When it comes to working with clients, the last answer they want to hear are the three words of doom: "I don't know", a phrase so adverse to client relations that mentioning them often is equated to losing their trust and reliance.
As someone who deals with over 100 clients at any given time, I am here to tell you that not running into a situation where you don't completely know an answer is not only unrealistic but also not a reliable way to approach these situations. I say situations because yes, there will more than one time where an answer for clients is simply unknown to you and you simply have no answer to give them. When this happens, remember these few tips to make things smoother for you and your clients.
It's ok to not know, just don't say it
Whether something that was on someone else's schedule isn't confirmed or the answer someone is seeking doesn't appear to be within your field of knowledge, there will be times you do not have an answer and honestly, this is completely acceptable. You're not going to know everything, however, communicating this message to clients needs to be done in a tactful, more thoughtful way. Telling them "I don't know" doesn't accurately reflect your situation, but rather shows them that you are unprepared, not motivated to find the answer or just indifferent to their issues in general. All of these are not good signals to give off.
By simply changing the wording to "Let me find an answer for you", you have both momentarily acknowledged that you do not have an answer for them, but you are taking both the time and energy to find a solution for them. To your client, you didn't find the answer now, but you still helped them, you let them know that their problem was important and is now partially your responsibility to help find a solution.
When to pass the torch
Chances are there is someone you work with that has much more intricate knowledge on a subject than you do. When a client has a specific question where a more detailed answer is needed, it's always best to pass it off to more knowledgeable person. By communicating with your client that "You are going to take your questions to one of our experts", you let them know you are trying to find an answer that can completely satisfy them from someone who knows the most about their area of concern. This allows you to help them out and make it seem like they are being assisted without making it seem like you are haphazardly passing it on to someone else. When bringing in another expert to help, make sure to give a short, brief synopsis on what the client's situation is to give someone enough context to help them.
Admittedly, we have all been in this situation before. A situation where we want an update, where we are annoyed with the progress of a situation or simply aren't getting the answers we want. It's annoying, its slows down our day and gives us a bad taste in our mouths. Because of this, it should serve as an incentive to help clients solve their issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the end of the day, they just want answers regarding their business and just want to be kept up to date. Give them the answer, service and attention they need to solve their problem, even it doesn't come with immediate results or at the cost of a slightly disgruntled person.
Not knowing the answers to every situation is natural, you're human after all, but knowing how to best react to those situations is what separates good customer service from bad service. Be polite, be understanding and be willing to search for answers. They are your clients, they deserve it.
If you want to talk about more customer service techniques, or if you have any techniques you'd like to share, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at .