If there is one thing that pretty much anyone working in business fears, it is a lawsuit. Multiple complaints about a single product or service can be used to create a single class action suit, and these have a nasty reputation for going in favor of the consumer. This is why companies need to do everything they possibly can in order to prevent lawsuits from happening in the first place. After all, prevention is definitely far better than a cure, especially when the chances for curing something are low.
However, recent announcements have given manufacturers a reason to celebrate. One of the biggest problems with lawsuits is that multiple plaintiffs tend to combine their complaints and roll it all into one big suit that would end up costing the defending company a lot of money. The announcements concern a case that was recently concluded in the Supreme Court that set an interesting precedent that a number of lawyers are going to want to look into. However, before you look into these new developments you first need to understand what exactly the requirements are for a class action lawsuit of this magnitude.
The Requirements For Such Lawsuits
The first thing that plaintiffs have to do is prove that a common thread runs through all of the complaints. They need to show that the complaints come together to reveal that something is wrong with the way the company being sued is operating. They also need to prove that this common thread is more important than the particulars of each individual case. These similarities are so crucial that if the legal representation of the plaintiffs fails to prove that they exist, the lawsuit might not be allowed to proceed in the first place.
An example of the common thread rule can be seen in the various lawsuits faced by people that manufacture products that go into the construction of buildings as well as other similarly large structures. The reason that the manufacturers of these products often get sued is because of the fact that all of their products end up in buildings, and if anything goes wrong with the building than the manufacturers of said building’s individual parts face a lot of flak. The products are not seen as individuals but as part of a whole, and if the whole is getting sued than the individual parts are getting sued as well.
This means that people often file lawsuits against buildings. These happen because of health risks, safety risks, general mismanagement of the building as well as a variety of other reasons. The number of these suits that actually go to trial shows how frequently judges ignore the individual differences in each case, allowing lawyers representing such clients to go for higher payouts and causing a lot of loss to companies that end up getting caught up in these suits.
The Recent Supreme Court Ruling
Some time ago, a case was fought between Walmart and an individual named Dukes. This case went in favor of Walmart, and the ruling revealed a lot of opportunities for companies to prevent broad suits from being filed against them. The actual ruling involves a great deal of jargon that would be too complex for laymen to look into, but the fact of the matter is that there are issues affecting each case which are not prevalent among all of the cases overall. This will show that each case should be treated individually rather than lumping them all together.
Part of the process of differentiating between cases is gathering enough evidence that proves that individual factors are more prevalent than the supposed common thread running through all of the cases. This is a difficult task to manage because you first need to find a way to mine all of that data. One thing to keep in mind is that there is actually a lot of communication between consumers and manufacturers regarding the potential defects that people could end up suing over. This happens during customer service and support, the only problem is that the data is not being mined during these instances. If customer support is tweaked a bit to make CSRs collect data regarding these defects that could potentially end up causing lawsuits, then this data could prove to be very useful in the long run.
The main use of this data is that it can be used as evidence to differentiate between the problems of individuals plaintiffs. One of the main reasons these cases go so far ahead is that manufacturers can’t prove that the problems aren’t related. Using this technique they will finally be able to do that, and this could help reduce the burden of lawsuits in general if not completely prevent them from happening in the first place.
Communication is Key
A problem means that communicating with your consumers is now not just possible but utterly necessary for the continued success of your company. There are a lot of people that will be contacted in this case as well, including all of the middle men. The more points of contact there are, the more opportunities you will have to mine as much data as possible. This is why you should encourage customers to phone in and talk about their problems as much as possible. This will help you understand how your product is doing in a variety of different situations.
Once you start getting this feedback, the next thing that you are going to have to do is try to discover the various patterns and signs that exist within the data you are collecting. This will help you better understand your own product such as how various factors such as location, climate and type of use affect its functionality. You will also learn about how the process of setting your product up affects its performance overall. Another bit of information you will learn is how your customers are using your product, making it possible for you to claim that said product just isn’t being used the right way.
After a while, the patterns you are noticing will start to indicate that the outcomes may be common, but the circumstances that lead to the outcome are often quite different from one another. Communicating with the people that are responsible for setting up your product in people’s homes can also give you a better understanding of why these problems are occurring. Apart from giving you good evidence that could potentially be used to protect you in the evident of a class action law suit, it can help you improve your products as well.
These are the basic points that have been covered in the article above.
- Manufactures need to start improving their customer support. They need to make sure that CSRs are mining as much data as possible about potential problems that customers might be facing when they phone in or contact your customer support via live chat. Your CSRs also need to inquire about the circumstances that lead to the problem occurring, and try to ascertain if there were any factors that were under the customer’s control.
- Try to look for patterns that affect the functionality of the product that you are manufacturing. Does your product consistently work differently at a certain temperature? Are there other factors that affect how it works such as where it has been installed or how it has been installed?
- Build a good level of understanding with customers that would allow your CSRs to gather even more information about how your products are doing. This can help you ascertain a lot more different ways in which your product behaves in a manner that is out of the ordinary or in some way unexpected.
- Teach your CSRs to look into ways in which a particular instance of malfunctioning or unexpected behavior could result from the particulars of that individual case. If you have enough instances of individual defects occurring because of completely different reasons, you will be able to build a pretty solid case that would end up preventing large scale lawsuits from occurring.
- Hire lawyers to help you create a protocol to follow in terms of data mining. They can help tell you whether patterns that you are discovering can be used to prevent lawsuits from happening. They can also help ensure that the data mining you’re doing doesn’t infringe on anyone’s privacy.