Even after spending days on a customer project to make it perfect, there will still be some people who find a reason to complain.
In some instances, a formal complaint could mean a refusal to pay which can cause financial strain, especially for smaller businesses. Understandably, business owners can sometimes take such complaints personally, which can lead to a heated exchange of words or worse.
Gemma Carson, Head of Wright Hassall Solicitor’s dispute resolution team, explains this could do more harm than good: “When people lose their cool after receiving a complaint, they can feel compelled to write a scathing email, which could end up costing the business dearly.
“When emotions are running high, a war of words can quickly escalate into a serious legal dispute that is stressful and costly for both parties.
“Serious problems can arise when threats or rash decisions are made in the heat of the moment, without giving due consideration to existing contractual agreements.
“One of the best ways to avoid such a situation from occurring is to first draft a response and then ‘mantelpiece’ it, to allow yourself time to calm down before deciding to click send.
“By giving yourself time to cool off, you can revisit the email in a relaxed frame of mind and make a clearer judgment on whether it is an appropriate way to respond.
“Also check whether a service agreement and/or a contract exists between the parties. If there are any agreements in place, check them carefully to clarify what they say as there may be relevant contractual terms you can refer to which may help.
“It’s important that you respond to complaints as soon as possible to help resolve issues amicably. By dealing with complaints promptly, you greatly reduce the risk of the situation escalating into a stressful legal battle.
“Meeting face-to-face can often help air issues before they get worse. Either raise the matter directly or before doing so, seek legal advice.
“Where issues cannot be resolved easily, if at all, ensure you retain all supporting documents and correspondence relating to the complaint.
Consider early intervention
“Early intervention can entail more collaborative methods of dispute resolution, offering significant benefits over traditional adjudicated court proceedings, including:
• Speed: A dispute can often be resolved swiftly.
• Costs: A significant reduction in costs of dealing with a dispute.
• Flexibility: More flexibility and commercially focused resolutions for resolving disputes.
• Relationships: Parties more likely to preserve working/commercial relationships.
• Publicity: Allows a confidential resolution process.
• Concurrency: Often these approaches can be used alongside other methods of dispute resolution, if necessary.
When professional help is needed
“Seeking legal advice doesn’t necessarily mean a serious legal dispute has arisen.
“Dispute resolution advice can be very effective when an issue first emerges. Lawyers don’t need to play an active role in proceedings – instead by offering strategic legal guidance, they can help diffuse potential disputes while preserving commercial relationships.
“The most important legal factor to consider is that any rash statement or decision to stop providing services or products, sent by e-mail in haste, can potentially cause a serious breach of contract. If this should happen, the affected party may be entitled to terminate the contract and bring legal proceedings against you for damages.
“So, consider the consequences before sending that inflammatory e-mail – it could be a huge mistake that ends up costing valuable time and money.
“If legal proceedings are threatened and seem the only option, seek experienced lawyers, well-versed in commercial disputes who demonstrate a commitment to an early, pragmatic, commercial and cost-effective resolution.”