I have had many business clients come to me after a former client or employee has sued them. Their question always seems to be, “How could I have avoided this lawsuit”? I have also had many inquiries from individuals who want to know if they can sue a business for incidents that range from defective products to rudeness.
What I have learned in my practice is that poor public relations can often be the catalyst for a bitter lawsuit. The resulting lawsuit costs both sides to the dispute thousands of dollars in legal fees and countless hours of anxiety.
I was recently reminded of the importance of public relations on a family vacation. While waiting to check into a well-known hotel, a heavy brass stanchion fell over and hit my three-year-old daughter in the head. She was crying and her head was bleeding. Needless to say my wife and I were upset and extremely worried that my daughter might have a concussion.
Immediately the hotel’s employees took action. They administered first aid to my daughter, reviewed a list of local physicians with us and arranged for a doctor to come to our hotel room to examine my daughter. Throughout the rest of our stay they continued to call to see how my daughter was feeling. They even sent up a pitcher of chocolate milk and a basket of cookies with well wishes from the staff.
Fortunately, it appears that my daughter is fine and although my wife and I are still upset by the incident, the immediate action taken by the hotel employees to help our daughter made a big difference and allowed us to enjoy the rest of our vacation without too much anxiety.
“The most cost-effective way to avoid a lawsuit is simply to be nice to people.”
Had the hotel not been as courteous and concerned about our daughter’s welfare, our vacation might have been an unhappy memory and the hotel would have lost us as guests and/or be contending with a lawsuit. Instead, the hotel’s good public relations helped alleviate some of the anger and tension we were feeling.
A growing trend is for people to sue when they are offended.
In my years of practice I have noticed a growing trend in people that want to litigate over principle regardless of the amount of money at stake. This perceived increase in litigation might be the result of the technological age we live in. It is easy to understand a customer’s frustration when they have to navigate through a sea of electronic options over the telephone to obtain the simplest, most basic information. Often a customer is not even able to talk with a real person. It is easy to feel isolated and disenchanted. These feeling often become the seeds of a lawsuit motivating the individual to seek legal counsel.
The most cost-effective way to avoid a lawsuit is simply to be nice to people. This may sound like common-sense advice. It is. However, too often we lose sight of common sense when someone acts belligerent or angry when we feel that his or her anger is undeserved. The old adage that the customer is always right is not necessarily true. However, all service-oriented businesses should certainly act like the customer is always right.
If you do so you will defuse the situation and give the customer a reason not to want to sue you. You will then be much more likely not only to keep existing customers but also to gain more customers since word will get around that you are customer oriented.