This customer service dispute involved a telco (telephone company) and one of its’ customers.
The customer had committed to a long-term data package, offered by the telco. The customer now felt the goods and services were not as advertised. Significant data charges had accumulated over time. The customer was refusing to pay. As per the contract, the telco expected full payment.
The mediation session
I invited the Telco party, attending in-person, into the mediation room. The telco was represented by a customer service manager.
By prior agreement, the customer, and their lawyer, each in a different city, would participate by teleconference. The remote parties were contacted, and patched into the conversation, via teleconference.
I went over the mediation process with everyone; including confidentiality terms, our respective roles, and the “good faith” nature of mediation. The telco manager confirmed he had authority to make a final decision, on behalf of the telco, regarding this dispute. All parties then committed their intentions by signing an Agreement-to-Mediate. I signed on behalf of the remote parties, noting their attendance via teleconference.
I asked the parties to chronologically piece together what happened. Contract and payment details were shared. The customer provided a journal of their communication with the telco, since the purchase.
Areas of agreement and disagreement were identified. The areas of disagreement included: what had/hadn’t been verbally communicated between the customer and various telco service agents, and contract wording and explanation. A further factor was that the customer’s ability to pay, as they currently were a full-time student.
At one point, I held private meetings, with each party, to assess how they felt about things, and shore up some possible resolution options.
Returning to a joint session, the parties agreed on a hybrid solution. The customer would pay part of the outstanding bill. The telco would write-off part of the bill, and waive further customer obligations, related to the original contract. If for any reason, a party didn’t live up to its commitment, the parties agreed on how the other party would be compensated, and what actions they could pursue.
The settlement agreement was documented and signed. I signed on behalf of the remote party, who subsequently received a copy of the agreement by mail.
The mediation involved 3 hours of my time.
This type of business/customer dispute is common in that there was no official transcript of verbal conversations, what was said, between the parties. Often a dispute revolves around a breakdown in communications. A key contributor to resolution was the parties spending time together in respectful conversation (i.e., the mediation session), hearing each other out, and building up sufficient trust, of the other, to cut a deal.