • On the same day, if not asap. PMs usually take care of everything, though, and things on my end are verbal. It’s nice. – Nate Knox (@nateknow)
  • The first thing I do is respond, to best establish trust. At that point I listen, to establish care, and then review concerns. I like to also follow up later that day to discuss my current analysis of their concerns after further review. – Christine Eitel (@ECEitel)
  • I used to check email first every morning. I’m much more productive now that I reserve the 1st hour for the most important task. – Chris Haleua
  • Depends on sensitivity of the initial communication. But I always let them know I got their inquiry same day. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • I switched off email notifications and check my email ~5 times a day. If something is really urgent, people will call. – Bart Schuijt (@BartSchuijt)
  • Q1.1 Do you follow up to emails on the weekend? Why or why not?
    • No, unless I know there might be an issue ahead of time. You have to establish some limits or will get taken advantage of. – Melissa Mackey
    • Major issues can mostly be avoided by following the golden rule of not implementing new stuff before the weekend. – Gil Hong
    • If I happen to check my email and I’m doing some work, sure. But that’s not always the case. – Francis Shovlin
      • Yes, my feeling is that you can respond to emails during the weekend but not a requirement. – Matt Umbro
        • Agree to disagree here. Reply back but any add work done on the weekend has to wait until following week. – Brian Gaspar
    • Depends on the weekend, depends on the client, depends on the issue. – Jeremy Brown
    • No – Work to live, not live to work. Protect your free time. – Nicole Mintiens
    • I acknowledge emails on weekend with a followup on Mon. Need to balance work/family, but don’t want to leave client in dark. – Brian Gaspar
    • Usually not. Work free weekends help me work better during the weekdays. Always exceptions though. – Luke Alley
    • Do respond to emails during the weekend, but generally not until Sunday night, as Melissa says, I set some limits. – Matt Umbro
    • Depends on the urgency/importance of the task. Conversion tracking issue = yes. Request for ad copy report = no. – Michelle Morgan
    • Varies by client & urgency of the email and if it can wait until Monday morning. – Onward Chicago
    • Generally no. Not unless there is an extraordinary circumstance. – George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
    • If the person/problem/issue is important enough they can call my cell anytime. 24/7. I monitor 7 days a week anyways. PPC doesn’t stop just because I am out of the office. Issues happen and sometimes they need immediate attention. – Andrew Bethel (@abethelga)
    • Have to balance setting limits with being there for client. I do usually respond but only take action in case of emergency. – Joseph Drury
    • Only reply on a weekend if it is truly urgent (as defined by us). Important to manage expectations if you want any time away! – Julie Bacchini
    • Depends on the gravity of the question and if there’s an issue. Respect should flow both ways, not just agency to client. – Nate Knox
    • I generally do about an hour of work each weekend (between client work and PPCChat :), but I don’t have kids yet. – Matt Umbro
      • I’m the same way. Weekends usually have some prep for the upcoming week. Even if just 30-45 minutes. – Michelle Morgan
    • This is PPC, no babies are dying. Don’t lose your job or a client but keep things in perspective. – Nicole Mintiens
    • Try to have weekend work be my choice (or necessity with a 10 mo. old!). Will always help a client when needed though. – Julie Bacchini

Q2: What are three things that clients should expect all the time from their PPC managers? Why?

