Thu, Jan

Know the dispute drill

Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, explains dispute resolution tactics.

Disputes are time consuming and, even when successfully resolved, will very unlikely lead to both parties being happy with the result. Given that the majority of disputes relate to print quality or problems relating to equipment or software, which can be very costly to settle in court, it pays to take another tack. And the fallout can have more than a monetary cost of course. So if a dispute does develop, what can you do to reduce the impact on your business?

For a start, BPIF Business offers a dispute resolution service. Its print and packaging specialists have extensive experience and provide various means of support including short reviews and reports that are quick, unbiased and enable a company to verify its own situation and to understand the risks attached to proceeding or defending a claim.

Also included are single party assessments of the dispute in question, which may include on-site inspection of products or equipment, or random testing. These, along with single joint party expert reports, expert witness reports, facilitation and mediation, can help resolve any dispute you may come up against.

It’s worth bearing the following in mind:

Have a clear pricing structure for your sales staff, and make sure they understand what a job entails. Sales teams setting unrealistic expectations is asking for trouble. Good customer relations require comprehensive management of client expectations.

Develop a thorough customer feedback process. With one-off jobs this is not so much of an issue, but if you are trying to develop a relationship with a client, gaining feedback is essential. Early detection of dissatisfaction will enable you to address the issues and remedy or at least discuss it before patience is lost and the customer turns around and rejects one job when in fact the feeling of poor service has actually been developing over the course of a number of jobs.

By implementing clear processes from the initial sale all the way through production and the final delivery of the product, your company will be able to measure each step. This allows you to record where quality issues arise. If done correctly the company will be able to highlight problem areas and correct them accordingly. Driving continuous improvement in terms of production will not eliminate errors completely, but by developing efficient and repeatable processes, you will tighten production control, reduce waste and improve quality.

Often a company’s debts get to 90 plus days before finance controllers contact the customer to demand payment. If it is a quality issue, the earlier you start to address this debt the better as you will be able to respond to the customers concerns promptly. Alternatively, if it is not a quality issue and the customer is just delaying payment, you are able to act with the confidence that this is not going to result in a possible legal dispute, but it is just down to the customer’s unwillingness to pay. The longer it is left the longer the debt is on your books and having a negative impact on your cashflow.

If the company is facing a situation that is heading to dispute, hold off and get some impartial advice first of all. The cost of the BPIF dispute resolution service is often shared between the two parties and can be held at a neutral location. The report that is generated by this meeting solves more than 85% of cases where a dispute is pending. This service is just as effective with small jobs as larger jobs and can often be done in a very short time span of a couple of days or less.

Another advantage of mediation is that it is a non-legal process which avoids the necessity for litigation but at the same time does not compromise the legal rights of the parties to the dispute should the mediation fail.

Further details and contacts for this service can be found on www.britishprint.com/businessimprovement. Or contact philip.thompson@bpif.org.uk.


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