It’s a fact, we are living in litigious times. I’m sure you’ve heard wise remarks cracked about how if you live in California and your dog “does his business” on your neighbour’s lawn you stand a good chance of being sued; well let me warn you we are in hot pursuit; rapidly scaling the same heights of absurdity! In fact it’s recently been reported in a major newspaper that NSW is second only to California in litigation stakes. So rather than winding up with a neck injury from constantly looking over your shoulder or jumping at shadows, be pragmatic and take some simple steps that can at least go a long way to avoiding not just litigation, but any kind of confrontation with a disgruntled client!
#1. Leave naivety to children; let them live in their dream world but it’s no place for the business person! It CAN happen to you! While the person who never takes a risk is least likely to succeed, those who take STUPID risks are being just that! Almost daily we’re smacked in the face with anti cancer advertising; the stomach turning images of a post mortem coronary artery with smoking induced plaque being pressed out of one end, but STILL people everywhere continue to light up! People continue to drive without a seatbelt, knowing a body that’s just gone through a windscreen is not a pretty sight and somebody always has the heartbreaking task of identifying it. Take the same slant on your advertising; get informed, take responsibility and take yourself OUT OF RANGE of anybody who might be inclined to come gunning for you!
#2. Tell the Truth! This applies to your customers, your partners and business associates. While you might get away with an indiscretion here and there, one lie can bring you undone faster than you could imagine and do more harm than you care to contemplate! And it might sound “off the wall” in your familiar little world, but all you have to do is watch the evening news to see that not every “wronged” person who seeks retribution does it via litigation! There are worse ways, know what I mean?
#3. Acknowledge EVERY Order You Receive! Have a letter, called your “Acknowledgment Letter” or “Stick letter”, immediately sent to EVERYBODY who orders something from your company. Not only does this reassure someone who has just parted with a significant slice of their hard earned money to pay for your product, it has the potential to keep YOU out of trouble. Bother to contact them. If the boot was on the other foot, you’d certainly want to know what happened to your $$ wouldn’t you?
#4. Get Your Orders OUT THE DOOR! I still wrestle with this one in my office! I know only too well that when a chain of command or series of steps precludes fulfillment, hold-ups can occur at any point. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re waiting on a master document before you can fill the order, or your own supplier is keeping YOU waiting, MAKE CONTACT and let your client know. It’s great to have stock constantly topped up, but if it can’t be avoided, SPEAK to your client. Most people understand, if you treat them with courtesy. Don’t make customers wait for delivery if you can help it and talk to them if you can’t!
#5. Issue Refunds! Do it as close to the same day you receive the returned product as you can and SMILE when you do it. And never lose sight of this; if you win, you lose! As the business owner/proprietor, you might feel justified, you might even be right, but you don’t keep customers, earn referrals or a positive reputation by “making your customers wrong”. And there are plenty of disturbing stories about the repercussions for people who’ve refused to honour refunds in U.S. and it isn’t inconceivable that we’ll follow their lead. Apart from your own honour/reputation being at stake if you don’t comply, once within the radar of a regulating ‘body’, you’ll know about it!
#6. Answer all your White Mail! I know it ain’t easy! This is all written correspondence, other than orders, which asks for more information, government department inquiries, refunds etc. Answer before you CAN’T answer, that is your ability to do so is forcibly taken from you. You also blow your credibility by ignoring it. Delegate.
#7. Resist the urge to rub your wealth in other people’s noses! Oh, you’re a natural borne show-off. Trouble is there are people who are “natural borne losers” and the only way they get to feel better is by blaming you for their frustration. If they set their sights on you, look out!
#8. Stay Healthy! Good health emanates strength, which deters two legged “sharks”! It facilitates clear thinking!
#9. Never lose your sense of humour! When you’re really feeling down on your luck, go and visit the Oncology ward of a children’s hospital or spare a thought for the man who lost three members of his family to a tragic accident. It gets tough sometimes, but laughter is still the best medicine!