managing client expectations

Managing Client Expectations – Best Practices for Architects

As we work with architects growing their practices into sustainable businesses, managing client expectations correctly is the topic that keeps coming up.

Failing to manage client expectations usually causes more than half of the problems and frustrations that arise during all project phases. You can avoid many issues and hassles if you set up a clear system of managing client expectations.

Here’s a list of the most common issues that arise if you mismanage client expectations as an architect:

Loss of trust

Setting incorrect client expectations in architecture can lead to a significant loss of trust. 

When clients feel their expectations have not been met, they will question your competence and reliability as an architect, even if the mishap occurred because of their actions or inaction. This can damage your professional reputation.

Once again, you don’t have actually to be wrong to lose trust in clients’ eyes. They expect you to predict things to account for and manage risks.

Legal issues

Another danger is the potential for legal disputes. If clients believe they were promised a certain outcome that was not delivered, they may seek legal recourse. 

This can lead to costly litigation, tarnish your reputation, and potentially result in serious losses.

Loss of revenue

Financial implications are an obvious risk. If the project exceeds the budget due to mismanaged expectations, it can lead to financial strain for both the client and the architect. The architect may have to absorb the extra costs, which can impact the profitability of their business.

Constant change orders

Change orders are commonly issued when there’s a deviation from the agreed-upon plan. 

These often surface as a result of improperly set initial expectations. We have an extensive guide on change orders, check it out.

While change orders are better than litigation or losing the client, they are still a pain, and if you are signing them way more often than you want, you need to work on your expectation management.

Project delays

Incorrect expectations can also lead to project delays. If a client expects a faster completion time than is realistic, it can result in rushed work, mistakes, and, ultimately, a delay in project completion. This can also increase costs and lead to dissatisfaction.

Stress & burnout

Last but not least, setting incorrect expectations can lead to increased stress and burnout for architects and their teams. 

Constantly trying to meet unrealistic (or shifting) expectations can result in long hours, high levels of stress, and, ultimately, a decrease in the quality of work. Ultimately, you can lose valuable team members this way.

Expectation management techniques


Let’s go over the list of proactive measures you can take to manage client expectations better.

Qualify clients better

First things first, make sure you are working with the right people. 

If you keep running into the same kinds of issues, it just might be that you are targeting the wrong market – and working the wrong leads.

Qualify the clients. Brainstorm a “budget statement” and mention it in your first conversation with your clients. 

For example, you might say ‘We normally get the best results with projects in excess of £500,000’ 

That helps set an expectation with the client when they first talk with you. If the client then decides to proceed, they know what kind of space they are playing in, and it will become easier down the road.

Manage risk with a quantity surveyor

Consider using the services of a quantity surveyor – a seasoned expert in construction cost evaluation and building measurement. 

Their expertise will help align the expectations and achieve peace of mind for both you and your client. 

Some quantity surveyors have excellent training, extensive insurance coverage, and proficient advice on cost planning and construction. 

They can play an instrumental role in helping you manage client expectations.

Pro tip: use the co-consultants module within PlanMan to manage your work with quantity surveyors and other third-party professionals.

Run competitive tenders for contractors

Explore competitive bidding on all or parts of the project. 

Look into the possibility of initiating a competitive bid when seeking a builder. 

This procedure will give you and your client great transparency regarding project costs and constraints

The competitive bidding procedure encourages potential builders to be extra careful with their proposals and identifyg areas where they can cut down on costs to gain an edge over rival bidders. 

This strategy can potentially lead to savings for your client – and laying out a clear picture of all the contractor options builds trust and transparency very well.

Improve your client communication

Make sure to use the latest tech to communicate and manage your client’s expectations effectively. 

Use our client communication module, and have a clear client communication strategy, starting with visioning workshops.

Go one step further and think your client onboarding through – understand how it can help you manage their expectations better.

Sign up to PlanMan today and see all the built-in tools we’ve got that will help you manage your client expectations!