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Getting the Right Phone Calls from Foreign National Clients?

Whether you are a non-profit, community based, law practice or enterprise organization, your Foreign National clients are always your first priority.  They are the centerpiece of the immigration puzzle that can be the cause of glory as well as stress!  Between the loads of cases, the phone calls, the government notices, how does one truly turn a Foreign National client from a source of stress into an ally?  Being a proactive immigration service provider can make all the difference in ensuring your Foreign National clients become an asset in building your reputation and brand.

The Most Common Challenge immigration service providers have is their Foreign National clients call so often for many different reasons, which ultimately affects the organization’s ability to provide excellent service.  How can an organization reduce some of those calls? Certainly, it’s never a good thing when an organization’s phone stops ringing.  The non-urgent calls though, can be alleviated with some simple, proactive steps.  The following scenarios and questions can help an organization evaluate their current process for dealing with Foreign National inquiries and determine what steps can be implemented in order to increase efficiency (while leaving the phone lines open for the truly urgent calls):

1. Foreign National Client is confused about the list of documents she needs to provide your office.  She calls to get clarification.

  • As an organization, does your “list of documents” contain explanations of each item?  (E.g., Long-form birth certificate means a birth document that contains the full names of both mother and father and issued by a government agency….)
  • Does the “list” contain pictures or examples?
  • If your organization regularly caters to non-English speaking communities, are translations of those “lists” provided to the Foreign Nationals?
  • Does your organization take the time (either in person or via telephone or email) to go over the “list” before the Foreign National “walks away” with the list?

2. Foreign National calls your office to find out if you have received the documents she’s sent you.

  • Have you setup a client receipt notification system at your organization?  If so, how well is it being followed by your staff?
  • If no system is in place to notify a Foreign National that her documents have been received, are you comfortable devoting time (and money) to answering the client’s phone calls/emails about it?
  • If there are multiple calls of this nature, have you instructed your Foreign Nationals in advance to provide you with every document on the “list” in one package (as oppose to multiple packages)?

3. Foreign National calls your office to ask if her case has been filed.

  • What system does your office have to track the progress of her case?
  • Is there a delay in the Foreign National’s case because of outstanding documents needed?  An outstanding legal fee that must be paid?  An outstanding approval or document needed from another party (manager, law enforcement agency, other government agency, etc.)?  How are staff members notified of the cause(s) for delay to the Foreign National’s case?
  • Does your office proactively let Foreign Nationals know their cases have been filed or do you wait until the Foreign Nationals contact your office?

4) Foreign National calls your office to ask about the status of her filed case.

  • Have you explained in advance the processing steps and timelines related to the Foreign National’s case?
  • If they are Internet savvy, have you empowered your Foreign Nationals to check the status online (e.g., on www.uscis.gov)?
  • After you file the case, how long do you wait before you follow up on the case?  Do you notify the Foreign National that you have followed up on the case before or after the Foreign National calls your office?

5) Foreign National calls your office to ask when she will receive her approval documents.

  • Did you inform the Foreign National in advance of your office’s procedure for sending out approval documents?
  • Did your office provide a tracking number for physically mailed packages?

6) Foreign National calls to inquire about her bill.

  • Did your office allow the Foreign National time to ask questions about the legal agreement and to understand the schedule of fees before entering into the agreement?
  • Does your bill provide an itemized list detailing all charges?

Despite proactive steps, Foreign Nationals may still call about other issues.  How does your organization account for the time spent?  Do you bill for the extra time or do you answer the calls as part of your organization’s comprehensive level of service?  Here’s a common example:7) Foreign National calls your office to ask about other immigration options – based on what she’s read online and what her friends have told her (after your organization has already started working on her case).

  • What steps did you take to ensure the Foreign National truly understood her immigration options before your office settled on a strategy with her?
  • Did you allow the Foreign National to ask questions earlier about how her case differs from “other’s” cases filed in the same visa category/preference?
  • What did you do to instill trust and confidence in your services with the Foreign National?

Most Foreign National calls can be managed by implementing proactive processes that anticipate these calls.  Many private, non-profit and community-based organizations utilize immigration case management software to help them manage their client processes by tracking phone calls, documents, filing receipts and case progress, all at the call of a button.  Whatever system your organization utilizes, ensure it is regularly followed and your Foreign National clients will thank you!