When lying to your customers is a good thing

by on June 9, 2010

Diplomacy in small business customer relations

How white lies can save your customer service

Any marketing or public relations professional worth their weight abides by one cardinal rule – don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate either. Not only is stretching the truth unethical, it will eventually catch up to you, and any gains you may have made will quickly disappear.

Now I am not talking about making false claims about your product, or misleading people into believing things that are simply untrue about your small business. I am talking about little “white lies” that can go a long way to maintaining your reputation and your customer satisfaction.

A couple of examples and how white lies can save the day…

  • A classmate of mine at BCIT was doing some research on our direct marketing project, and called a company to get some information. The response from the consumer relations department? A very rude “Why should I help you?” and a quick hangup. The whole class found out about the experience, and too bad for the company in question that we were all in their target market. Imagine if instead the woman at the other end of the line had instead responded with “I’m terribly sorry, but our company policy does not allow us to share our marketing tactics with the general public. We do really appreciate you calling though.” So the company policy does not exist… but the customer is none the wiser and still has neutral or positive feelings towards the company.
  • I’ve worked in customer relations before, and as a marketer on a mission, I knew just how crucial each and every call/email was. Prompt and thorough responses are greatly appreciated. I don’t know how many times customers sang the company’s praises just because an email was replied to in a timely fashion. There are lots of companies out there who do not agree with me, and are perfectly fine with allowing calls or emails to be dealt with weeks later (or in some cases never!). But realistically speaking, I was not always able to respond as quickly as I would have liked. So what did I do? I white lied… I have been out of the office, the person with the answer to your question is on holidays, your email address bounced back. My reasoning? The customer still feels important and that the company cares about them.

Empower your front line staff with diplomatic white lie skills. Brainstorm potential white lies that can save certain situations. Ensure proper customer service training. And make sure that the staff that deal directly with your customers know just how important they are to your small business. And treat them accordingly.

(Now, I am only advocating using white lies now and again, in certain situations. If you constantly have to use white lies, there is a problem and business processes need to be re-evaluated and improved. Use your internal expertise to address the problem, or hire a marketing consultant to help identify your shortcomings when it comes to dealing with customers and activate solutions to streamline your procedures).

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