As coaches we, of course, want our clients to be “wow-ed” with the experience of working with us. We not only want to meet their expectations, but to exceed them. Am I right? That is what creates raving fans, which in turns creates a great reputation and a stream of ongoing referrals.
However, sometimes our eagerness to create a “wow” experience, has us bending over backwards for clients (and feeling like we can’t say “no” now without compromising the relationship), or has us setting expectations that prove to be difficult for us to manage when we have a full practice. And ultimately, when either of those things perpetuate, we aren’t creating a great experience for ourselves in our business. And that affects everything!
So how do you navigate this terrain and consistently create a “wow” experience without burning yourself out? I have 6 easy steps that I teach my clients to do this, and here they are:
- Set expectations that you KNOW you can keep that satisfy the needs of your ideal client – In other words, set the expectations that will meet the needs of your client that, even in the most stressful week, you know you can meet.
- Make those expectations very clear to your clients up front – create a coaching agreement that outlines most of the expectations you want to set for your clients so they know they will be well supported, such as how long each session is, how you schedule sessions and how they can change them if they need, payment policies, cancellation policies should they need to change last minute, how quickly you will get back to them on emails they send you, and what (if anything) you are willing to read/comment/edit that they send you by email. (These are the six “biggies” that can create snags with clients if they aren’t clearly outlined ahead of time as part of your designed alliance). Use your first session to clarify anything or talk about any expectations not listed in your coaching agreement. Make sure your client reads and signs the coaching agreement. (We can’t hold people to expectations we aren’t sure they know about).
- Set guidelines for yourself about your flexibility with these policies that would exceed and “wow” your clients – This is key, as you need to make agreements with yourself on how far you will go to exceed these expectations and your boundaries. These are for you to know and be clear about, and to use with clients when it feels warranted. You don’t share these with your clients. Note that they should feel good to you and never feel like you are “bending over backwards” even though your client will perceive you as being very generous when you demonstrate this level of flexibility. Make sure that you hold these self-imposed expectations as your ultimate boundaries.
- If you decide to exceed the regular expectations set and be flexible, make sure you point this out to your client in those moments so they feel your generosity and don’t feel it is “the norm” – this is another key part of this. If you simply flex on the agreement all the time, your client will mentally set a new expectation. As an example, if a client reschedules last minute and you simply change the date, they will have a new expectation that they can reschedule last minute whenever they need. If you later hold the boundary, they may be annoyed with you or even point out that you have always been flexible before. However, if you tell them “as a reminder, my cancellation/reschedule policy is 48 hours, but I actually have a lot of flexibility tomorrow so I am willing to change it for you this time because it will work best for you and I can make it work for me, too”, then they will feel how flexible you are being and will appreciate it that much more.
- Make sure you hold those ultimate boundaries for yourself when a client continually pushes the envelope – If you have been consistent in telling your clients overtly when you are intentionally flexing the boundary, when you want to hold your boundary firmly, your client will usually completely understand. As an example, I tell my clients that they get one “get out of jail free” card when it comes to rescheduling. Occasionally, if it works better for me, I’ll flex an additional time about once every six months (and I let them know they have already used their “get out of jail free card” but because changing it actually works for me this time, I’m happy to change it). But if someone tries to reschedule for a 3rd time last minute in less than 6 months, I hold firm. I hold the boundary there because I think it’s important for my clients to have personal accountability when it comes to our sessions, that we mutually honor the commitment we made, and that we both place a high priority on the coaching relationship. Ex: “As you know, I always try to be flexible when I can, but I do have a 48 hour cancellation policy and I don’t have any other openings this week. Would you like to re-consider your reschedule or would you like to forfeit tomorrow’s session?”
- If a client balks when you hold your boundary, set time aside after your next session to discuss it. If you ever have an issue with a client, or they with you, it is important to use non-coaching time to re-design the alliance and get back into harmony. You want them to understand why it’s important to them (not just you) that you hold the boundary. So, it is important for you to really give thought to why it is important to your clients (and not just to you) to hold those boundaries before you roll these boundaries out. As an example, with rescheduling, you could talk about the value of putting the coaching relationship as one of the most important priorities in their life and what that would create for them in terms of appreciation, focus and accountability. There are always benefits to the client that you can lean into.
I hope that sharing my steps with you will make it easier for you to create a “wow” experience for your clients going forward. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Tara Butler Floch