Managing Unrealistic Client Expectations

ThinkstockPhotos-76756445“I need a top-notch, back-office staff and swing-shift production team to start tomorrow. And I want to pay them all minimum wage. Oh, and did I mention that my company is 40 miles from the nearest town? Your staffing firm can handle that, right?”

Okay, I realize this is a bit of an exaggeration – but if you work in the staffing industry these days, you’re no stranger to the unrealistic expectations of increasingly demanding clients.

With record low unemployment rates, wages have crept up and competition for skilled workers has risen dramatically. The shortage of talent may become even more severe as a result of the new administration’s policies on immigration, foreign trade, and domestic infrastructure and manufacturing investment.

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But you know what? Your customers don’t care. They want highly skilled superstars, at a low pay rate – and they want them yesterday.

While it would be great if your staffing firm could deliver on all three — quality, price and speed — it’s impossible to do so profitably. The market has changed too much. Unfortunately, clients’ expectations take much longer to change than the market. So, when clients place unrealistic pressure on you to deliver faster, better AND cheaper, what’s the best way to manage their expectations?

Be honest.

In any industry, all projects are subject to constraints of time, cost and quality. No staffing firm can deliver on all three aspects and stay in business for long. If a client doesn’t seem to understand this, you’ll need to patiently educate them about the dynamics at play in today’s talent market regarding:

  • Price (i.e., pay rate/mark-up)
  • Quality (i.e., candidate skill level/skill match)
  • Speed (i.e., time to fill)

Next, find out which factors are most important to your client.

  • Identify the business problems driving the order. Is your client up against a tight deadline? Is the job impossible for someone without a specific skill? Is staying under budget their chief concern? Ask pointed questions to uncover and prioritize your customer’s challenges in terms of “fast, good and cheap.” 
  • Learn more about the employer’s short- and long-term business goals. What position does the company occupy in the market – and where do they want to be? Is the organization in growth mode? What are their top strategic goals for 2017? When you understand the client’s “big picture,” you can align your service delivery with their overarching objectives.

Then, provide some perspective.

  • Educate them about the realities of the talent market. Often, clients don’t know what the “right” salary or pay rate is for their available job. Or, they may not understand just how severe talent shortages are within their industry. It’s your role to gently educate them:
    • On the one hand, paying workers less results in a lower bill rate or placement fee – but it makes it much tougher to recruit the best people. Help your client quantify the true cost of position vacancies, backlogged work and/or missed business opportunities.
    • On the other hand, a higher pay rate may help you recruit better quality talent, more quickly – but it’s going to drive up costs. In this case, it’s important to explain the total ROI your services provide in a tight candidate market.
  • Back up the scenarios you share with data. Provide numbers (i.e., employment data, salary surveys, industry projections) from reliable sources to properly frame their recruiting situation. Then, provide recommendations for a pay rate that balances the client’s need for speed and quality of match.
  • Connect the dots. Make sure you explain the positive “domino effect” higher pay rates have on candidate quality, offer acceptance rates and, as a result, recruiting speed. When employers understand the interrelatedness of speed, quality and cost, it’s easier for you to create more realistic expectations.

Finally, help them pick two.

Once your client understands recruiting resource constraints and you understand your client’s priorities, work together to choose the two service factors (price, quality, speed) that matter most to them. Then, proactively manage their expectations:

  • If the client needs to keep the pay rate low and fill a role quickly, temper their expectations about the level of skill and experience referred candidates will likely have.
  • If the client can’t budge on skills or pay, discuss the impact that will have on time-to-fill.
  • If your customer needs a superstar immediately, provide pay recommendations to ensure you can source well-matched candidates, quickly.

Candor, effective information-gathering, patient education and practical guidance will help you set realistic client expectations – and set you up to consistently exceed them.

PrideStaff’s Mission: “Consistently provide client experiences focused on what they value most.”

As markets fluctuate, administrations change and employers’ needs shift, PrideStaff evolves in kind. Combining national resources with local, personalized service, our business model allows strategic-partners to:

  • stand out in a competitive market;
  • exceed customers’ expectations;
  • position our firm as a partner;
  • fuel sustained, profitable growth.

Follow this link to learn more about becoming a franchisee/strategic-partner with PrideStaff.

MORE: Identifying Priorities

Tammi Heaton

Tammi Heaton
Tammi Heaton is COO of PrideStaff. She can be reached at theaton (at) pridestaff (dot) com.

Tammi Heaton

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