Exceeding customer expectations and avoiding scope creep

It’s happened to almost everyone that does project-based work for their customers. The bid is complete, the work starts, and then the customer comes back with another request. Maybe it’s a small request, so it’s easy to fit it in to the current project scope. Everything is going well, until another small request comes in. Eventually all the small requests build into another billable hour, but commitments have been made, quotes have been given, and now you find yourself giving away an hour of service. So how do you avoid scope creep and exceed customer expectations with every project?

Here are four ways to exceed customer expectations and get paid for it

exceeding customer expectations and avoiding scope creep
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Always get signoff on a bid

It’s extremely hard to determine if expectations have been met, if expectations haven’t been set. The formal process of creating a bid might seem arduous for small projects, but many times, smaller projects get larger over time through scope creep. Whether it’s hand written, printed, or online, make sure to create a bid and get signoff from your customer before work begins. Receiving signoff on a bid will make it easier to show how you’ve met expectations, and how future requirements may or may not fit into the original scope (and estimate) of the project. I use Zoho Invoice to create and get signoff on bids before beginning work.

Define a scope management procedure

To assume that changes in scope or details of a project will never happen would be silly. Not having a procedure to deal with such changes is costly. Having a clearly defined scope management procedure, and expressing that procedure to your clients is the best way to make sure you’re paid for your time appropriately. It also gives your customer a way to easily relay their changed or increased expectations. Here are some best practices for scope management.

Find one value-add to deliver on each project

While all the tips in this post are meant to support your clients and help you get paid accordingly, it’s also important to exceed customer expectations. For this reason, I advocate for taking 15 unpaid minutes on every project to do something to add value for the client above and beyond the scope. Doing so will ensure that on every project you exceed the customer’s expectations without a ton of extra work. Make sure to itemize your final bill and include the value-add as a zero’d item to call out the additional value.

Deliver ahead of schedule

When it comes to exceeding customer expectations, delivering on a project ahead of schedule is of paramount importance. While a project should never be delivered late, delivering a project a day or two early will delight your customer, clear the project off your plate, and get you paid quicker. Consider over-estimating the time it will take to complete the project and then deliver a couple days ahead of schedule.

Do you have other tips for exceeding customer expectations? Leave them in the comments or tweet @ifyouwillit.

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