Relationship Management and Legal Function - A Perspective

In the recent years it has become a norm for all citizens to sue the Companies when they receive a defective product or service or when they suffer from any sort of damage be it incidental or consequential, due to the usage of such product or service. Consumer’s awareness about their rights and availability of legal recourse has helped build the culture of legal suits and cases. Besides the consumers, the legal fraternity has woken up to the fact that they have huge business opportunity on hand by instigating consumers to file law suits and claim compensation against the Companies. You can find every lawyer providing legal advice on consumer’s eligibility to claim compensation under all circumstances.

Classic cases of consumers claiming damage from the Companies is evidenced clearly in the case of Tobacco industries and cigarette manufacturers who have had to shell out millions of dollars in compensation to victims who have suffered from ill health due to cigarette smoking. Hospitals and doctors too have been used to patients suing them at the drop of a hat. Such incidences cannot deter the Companies and businesses from building relationship with their customers. The businesses have learnt to manage the customer expectation as well as relationship.

Companies are therefore riddled with law suits and have had to engage battery of lawyers to fight the cases. The legal costs of Companies have increased dramatically for they have now to maintain legal cell in house as well as seek legal advice from the experts in all cases concerning their business. In B to B cases one gets to see a battery of lawyers accompanying the sales and marketing managers who sit down for negotiations with Customer Companies. In fact the sale or project is not negotiated and finalised until and unless the legal teams are able to agree on the contract formats and legal liabilities.

Over the years Companies have begun to manage customer and supplier relationships by drawing up elaborate agreements. In fact in case of Suppliers the RFQ document that is issued to the prospective supplier contains a draft of the proposed Agreement. Even in case of customer, at the stage of pre selling itself the Companies include Sales Agreements as a part of the offer. These Agreements are built on Win- Win principle with elaborate sections covering the definitions, intent of the agreement as well as the role, responsibility and liabilities of both the parties. The process of dispute resolution along with the timelines and liabilities are laid down in black and white. Such Contact documentation helps bring the Suppliers and Customers closer with increased transparency and clear terms of doing business.

In case of B to C business, Companies set up Customer service cell and ombudsman to help customer redressal of grievances. They internally establish several processes with focus on addressing customer complaints and working with the customer to negotiate and resolve the issues in an attempt to build a relationship and solve transactional issues. The legal staffs are suitably oriented to be customer friendly and customer oriented.

In all cases we get to see that the Customer Relationship Management becomes a part of the Management process that is carried out through all of the functions and departments.


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