Judy from London wrote:

“I am a solicitor. One of my clients chronically sits on documents and decisions until the very last minute, so that I always end up scrambling. I have tried everything I can think of to get him to give me more lead time, but nothing seems to work.”

One of the most common complaints among service providers is about customers who appear to have no respect for their time. There are a couple of things you can do, but first, let’s put things into perspective. When these situations occur, it’s often the result of a customer who is trying to juggle a number of different things. The item you’re working on, while important, had less urgency compared to the others, so it falls down a little on your customer’s priority list. Unfortunately, by the time it gets to the top of the pile, it’s not just a priority any more – it’s critical. This isn’t always the case, of course. Some people are just disorganized or procrastinators, but most are just trying to do the best they can with a tough workload. Here are a couple of things to try:

1) Always phrase things in terms of the benefit to the customer

So, for example, instead of scolding your customer (not recommended), you can say things like, “Just so you’re aware, if you can give us around a week to get these types of things done, the work we do will be a much higher quality.”

2) Set your customer’s expectations

It’s possible that, because you’ve always managed to come through, your customer doesn’t really understand how much of an issue the last-minute requests are. Make sure it is you setting the expectations of what you can do – not your customer. So, for example, if your customer asks you at the last minute to do A,B & C, tell him that you will have time to do A and B, but possibly not C. You should still strive to get all three done, of course, but at least now he (she) will understand that you went above and beyond when you do.

One more critical thing to remember: Your customer has probably chosen to do business with you because he likes you, trusts you and because you get things done. Don’t be too hasty to judge him. After all, having too much last-minute business is a whole lot better than having no business at all.

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