If your business provides consumer-oriented goods or services, your reputation is very important to you. When I use the term “consumer-oriented,” I mean goods or services that are primarily used for personal or household purposes. That is not to say that businesses that do not directly affect consumers are not worried about their reputations. In fact, they are, because reputation means everything.
Suppose one of your customers claims one of your employees stole an item while they were at the customer’s home making repairs. You interviewed all of the employees who were at the customer’s home. None of them saw the item in question. You speak to the homeowner, and discover that your employees were working in a completely different part of the house than where the homeowner keeps the item. You looked in the company vehicles and do not see any evidence of the item. The only thing supporting the customer’s claim is that the customer was not home at the time your employees were there. The customer files a police report. Your team cooperates, and the police do not find sufficient evidence to support any charges. The customer is insistent that your employees took the item, and is threatening to sue. What do you do?
Some Things are Bigger than Principle
While the principle of the situation tells you that you should fight the customer tooth and nail, there are other reasons to consider trying to quickly resolve the matter with the customer. First, as we discussed last month, litigation is costly and time consuming for you and your employees. Second, the advent of social media has drastically changed how customer disputes can influence your company’s reputation. Potential customers typically start their search for vendors and service providers online. Many online services allow customers to read and post reviews. A dissatisfied customer is more likely to post a negative review than a satisfied one. In addition, when a dissatisfied customer ends up in litigation with the company – look out because that customer is likely to make multiple negative posts.
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor
So what does this mean? It means choose your customer battles carefully. Even if you think you or your employees did nothing wrong, sometimes it is worth extending the olive branch to the customer to see if there is a way to reasonably resolve the problem. If the customer accepts the offer to settle, the customer is less likely to post a negative review. In fact, the customer might even post a review that mentions the initial negative experience, but that they appreciate how your company resolved the issue.