RESPOND PROMPTLY TO COMPLAINTS
Business transactions are no longer done a hand shake. The business world is complex, and the more complex transactions become, the more potential exists for litigation to ensue. The cost of litigation is so high that one small lawsuit can virtually bankrupt a business. While business owners are afraid of litigation, they often know very little about how to prevent it.
Based on our decades of experience, we have developed a list of suggestions for avoiding litigation. In past issues, we talked about the proper use of contracts, the importance of employment policies, arbitration and mediation, internal controls, and insurance. This month, responding to complaints.
Nobody likes to deal with a complaining customer. Unfortunately, the way most businesses deal with complaining customers is to ignore them and hope they will go away. Not only do these people not go away, they get more upset–or find more things wrong–the more they are ignored.
The general consensus is that the doctor with a good bedside manner is sued less frequently than one with a bad bedside manner, even if the medical treatment is identical. If you as a business owner ignore complaints or become defensive with your customers, they are more likely to seek the intervention of an attorney to get satisfaction. If the customer believes that you are taking action, they are more likely to accept a product or job that is not perfect, but that you have tried to make that way.
You should have an established policy in your office for dealing with complaints. Depending upon the type of business, a complaint form may be used to detail the problem and it can be circulated to the correct person to handle. Have the designated person attend training classes on dealing with customer complaints.
After investigation, you may find that you are unable to satisfy the customer either because their demands are unreasonable or the cost to repair is too high or some other reason. At a minimum, take this opportunity to suggest alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, so that you are not escalating the problem. Sometimes a third person is needed to simply give perspective to the situation and once this is done, the demands of your customer become more realistic.
Our office can assist you with your business procedures, including complaint handling. Next month, we continue with tips for avoiding litigation.