Operations Communication Scripts Communication: push, pull, and interactive approaches Risk Management Favourites

Say this when you don’t know what to say.

We’re not born know­ing how to wran­gle client expec­ta­tions, but we can learn them. Here’s a quick and dirty list of scripts you can learn so you have a sharp response to even the tough­est requests and demands.


Billing rate

Client request

What’s your hourly rate?”

Response

We actu­al­ly don’t bill at an hourly rate. Instead, we look at the issue you’re hav­ing and deter­mine the best approach to fix it. Our esti­mate cov­ers the antic­i­pat­ed time, resources, and com­plex­i­ty involved for us to fin­ish the task and we cal­cu­late a range to 90th% con­fi­dence so you can antic­i­pate the time your project scope will take to com­plete (nine times out of ten). If this is an urgent need, we can look at pro­vid­ing you a tighter turn­around with a rush rate. Just let us know.”


Business goals

Client request

We saw anoth­er com­pa­ny do this: we want to add a giant pop up on the home page that tells peo­ple we’re the best at home carpeting.”

Response

Let’s go back and see how this idea sup­ports or hurts your busi­ness goals. If it makes sense to do it, we’re on board; oth­er­wise, let’s brain­storm some oth­er ideas that will take you closer.”


Change requests

Client request

We don’t like that colour. Why did you use it? Can we make it black?”

Response

Here’s why…[explanation based on business/​project goals]. Is there a rea­son we shouldn’t use green? Will it hurt the project? If so, let’s spend our next set of revi­sions nail­ing down the right look and feel. If you’re still not feel­ing it, we can esti­mate more time to get it just right.”


Firing a bad fit

Client request

It’s just a draw­ing. How hard can that be? This invoice is way too high for the work you’re doing. My cousin could do that better.”

Response

I guess we have to dis­agree on that one. Look, [client name], It doesn’t seem like we’re a good fit for you. I’ll end the con­tract imme­di­ate­ly, and send over all work you’ve paid for.”

And if you’re real­ly brave…

Based on your response, we want to let you know that you’d be con­sid­ered a red flag client’ in the design indus­try. It’ll be very dif­fi­cult for you to have a healthy work­ing rela­tion­ship with anoth­er agency if you don’t trust and respect the design process. It’s not easy to tell you this, but we want to be hon­est because it makes our indus­try bet­ter and helps our clients under­stand the out­line for how to do great work togeth­er. We hope you find a great fit.”


Late deliverables

Client request

We need to launch. We’ll get you the updat­ed con­tent and pho­to assets next week.”

Response

We can pri­or­i­tize all the urgent assets that need to go live with the site launch this week, but any delays on your side for assets we need to make our min­i­mum valu­able prod­uct will also mean we push the project dead­line to ensure we have time to imple­ment them before launch. Can you help us pri­or­i­tize which assets are the most impor­tant and give us a time­line for when we’ll receive those? This is a great approach to going live with the most impor­tant things first. Thanks for work­ing with us to pri­or­i­tize this.”


Late payments

Client request

We have to keep mov­ing to meet our time­line. We’ll mail your cheque as soon as the design is done.”

Response

We rec­og­nize it’s real­ly impor­tant for both of us to stay on top of deliv­er­ables. We know you under­stand, too. Pay­ment is anoth­er type of deliv­er­able. We’ll glad­ly restart your project just as soon as we receive your out­stand­ing pay­ment. Is there any­thing we can do to help expe­dite that?”


Respecting the process

Client request

How many hours will this take to fin­ish? The fix looks pret­ty straight­for­ward to us.”

Response

When we’re look­ing at the best approach to fix a prob­lem, we have to move away from talk­ing about hours. Some­times the tasks that seem the eas­i­est involve a lot of behind the scenes work or they affect oth­er parts of your project. Some­times that means new infor­ma­tion or new steps are need­ed. If we skip these steps, we could end up tak­ing dan­ger­ous short­cuts with your [online presence/​positioning/​userflow/​other affect­ed part of the project]. We’d be hap­py to walk you through the process of what’s involved with these steps. Let’s make some­thing that is bet­ter for your audi­ence by giv­ing these tasks the time they need to be done right.”


Scope changes

Client request

Can we add a blog to the site? We’d real­ly like a blog.”

Response

A blog? Do you have resources that will com­mit to writ­ing reg­u­lar­ly? If so, that’s an inter­est­ing idea. Let’s go back to the team and find out how much time that will take and how much it will cost.” 

After:

After chat­ting with the team, here’s what we found out: This [feature/​request] is out of scope and will delay our project sched­ule and launch [by x days]. To keep us mov­ing for­ward, we can tag it as a nice to have and treat it as a sep­a­rate item/​feature to esti­mate in time for our next release or” — if you’re too far into the devel­op­ment sched­ule — We’ll add this to our back­log and esti­mate it along with our oth­er fea­ture requests in our next phase.”


Sudden meetings

Client request

We need to dis­cuss some new infor­ma­tion with you. I’d like to have a meet­ing with your team today at 2 PM.”

Response

We’d love to chat about the project direc­tion with you. That’s pret­ty tight for time. Let us look at some times that are avail­able for the whole team and I’ll reach out to you ASAP.”


Tough conversations

Client request

What do you mean, we’re going to go over bud­get? I’ll lose my job if this goes over. You need to han­dle this. Oh my god. I can’t be hav­ing this conversation.”

Response

I know this is tough. We need your help. You asked for this [feature/​project/​request] and based on our agree­ment, we cre­at­ed it, but it doesn’t look like it’s what you need any­more. The work has already been com­plet­ed (and needs to be paid for), but now we need to change direc­tion. These are our options now: [out­line A and B]. What is the best way for us to move for­ward? Let’s fig­ure some­thing out together.”


Written communication

Client request

Dear [agency point of con­tact], here are all the assets as promised, but I have a few ques­tions. Can we chat? Sin­cere­ly, [your client] —an email sent out­side your cho­sen com­mu­ni­ca­tion channel.

Response

I think the whole team would get a lot out of this con­ver­sa­tion. Would you mind post­ing it in [tool of choice] so we can take some time to respond?”

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