  • Honesty, Integrity and Innovation. – Russell McAthy (@therustybear)
  • Honesty, Optimism, and Total Disclosure. If the idea/budget/market doesn’t work for their goals, they need to know this. – Andrew Bethel
  • Responsiveness, Innovation, & Hard Work. – Matt Umbro
  • Transparency – not trying to fudge the numbers. Bad results need exposure too. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
  • Timeliness responsiveness and honesty. – Vivian Unger (@pappasv)
  • Transparency, honesty, and expertise. – Jeremy Brown
  • Commitment, Caring, Communication. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
  • Results, Reporting and Interpretation. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Eyes on the account daily, regular check ins, honesty (challenging requests if they may not work). – Heather Cooan
  • Optimization beyond bidding. Honest accountability for mistakes. Tangible results/deliverables. – Chris Haleua
  • Communication of new features/options, Easy to understand Reports with feedback, and Work ethics that establish trust. – Christine Eitel
  • Honesty (even when they don’t want to hear it), Respect (always!) & Expertise (you should have it to sell it). – Julie Bacchini
  • Honesty = duh, personality = I am a person, treat me like one, intent for mutual success = a successful account is good for both. – Michelle Morgan
  • Empathy, Dedication and Drive. – Brian Gaspar
  • I do believe innovation is extremely important – as a client, I want to know that I’m not just choosing another PPC agency. – Matt Umbro
    • Yes, always coming to the table with new initiatives and strategies is a big one. – Heather Cooan
    • Sometimes innovation means not chasing the new shiny and making sure you keep the eye on the ball. – Jeremy Brown
  • Familiarity and care for their accounts. No one likes receiving incompetance for their money. – Gil Hong
  • Transparency w/ results (good or bad), ownership of account/analytics data, and proactive use of new PPC features. – Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
  • Open and honest communication, hard work and not on auto-pilot, a real sense of caring about the client’s success. – Nate Knox
  • Enhanced Campaigns, Enhanced Sitelinks, and Enhanced use of the word Enhanced. – Andrew Bethel
  • My bonus answers Creativity – try things, Courage – don’t be afraid to fail & Collaboration – learn from the client. – Julie Bacchini
  • Responsiveness (Following Up/Through), Receptiveness (To Their Ideas) & Measurable (Proving results). – Brian Gaspar
  • Also, don’t get too high or too low with clients…show excitement and dissatisfaction at times, but remain objective. – Matt Umbro
  • If a client just needed help with analysis, my focus would be to the three classics: Descriptive, Explanatory, Prescriptive. – Chris Haleua
  • Making clients feel like you care about the success of their account specifically really helps. Looking for their best opps. – Julie Bacchini

Q3: For ecomm clients, how is communication handled when the product feed goes down?

  • Setup a bot to monitor uptime on the feed url – then auto email everyone important with info if it goes down. – Russell McAthy
  • This is where daily eyes on the account are crucial. You have to find it and alert them ASAP. – Heather Cooan
  • Immediate Contact with Google Reps. Team Focus on diagnosing issue. Once diagnosed; alert client. Fix. Repeat until fixed. – Andrew Bethel
  • This question is tough…generally I’ll let the client know and contact Google, but the feed provider should have involvement. – Matt Umbro
  • Important to be on top of. Especially since Google’s customer service is awful. Often that ETA depends on when Google decides they want to do anything. Had issues take 6 days with feed. Had an issue recently where it took Google 5 min. to turn someone off by mistake and take 6 days to reactivate.- Jeremy Brown
  • Sometimes URL Validation can identify issues here. @siliconvallaeys has some AdWords Scripts that have been a huge help already. – Chris Haleua
  • Be honest, responsive, responsible & professional. We often have the ability to take care of these things and they depend on us. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Customer service is key-over communicate and stay transparent with issues. – Vivian Unger

Q4: When does it make sense to reset client expectations (if it does at all)? Why?

  • Whenever the situation changes (new competitors, policies, etc.) – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • To me, this makes sense when unforseen circumstances (sometimes even the client) begin to be detrimental to the account. – Gil Hong
  • When it gets out of control. It’s a business and both you and the clients need to make money. – Jeremy Brown
  • If the client has another site that they want PPC for but is Lead Gen instead of EComm. – Brian Gaspar
  • We try to meet with all clients at least quarterly to review results, competition, & priorities. We adjust strategies together. – Andrew Miller
  • Reset client expectations when issues arise and your integrity is on the line. – Vivian Unger
  • When a big change in competitive landscape – important to let them know what you’re seeing & what you think should happen. – Julie Bacchini
  • When you have supporting data, -OR- when they’re expectations are more than a little askew. – James Svoboda
  • 1.) Shift in account manager within the company. 2.) Client gets too greedy/over the top with expectations. – Michelle Morgan
  • When the client changes their site domain and back entry order system. Wait a minute this hits close to home for me. – Brian Gaspar
  • We review client expectations as soon as they are transitioned to us from the sales. that way, we can nip any issues in the bud! – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • A lot can change quickly so it may make sense to engage in this conversation more often than we (in the industry) do. – Francis Shovlin
  • Any major changes to any component. I find shaping expectations are part of every interaction though. – Heather Cooan
  • Don’t think it should ever be a reset if you have a relationship with a client – should always be a education or transition. – Russell McAthy
  • Had a client who changed their domain name and we had to communicate the impact to them. More so SEO than PPC though. Had to reset expectations for my current client, we increased budget by 40% I had to assume a X% increase in revenue as a result. – Brian Gaspar
  • When large business changes are made. Changes in product bundles which could effect CPA numbers. Anything that could impact ROI. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • “Under-promise & over-deliver” is a skill that requires discipline. Many still struggle to “over-promise & deliver just in time”. – Chris Haleua

