Let’s be reasonable: No segment of the population is right 100% of the time. Clients are no exception. Clients are bound to make mistakes. That said, as a partner, you should always give your clients the benefit of the doubt. That’s the true lesson of the age-old adage.
Treat your clients with fairness, honesty and respect, and expect they’ll do the same for your firm and staff. If a client has a good-faith complaint, you should hear them out. Then you should deliver a solution. If a client is rude, you should always remain polite. This is especially true for your staff during phone conversations regarding a client’s case. As we all know, clients are anxious and often demanding when it comes to their cases. They expect that their case should be different than everyone else’s and therefore shouldn’t take ½ as long to process.
Another thing about client service and whether they are “right” is the matter of perspective. Have you tried to see the issue from their point of view? Have you put yourself in their shoes? What are they seeing as the “real” problem? Do they see a solution that you don’t see? Is there really a problem at all? Often what seems like a big deal to them may not really be an issue at all. But, if you listen to them, determine what they are “really” upset about and then offer a solution, they will most often come around. And, your client service will be kept intact or often times improved because you have listened to you client’s needs.
It is also important to remember that the flip side of client-centric service is knowing when and how to say “no.” Don’t give in to clients who tax your resources, abuse your staff or take advantage of your policies. You have many clients to service and you can’t always give a client the outcome they expect or want. They often get upset at the time frame a case takes and the outcome when it is completed. Truly, neither is your fault. The key here to maintaining exceptional client service is managing their expectations up front. Make sure you explain the process. Make sure you tell them the worst case scenario with regards to time frame and outcome so that they are prepared. They may still be upset, but at least you have tried. They can’t fault you for being honest and straight forward. And, in the end they’ll respect you for it.
Always remember: You’re a client as well as a partner. How do you like to be treated? What do you expect of the businesses/professional services you use? As you reflect on your own experiences, follow the standards you would demand of others and you’ll likely have a client service model that suits your firm. The key is then sharing this with your firm. You can’t expect your staff to read your mind. You owe it to your staff and your clients to make this model a working model to be a mantra for everyone to share. If you do, then you clients won’t have to “be right”.