By Elisabeth Hawkins – Director of Client Services
In a rapidly changing industry where the landscape of service providers grows exponentially with each passing year, it can be easy to worry more about what the “Joneses” are doing than to keep sight of who really matters in the first place: our clients. As summer winds to a close and we get out of vacation mode, it is a good point to take pause and revisit the fundamentals of client service.
1. Say what you’ll do
At the onset of each project, be it a review database where we will host data for several months or a rush project that we’ll turn around within the day, as good service providers we must outline the work to be done, when it will be done, and gather any pertinent information to complete the project within the specified timeframe. A great service provider can foresee any issues that will impede meeting the deadline and tackle them at the beginning (more on that later). It takes more than just acknowledging that you have a project to demonstrate good service; you have to let clients know you value their business and are equal to the task.
2. Do what you’ve said
You’ve told your client what will be done and when it will be done. Making a plan is a critical first step, now you have to see it through. The scope may shift and we stay nimble and adaptive to change in this industry. Custodian data gets reprioritized, counsel changes, cases close, what was needed tomorrow is now needed yesterday (!). Staying calm under pressure is a must; if you thrive in high pressure situations, you’ve found your calling in litigation support.
One of the tenets of project management that we live by is “If your client calls for a status update, you’ve dropped the ball.” It’s the mechanic who calls me with updates before I remember to request one who keeps my business; not the one I need to track down to find out what’s happening with my car. Same principle applies here. Keep your client informed.
3. Identify the problem before it’s a problem…
Have you ever heard anyone say “Lesson learned the easy way”…? Me neither. We’ve all suffered, or at least heard the horror stories of projects gone awry, and these do not happy clients make. Mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing if you can learn from them and utilize that knowledge to improve yourself and your organization. As experienced project managers we apply that hard earned knowledge on the job every day to have the foresight to anticipate any aspect of the job that may be problematic so we can proactively tackle it. Clients based in a different time zone or internationally that you’ll have to allot extra time for? Need additional supplies to complete the project? Should you recruit some additional team members to your project team to ensure ample client support and after hours coverage? Maybe the court ESI protocol and project specs don’t sync up and a call with the case team is needed? Do your team and, more importantly, your client a favor and use all that experience to cut these issues off at the head. If you’ve had one cringe-worthy project mishap, that’s enough to know you would be best served to avoid another.
4. …But If a Problem Should Arise – Handle With Care
There are many things I love about project management and client service, but calling a client to report a problem is not one of them. Still, as best we try to avoid it, there will be unforeseeable issues where you may find yourself the bearer of bad news. First and foremost, be upfront. Sugarcoating won’t help here. Glossing over or making light won’t either. State accurately what the situation is and come to the table with a solution, or at least your best action items to handle it. Don’t procrastinate simply because it may be an unpleasant conversation. You’ll lose critical time and make things worse. Clients don’t want to receive that call any more than you want to make it, but your directness and sincerity will likely be appreciated.
We’re not reinventing the wheel here, folks, but sometimes the basics bear repeating. We literally wouldn’t be here without our clients, and every day is an opportunity to show them why they chose us over the Joneses. Reputations are earned, after all, so it is for you to decide what your clients will think and share about the service you provide.