Q5: What tasks and initiatives do you take over time with clients to continue/further the relationship? In other words, how do you keep the relationship from getting stale…how are you ensuring that clients continue to recommend you to others?

  • Get them on board with landing pages. – Steve Cameron
  • Regularly scheduled calls and updates on performance/initiatives. – Gil Hong
  • Talk about their business as a whole, rather that just search, from time-to-time and determine how we can integrate. – Francis Shovlin
  • Adding additional platforms, if they started out with just AdWords. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • Staying up to date with trends, determining if it fits with clients line of business. Inform if not, pitch it if it does. – Brian Gaspar
  • Expansion beyond PPC to build better cross-channel coordination. PPC, SEO, Social, and Display can learn a lot from each other. – Chris Haleua
  • After we show success with PPC mgt, we can expand to landing page testing & CRO. It’s an easy upsell backed up with results. – Andrew Miller
  • Also getting their feedback and thoughts on things they want to do with their site and how PPC can help. – Brian Gaspar
  • Clients are looking to grow their businesses…as PPC managers we should consistently be pitching new ideas to test some ideas may not work, but as long as we set proper expectations the relationship will stay strong. – Matt Umbro
    • Yup, long-term planning as well as check-ins on how business is performing. We’ve seen lots of SEO pain recently. – Jeremy Brown
  • Identify, Implement, & Maintain an agreed upon reporting system so we’re both dealing with the same facts in making decisions. – Kirk William (@KECreate)
  • Really become part of their team – learn about their needs, quirks, internal politics, etc. Help them meet goals & grow. – Julie Bacchini
  • Explain that PPC is not an island but part of a greater whole which is affected by other aspects of their business. – Steve Cameron
  • We help many clients measure their other media (vanity URLs, phone tracking, etc.) to compare results apples to apples w/ PPC. – Andrew Miller
  • Look for new days to display, interpret results to add value to data already collected. – Theresa Zook
  • Always think outside the PPC bubble. Look at SEO, Social, LP Opt, other vendors and offline channels. – Joseph Drury
  • Meet in person. Meet at conferences, when they come into town go golfing, to basketball games, snowmobiling… Christmas cards! – Luke Alley
  • Keep their goals in mind throughout their campaign and service creatively. – Vivian Unger
  • Deliver on the basics & add strategic ideas, get the client to ask for your opinion earlier in the marketing planning cycle. – Chris Gutknecht (@ChrisGutknecht)
  • Long-term wholeistic strategies beyond just ads. We are a true partner not just a ppc vendor. – Heather Cooan
  • Build accountability beyond the click. Move from traffic acquisition to LPO to CRO & focus on deeper parts of site pathing. – Chris Haleua
  • In the end it’s about making them look good, especially if client is a large enterprise with your POC being someone in mid mgmt. – Brian Gaspar
  • Being part of a full-service agency there’s always a chance to expand offerings to video, PR, brand messaging, etc. – Timothy Jensen


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Andrew Bethel (@abethelga)
• Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
• Bart Schuijt (@BartSchuijt)
• Brian Gaspar (@BGaspar)
• Chris Gutknecht (@ChrisGutknecht)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• Christine Eitel (@ECEitel)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Francis Shovlin (@fmshovlin)
• George Gilmer (@GeorgeGilmer)
• Gil Hong (@ghong_ssm)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Ira Kates (@IraKates)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• Joseph Drury (@drurytheelder)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk William (@KECreate)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Nate Knox (@nateknow)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Onward Chicago (@OnwardChicago)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Russell McAthy (@therustybear)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Vivian Unger (@pappasv)

Managing PPCChatter Expectations Weekly with Streamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking SEM Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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