When Saying “No” is the Best Customer Service

As a client, I expect to understand – prior to the engagement – the flow of communication, and how often I can expect updates. I expect the firm to listen to me, and adjust to my needs. If that means weekly phone calls instead emails, then that is to be respected. I also expect the firm to be honest, and to understand and communicate their limitations. An up-front “sorry but no” is more appreciative than an over confident “yes, we can do this.”  I appreciate honesty, and clients do as well.

As this is the level of customer service that I expect to receive, it is also the customer service my clients can expect from me. Before starting a new project, I first determine the client’s preferred method of communication. Is it email, supplemented with an occasional phone call? Phone calls only? Mail service? Or a combination of all? Is the client comfortable and willing to review documents via Clio Connect, or are fax or mail copies preferred? I set timelines and let clients know how often they can expect to hear from me. In the initial meeting, it is also determined whether the client is able to meet at my office, whether the client needs in-home visits or whether it is an issue that can be dealt with – more or less – virtually.

Two and a half years ago, I moved my practice to the cloud when I implemented Clio. Cloud computing has been one of the best decisions I made to increase my level of customer service, productivity and management of my practice. It allows me to provide superior customer service to my clients.  They now can have access to their documents – if they choose – at any time.  Whether I am in my office or travelling, I can effectively work on client matters.

However, there are times when being able to say “no” is the best customer service I can offer. And though declining business seems counterintuitive, it better serves the client. For example, a client may expect a tight turn-around time on a specific project that is not feasible.  In the initial consultation, I explain this to the client, but the client remains insistent. Now there are three ways to deal with the situation:

  1. Take on the project anyway and overextend myself. It tires me out, which results in reduction of work enthusiasm, leads to me resenting the project, and directly results in decreased level of customer service.
  2. Try to meet the deadline, but miss it.  This results in a very unhappy client.
  3. Decline the project.  For such situations, this has been the best option.  The client appreciates the honesty.

Declining the project does not necessarily mean I cannot help the client at all. Instead, I can refer the client to a colleague better suited to the needs of the case.

2 Responses to “When Saying “No” is the Best Customer Service”

  1. […] If I can’t do that, then I have to remember that wonderful, powerful, magical word: No. […]

  2. […] At Small Firm Innovation, which was created and is maintained by Clio, February’s theme was customer service. Some of our favorite posts discussed consistency in customer service; the power of a smile and a handshake; and when saying “no” is the best customer service. […]