How to Deal with Difficult Clients as a Digital Forensic Examiner
Businesses large and small often have the unfortunate occasion where they must deal with a difficult client. In the world of digital forensics, this is no exception. It is essentially how you deal with them that matters. Truth be told, most of us know that this is not always an easy task. We often work with attorneys on behalf of their clients. That being said, in our field, we have the occasional clients that represent themselves, however, a majority of clients are the attorneys which represent another individual(s).
There are several strategies to take into consideration when working and dealing with “difficult” clients. In truth, there will be some clients that will be difficult regardless of what is done to remedy an issue they may present. However, many difficult situations can be potentially averted if certain steps are taken to minimize any potential issues that could arise.
1. Set clear concise boundaries and expectations. If a client knows where you stand from the beginning of the business relationship, there is likely to be less confusion, deterring an angry client. Items such as cost, schedule, deadlines and requirements are crucial in this step. Each case will vary to one degree or another, therefore, those stipulations should be discussed in the initial meeting and put into a contract that all parties sign and date if agreed upon. It should be noted that if a complication in a deadline arises, it should be addressed immediately and not held until the last minute. This is applicable for ALL parties in the case.
2. Be professional. It is sometimes easy to get emotional in litigation, especially if you feel attacked on a personal level. It is best to remain calm and talk to the client in a professional matter, regardless of the manner to which they choose to respond. In the field of digital forensics, we are often sought out for a specific task. How you react to a difficult customer can impact not only your business, but your reputation as well.
3. Document, document, document!! As previously stated, not everyone will be happy with a resolution proposed. There may be instances that arise that you may not have an immediate solution for an issue that pops up. This is where documentation is critical. Just as when performing an analysis from beginning to end, documentation is the backbone to cover yourself. This is no exception.
4. If a mistake is made, own it! Naturally, no one likes to admit they made a mistake. We are human, mistakes happen. However, trying to pawn the blame off on someone else, including the client, will do nothing but produce friction. It is best to be upfront and honest about the mistake, address it and work on a solution to fix it. Of course, the opposite can also apply in this situation. If a mistake is made and it was not any fault of yours, do not take the blame on yourself. This causes a divide in the business relationship.
5. One big thing…If the client is so difficult that there is no solution that pleases them, know when to walk away. Do not be afraid to let them know that their behavior will not be tolerated. Digital Forensic Examiners have a specialty that other seek out. No one should be disrespected in the workplace.
NOTE: In the world of digital forensic cases, examiners are accustomed to the technology and forensic programs we work with daily, so often we tend to speak in terms that we understand without realizing that our clients are not as versed in such, making this confusing for them and leading to further frustration. We must always remember to take this into consideration at the beginning of any professional relationship to lessen the possibility of frustration for all parties.
Wrapping It Up
In today’s business world, having a difficult client is almost a certainty. How a business professional handles a difficult client makes all the difference. At the same time, every individual deserves a modicum of respect. You cannot be afraid to walk away from a situation if you are put in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Your reputation and business could be on the line as a result of how a situation is handled with a difficult client. As with any relationship, whether it be personal or professional, constant open communication and boundaries are key to the successful relationship between the service provider and the Client and/or attorney handling their matter.
Digital Forensic Examiner
Professional Digital Forensic Consulting, LLC
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Based in Richmond, Virginia
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Computer Forensics -- Mobile Forensics -- Specialized Investigation
About the Author:
Tami Smith is a Digital Forensic Examiner and Consultant of Pro Digital Forensic Consulting, based in Richmond, Virginia (USA). An Army Veteran, she is a Suma Cum Laude graduate of Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations, she has had the opportunity to practice in the field, examining civil and criminal cases with the discipline of her military experience. Tami holds vendor-neutral and specific certifications in the field of digital forensics and high-tech investigation and is also a Private Investigator in the state of Virginia. She continues to hone her digital forensic knowledge, education, and experience in the private sector.
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Tami Smith on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tami-smith-1b28ab29/