Saturday, June 5, 2010


It’s a contentious world out there.  As any newspaper on any day of the year will amply prove, we are an argumentative, disputatious and litigious lot.  To be human is to agitate and complain.  So it’s not exactly a stupendous newsflash that in the edgy world of business we often fall victim to disagreement.  Do we have to like it?  No.  But there’s no point in sticking our heads in the sand, either.

Conflict is a normal, ubiquitous part of commercial life – and, okay, it’s not much fun.  When a supplier and a customer tumble into a dispute, it’s hard to pretty-up the process.  A pig in lipstick remains a pig -- until we change the channel.  Like any human difference of opinion, the only way to get through a nervy business hassle is to go through it.  How a vendor and a client accomplish this “going” will determine much about the eventual outcome.  If there’s a forum for businesslike discussion and a fast-track for good-faith resolution, a dispute will dissolve quickly.  Supplier-customer harmony will be restored and a stronger business bond may even result.  But if there’s undue argy-bargy, and especially if it’s intemperate and “personal”, the likely result will be corpselike.  “Alas, poor Yorick!”… The commercial relationship will be D.O.A.  Forget the thumping CPR.

No matter the outcome of a vendor-client quarrel, a supplier company with its ears and eyes open will learn a great deal from customer complaints and become a better-managed business because of it.  Unhappy customers with legitimate gripes are canaries in the coal mine of every profit-driven business.  They focus urgent supplier attention on a range of operational shortcomings, whether these concern a product damaged on delivery, a service that didn’t do what it was supposed to do or something as innocuous as incorrect tax coding in an invoice batch.  Ferreting out those pesky procedural glitches with a little intestinal fortitude and a willingness to make amends when in the wrong can create valuable opportunities for company improvement, as well as renovated customer confidence.

Having a bad day in the “Customer Beefs” department?  Think again.  Maybe it’s really a “good” day.  Gotta love those brickbats. They may hurt at first, but they’re all lessons-at-school.  Good lessons, good business education.  Good day.

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