We have discussed the importance of defining the scope of your investigation and gaining the agreement of your client in previous posts and in our training programs. In recent conversations with clients, there is one additional step that may help you fully establish their expectations.
This additional step is the art of establishing expectations. Expectations are the ideas your client has as to outcome of the investigation. Sometimes these expectations may be unrealistic. Clients new to using private investigative services only know the fictional private investigators they see in movies or read about in books. Others have convinced themselves of what your investigation will find. This is prevalent in infidelity cases. As the private investigator it is critical that you work to establish realistic expectations for your client before you begin. These expectations will center around the capabilities you have, and do not have as a private investigator.
You begin establishing expectations with the first contact you have with your client. Following are a few tips, feel free to share your tips:
1. Look for warning signs - In talking with your client be alert for clues that their expectations may exceed a private investigator's abilities. They may reference a movie character, inquire if you have access to criminal records, or how you will gain information. Address these as soon as they are brought up by your client.
2. Prevention is the best method - Have a rehearsed overview speech about your firm and your capabilities. It should be short, but hit the high points of your capabilities. Emphasize that you are a professional private investigator and that you will not violate any criminal laws, or your code of ethics. In his overview speech, one investigator said, "We are professionals bound by the law and our code of ethics." The client then asked, "So you won't break in his office to find his financial records?" Great example of having unrealistic expectations.
3. Be honest - it is important that your client's understand what they can expect from the investigation within the resources they will provide you. Honesty as to the results is the best practice. We highlighted in an earlier blog posting that after talking with a client, the investigator realized their expectations exceeded what could be reasonably expected. The investigator wisely declined the case.
Key to being successful in establishing expectations is to be honest, upfront. And yes, there are times it may cost you a potential client when their expectations are unrealistic. Failing to establish expectations and defining an acceptable investigative scope before you begin can be damaging to your firm's reputation. To protect your reputation, make sure that you define the expectations your client should have of your work before you begin.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.