Stop Lying to Your Customer


Recently my mum got a new car. The Nissan Qashqai (pronounced Cash Ky or Cash Cow as we refer to it). She loves it. It has all the bells and whistles, lots of get up and go and is really comfy. The sales process was relatively simple and mum feels she got a good deal.

So far so good.

This week it was ready for it’s 10,000km service and that’s where the lying started.

Mum lives up country and is about 45 minutes away from the dealership. So it is no small thing to get the car serviced. It involves a day trip into town and getting everything done. As part of getting ready for the day she asked and confirmed when would the car be ready and was advised 1pm. “Are you sure?” She asked and was advised, “yes certainly.”

Back to pick up the car at 1pm and she was advised that it won’t be ready until 3pm “sorry for any inconvenience”. I just happened to call mum about that time and I can tell you, she was not happy. “They are not even working on the car because I can see it sitting just over there.”

You know what it’s like. It may not be a car service, maybe it is picking up an order or waiting on a meal or something else, maybe even a pre-recorded announcement at an airport that EVERYONE knows is a lie. My personal bugbear is “We apologise for the inconvenience.” It is a token statement, they don’t mean it or they would do something about it.

Back to mum. Here is the outcome. You know how a car service at a dealer usually costs about $400-$600? Yes it’s a bit more but you pay it thinking that it will help with resale value and you hope the dealer knows something about the car. Well that Nissan dealer will not be getting any of that money. Mainly because mum can’t trust them to do what they said they would but also because they show no empathy for how their lie impacted on her. Next time it is off to the local mechanic.  

By the way, a local qualified mechanic is able to perform your services and it will not impact your normal warranty. Dealers try an scare you into thinking it will but that is because they can often make more money off servicing a car than selling it.

So are you lying to your customers?

Little white lies to keep them placated, shift an uncomfortable situation or because you actually don’t know what is happening so you make something up?

If so, stop it!

Customer relationships are built on trust. Lies degrade that trust and ultimately will kill your relationship all together. Tell your customers the truth – even if it is embarrassing, ugly or may seem to be a negative thing. Your customers are human. They accept that sometimes things happen but what are you doing to fix it.

Recently in Melbourne, a bus ran into a bridge and injured some of the passengers. It was from Gold Bus Lines. What makes it so memorable is that someone at head office sent a person down to put gaffer tape over the company branding on the bus. All that did is make us remember the name and not forget it. Your driver made a mistake, it happens so deal with it. Don’t try and deny the mistake – you can’t!

Research from TMI shows that your clients will become more loyal if they have a complaint and you deal with it than if you never had an issue at all. So it is not about getting rid of issues, it is about dealing with them well. (Get a 32 page extract from TMI’s A Complaint is a Gift book here)

So problems happen, how can I address them without lying or avoid them in the first place?

Under promise and over deliver

Better to say the car will be ready at 3pm and aim for 1pm than they other way around. Telling a client you will have a response by Friday and getting it to them two days earlier get’s an excellent response and if something comes up, you have two days up your sleeve

Be Honest

This day an age, the customer probably knows what is going on before you do. Companies CAN NOT keep secrets. Don’t even try. While you don’t have to give the specifics of a situation, you can at least let them know what is going on and when you will have an update. Most people just want crystal clear communication on what is happening.

Stick to Your Commitments

If you make a commitment to a customer, keep it. If you are going to miss it, let them know as soon as possible and manage their expectations. People don’t mind if changes happen as long as you do what you can to keep them informed and help minimise the impact on them. Yes it takes a little extra effort and time but it creates loyal customers who will happily refer you.

Have Respect

Just because you as an individual think that the situation is only minor doesn’t mean it is for the customer. Maybe they are over reacting, but maybe they are not. Maybe there are bigger issues here. A little respect for the customer and some smart questioning will help you better service them and their needs. Never forget that while the customer is not always right, they are always the customer and should be treated accordingly.

So next time you decide that lying to the customer might be a good idea, think of my mum.

Think of the thousands of dollars in lost future business, think of the huge network of people she will tell it to, think of her relatives who may post about it on social media but most importantly, think of how easy it would be to tell the truth (even if it is a little uncomfortable) and how that will be far better for your business.