Problems are common between businesses, their customers, suppliers, and employees. They can turn into a dispute if not dealt with clearly and intelligibly.
When making a complaint, there are steps to resolve disputes.
Is there something wrong or unfair with another party?
It’s important to determine the problem and how it affects your relationship with the said party. This helps in making informed decisions on how to resolve the dispute.
Consider making a list. Start with how the dispute arose and highlight the key points.
- Written contract — Read your contract carefully. Contracts contain the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of each party. There could be a dispute resolution clause included in the contract that has to be followed.
- Oral agreement or part-oral/part-written agreement — If there is proof of what was agreed, this type of agreement is just as valid as a written contract. A proof can be a supporting paperwork forming part of the contract (emails, specifications, a quote, timeframes, etc.).
In order of priority, write down the issues that need to be resolved. Also, think about what the other party would identify as their key issues.
What are your priorities? — Getting paid? Finishing the job? Moving on?
Is there a primary issue that will clear up other concerns, if resolved?
Think of the expectations and what you’ll achieve after the resolution. Take into consideration it’s impact on cash flow, productivity, time & resources, future business, and personal relationships.
Misunderstandings are the common cause of disputes. Consider the circumstances that may have led to these issues. Try to clarify these with the other party through a conversation, which can quickly lead to a resolution.
Now that you understand your dispute, it’s time to have a conversation with the other party. With a minor issue, a phone conversation may be enough, but with complex disputes, a face-to-face meeting might be more effective.
Stay calm, be professional, and prepare to compromise & negotiate.
Keep a record by writing down your discussions, outcomes, and agreements.
If the talk is unsuccessful, put your concerns in writing. It’ll give the other party a chance to fix the situation before further action is taken.
These notes may also be part of your evidence if the dispute is not resolved and needs escalation.
Tips for writing a letter of concern:
- Use your business letterhead to make the letter look more professional.
- Address your letter to the supervisor, or department you have trouble with, or to the head of the business.
- Keep the content precise and brief as possible. Include relevant background information, give options to resolve the dispute, and provide your contact details. Avoid playing the blame game.
- Do not use aggressive, abusive, or overly emotional language.
- Attach copies of relevant paperwork to the letter — your contract, an invoice, an email, specifications, a quote, etc.
- Make a copy of the letter and keep it.
A letter of demand can be your next option after the 1st and 2nd reminder letters are unsuccessful.
You can also talk to someone outside the dispute (trusted adviser) to see if they agree with you.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a wide range of means for disagreeing parties to come to an agreement short of litigation. It’s faster and cheaper than court, and provides more control over the outcome. Facilitation, mediation, and conciliation are some of the common types of ADR.
Check if you’re entitled to take your complaint to the small claims tribunals in your territory or state.
Take private legal action for disputes that involve large sums of money. Get legal advice on what your options are, based on your circumstance.
This should be your last resort, as taking the matter to court can be expensive. There’s also no guarantee that you will be successful.
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