When you’re in a relationship, be it business, personal or social, the one constant element is conflict.
Even if you have a perfect relationship and the parties involved are happy 99 percent of the time, there will always be that 1 percent when they are not. It’s during that 1 percent of the time that relationships are strengthened and prolonged.
This is especially true in the company-customer relationship. No matter how well you get along with a customer, there is potential for disagreement… or at least a difference in viewpoints. This is inevitable and unavoidable. The key to strengthening and prolonging this relationship is in the methods you use to resolve the conflict.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, Americans have determined that the only way to settle any kind of dispute is to get a lawyer and sue anyone who appears to disagree with them. Although this can inspire a lot of lawyer television shows, it does not do a whole lot for the corporate landscape or its approach to customer satisfaction.
The problem with the sue-happy mentality is that even when you win, you lose. This is especially true when you feel like you have to sue a client. Suing a client can only produce three results:
- You settle out of court, both sides give a little and neither is particularly happy with the other.
- You win your suit and the client is definitely not happy with you.
- You lose and you’re not happy and the customer still doesn’t like your company.
All the malcontent brought on by legal action produces an environment in which the client is running around saying bad things about you, which affects the development of your company. So as stated before, even if you win, you’re a loser.
Mediation: A Better Way
All of us know that when we have problems, most disagreements can be solved via better communication. Mediation is the catalyst to conflict resolution. It provides an opportunity for both sides to voice their position from their own viewpoint, allowing a third party to help resolve the issues.
This has been a growing trend in the conflict resolution environment and a better way to solve issues than trigger-happy litigation. The greatest thing about mediation is that it opens up the communication lines. It provides the magic lubricant that soothes the friction. Most conflicts can be solved rather quickly once the two sides agree to just talk about it.
Once that magic word “communication” comes into play, here’s what should pop into the forebrain: The Internet is one of the greatest communication tools man has ever created. With this in mind, the Internet can also become one of the greatest conflict-resolvers we’ve ever known.
One company that bought into this concept is iLevel. iLevel is an alternative dispute resolution organization that utilizes the web and email to help parties resolve their issues. It provides a forum where the Internet court of public opinion can help determine who may be at fault and what the resolution might be.
More than anything else, it acts as a catalyst for the lines of communication to open up, and it uses the power of the Internet to make it all happen.
Conflicts are part of doing business. And these conflicts are also one of the big reasons why customers go away mad and spread the word about how worthless your company is.
With all of the communication potential of the web, there may be no more valuable utilization of it than increasing customer satisfaction levels, providing the ability to open up communication channels between you and your customers, and helping you resolve differences quickly.