Disputes. You can try your best to avoid conflict in your life but at some stage you will find yourself at odds with someone or something in your personal or business life. It can take the form of a dispute with a neighbour, a bad meal, purchased item or a problem with an outstanding invoice. Sometimes the dispute can head into the ethereal realm and emerge from a disagreement over an intangible asset or intellectual property matter. If you are running a business you then have all the extra areas from where a conflict may emerge, such as employment matters, contracts, clients and suppliers.
Conflicts in business are not always avoidable but often they are. The root causes of many business disputes are from a failure of communication and process. Maintaining the client/business as well as the business/supplier interface is vital. Your organisation should prioritise the development and monitoring of good commercial relationship management practices. If you get a dispute you need to deal with it swiftly. Ignoring it will surely make it worse. Have procedures for resolving disputes in writing and, if not yourself, ensure someone has the responsibility of actioning those procedures if needed and keeping them up to date in terms of legislative changes and when experience suggests an improvement could be made. Also ensure that your staff are trained on how to manage complaints, and that they feel free to bring the matter to the attention of a senior member of staff.
If a client or supplier makes a complaint, make sure you fully understand the scope of the issue before you respond. There is nothing more likely to rile an already annoyed client than having their complaint either underestimated in its importance or misunderstood. You need to determine the cause of their unhappiness and, once the issues have been identified, try to reach an agreement to resolve the dispute.
rhw’s Dispute Resolution Team, in the shape of Darryn Harris and Daniel Crate, are on stand-by to help when a dispute has clearly moved beyond the ability of the parties themselves to reach a settlement. Learn more about dispute resolution.