Being Honest With Clients Means Being Honest With Yourself
How many times have you promised a client a memo analyzing several legal issues by morning only to send it out days later? Or claimed that you were certain that you would prevail on some long-shot legal matter, only to achieve the slimmest of gains? In both instances, what you've delivered -- a complex memo in a few days or a win of any kind in a dud case -- is still pretty good. But still, the client remains disappointed because he came away with less than you'd promised.
Arnie Herz discusses the conundrum of client expectations at this post, which starts out with a story about his wife's experience at a late night grocery story. His wife had complained to the manager about slow service to which the manager responded that she should be grateful that the store was open late hours. However, the store had advertised that it was open late for shopping convenience -- and by forcing customers to endure long lines late at night, it did not live up to that promise. As a result, Herz's wife probably won't return to that store, just as a client whom you've let down probably won't be a repeat customer either.
So why don't we -- the grocery store owner or the lawyer -- simply change our ways. It's much harder than you'd think, because it's not just a matter of altering our time management skills, but also, our own perception of ourselves. That's because, as Herz explains:
"What’s not always so clear to us is that, much of the time, our failure to meet client expectations derives from our own lack of authenticity. We’re simply not honest with ourselves about the work we’re adept at and passionate about, the deadlines we can reasonably meet and our desire to be available to clients. If we aren't coming clean to ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses, boundaries and sincere interests then, chances are, we’re treating our clients to the same deception."
The next time a client comes to your office and asks if he can have something on his desk the next day at 9 a.m., don't automatically agree. Be honest with yourself about whether it's feasible and if it's not, say so. Maybe this client will pass you by, but the truth of the matter is that if you can't make good on your promises, you'll lose the client anyway.
Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 18, 2006 at 03:34 PM | Permalink
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