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#502: When You Can't Answer a Client's Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
What do I do when a client asks me a question to which I don't know the answer?

This might seem like a simple answer but with a few caveats. Certainly be honest and don't fudge the answer. However, consider the situation and the role you are being asked to play (e.g., sometimes the client doesn't need a definitive answer but your perspective will do). Here are some possible responses (pick an applicable one that truly represents your situation).
  • I don’t know, but I will get a response to you in the morning.
  • I know someone who is an expert in that subject and will get back to you as soon as I track her down (or, I will have her call you to discuss it).
  • That's really not my area of expertise, but if you give me an hour, I will do my best to give you some idea, if not the definitive answer.
  • That’s an interesting question and one in which I have no direct experience but, based on what I know about your situation, I suggest you consider three factors in evaluating your path forward.
  • I am pretty sure I know the answer but don't have it with me and don’t want to mislead you with a guess, but as soon as I get back to my office, I will call/e-mail with the answer.
Tip: Take your time to provide a considered response. This is not the game show Jeopardy, in which the speed of your answer is what counts. You always have the option of pausing - your client will probably appreciate that you think the question important enough to take some time to respond.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  diagnosis  reputation 

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