PI Magazine Article: Communication is Key for Healthy Process Server-Client Relationships
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Strained relationships between process servers and their clients often begin with simple cases of miscommunication. Other times the process server has made a small error that can be fixed with minimal hassle, but for different reasons a minor situation can evolve into a much larger problem. For process servers, dealing with disgruntled clients takes up time that could be spent serving other clients, which directly impacts earnings. And clients will likely take future assignments elsewhere if they’ve had to deal with a problem that had a drawn-out resolution or no resolution at all.
The obvious solution is to ward off these situations before they evolve into something substantial, which is what this article will address. The following scenarios examine some common problems that lead to client dissatisfaction and offer tips for process servers to solve them. Though some scenarios might seem like no-brainers, it’s surprising how often problems like these can arise. This article is only intended to remind process servers of simple practices that can strengthen client relationships and avoid hassles.
Problem #1 – Client is in the dark about the status of their papers
This may be the most frequently occurring source of misery from clients. Clients who have assigned their documents to a process server are sometimes left to wonder if the server has dropped off the face of the earth because they can’t get in touch with the him or her. Sadly, this even occurs sometimes when process servers forward work to other process servers. The end result is a serious blemish on the hard-to-locate process server’s professional reputation and a high likelihood that the client won’t be a repeat customer.
This problem is easily solved with clear and consistent communication. Because clients are prone to panic if they don’t know the status of their assignment, they should always be given a projected timeline and regular status updates. Whether it’s a large law firm or an individual having divorce papers served, they should be able to get information about their status at all times.
Problem #2 – Client has paid but hasn’t received service
This problem is along the same lines as the first one, and the only thing worse than not knowing the status of the serve is having already paid for it and still being in the dark. People who have already paid for the service can spend weeks waiting in vain for an update, which is not good for a process server’s reputation. The solution to this problem is the same as in problem number one.
Problem #3 – Process server hasn’t kept adequate records
The record-keeping practices of some process servers leave much to be desired, and the inability to quickly access information can be a headache for both server and client. For example, when a client contacts a process server to explain that they never received the affidavit, hearing “I don’t know when that was” or “I don’t have records on that” can be extremely disconcerting.
The organized process server should be able to quickly pull up all details about a serve including times, dates, locations, notes and more. Many people have turned to process server software such as ServeManager to store their records digitally, while others are satisfied with folders and filing cabinets. Whatever the method, just make sure that you’re confident you’ll be able to access information with no problem.
Problem #4 – Service of process wasn’t legal in the specified location
Another problem occurs when papers are forwarded from one state to another, and the papers aren’t served according to the rules of the originating state. The process server’s first attempt might be at the recipient’s business, while the originating state’s laws dictated that the first attempt should be made at the person’s home. The process server then must repeat the service in order to make it legal. This happens frequently enough that it underscores the importance of having a firm understanding of the Rules of Civil Procedure both in the originating state and the destination state. If you’re forwarding the papers to another process server, be sure that they’re aware of the rules in your state that could affect service of process.
Problem #5 – Process server didn’t have the correct address
Neglecting to get as many details as possible and ask follow-up questions when taking an assignment can lead to delays further down the road. The easiest way to negate this problem is to get as much information as possible and clarify anything that might lead to more questions later. When getting information about addresses, for example, determining whether it’s an apartment building and if so what the number is, or if it’s a business or home can prevent a future headache.
Problem #6 – Client never received an affidavit of service
In some circumstances, clients occasionally don’t wind up with the affidavit in their hands. It may be due to a small error or a technological glitch or any number of other reasons, but some process servers are resistant to sending another affidavit because they feel the assignment has already been completed. Clients then end up calling the process server repeatedly in an effort to get another copy of the affidavit.
It might be a bit of a hassle to get another affidavit notarized and sent to the client (if the state’s laws call for that), but it should be done regardless. Taking care of the matter as soon as it pops up will save a lot of grief and prevent dealing with repeated phone calls from clients.
Although the problems mentioned above may seem easily preventable, different situations can arise and they can happen more often than you think. Consider this a friendly reminder that taking measures to prevent problems and taking immediate steps to repair problems will help you create better relationships with your clients.
As Director of Marketing and Multimedia, Kimberly sets strategy for outreach, distribution, social media, and network growth, and manages multimedia production for the network. She has a Bachelor of Science with a background in design, marketing, production, editorial, and operations and strategy. Kimberly consults with the production, operations, and tech teams on a variety of projects and initiatives. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter at @kimberlyfaber.