We’ve all worked with customers that have seemingly unrealistic expectations. You give them an inch and they expect a mile!

However, losing them as a customer is simply out of the question. Maybe they’re a large percentage of revenue or there’s a lot at stake in making the business relationship work.

Regardless of the scenario, here are 4 modern strategies for managing customer expectations…

1) Do your very best to stay positive – When working with customers that act like you aren’t meeting their expectations, it’s easy to join in on their negativity. They’re likely criticizing you left and right, and all you want to do is point out their flaws as well. Resist this temptation and continue to approach customer interactions with a “glass half full” attitude. Instead of always focusing on what the customer still wants done, make sure to carve out time as needed to emphasize what has already been accomplished. This is a great tactic if your customer support software is telling you that the customer has submitted many tickets recently with an “angry” sentiment and their distress score is high. It can’t hurt to start off the conversation with a positive tone that will hopefully continue throughout the discussion.

2) Review customer experience scenarios at the start of the relationship – This is a crucial step in managing customer expectations that many businesses skip. During the onboarding process with a new customer, block off time to go through “mock” customer experience scenarios. If you have a customer support SLA (service level agreement) in place, you can cite the terms as needed throughout this meeting. For example, outline a scenario where if there’s a server outage, you’ll let the customer know within 30 minutes of the beginning of the outage and will follow up every two hours with an update. Let these scenarios act as a benchmark for expectations so customers aren’t contacting you every 15 minutes for an outage update.

3) Be honest, even if the truth isn’t what the customer wants to hear – There’s an old saying that especially holds true in business: the truth hurts less than a lie. Telling lies can paint you into a corner that’s difficult to get out of, and worst of all can fracture a customer relationship beyond repair. That’s why it’s important to constantly reinforce the message that you’ll always be honest with customers, even if it means telling them something they don’t want to hear. Reaffirming this message over time and continually delivering on your honest approach will lead to less customer doubt and more realistic expectations. Instead of a customer thinking a two-month timetable for a project is deceptive, they’ll actually believe you without asking exhaustive questions so you both can get to work.

4) Reach out on occasion just to “check in” – Far too many companies only contact customers when something is wrong. A customer is sitting at their desk and the phone rings, only to see your company calling. What’s their first reaction? If it’s fear and panic, you need to completely reassess the expectations a customer has of your business. Try to contact your customers (phone, video call, email, etc.) just to chat from time to time. Have a conversation about their business, how your company is performing for them, and what can be done to improve the relationship. You’d be surprised how many issues can be addressed through this method while they’re small that may have become deal breakers if unchecked six months later.

In short, these modern strategies for managing customer expectations are focused around creating smarter communication. Set the bar up-front with customers on how scenarios with your business will go and highlight your wins as needed. You’ll see that the expectations of customers will become more grounded and realistic if you combine these tactics with honest and constant communication.