Are We Lying to Our Customers?

Why do we buy, what we buy from the companies we buy from? Because of Trust!  I shop at Whole Foods and I stop at Panera’s for lunch and I buy my suits from John at Men’s Wearhouse, because I trust the experiences there. When people buy from us, they are making a decision based on trust. Yet many companies violate that trust in little ways all the time. How? By making a promise and then not delivering on it.

Let me explain. In years past, I worked with an office and they would promise to deliver something by the end of the month. But, because “They got busy,” or “they had a glitch,” the report was not delivered until the middle of the following month.

Now most people will forgive a miss like this on occasion. When it happens consistently, they soon realize that the organization is lying and that they can rely on them to break their promise or commitments.  Now, they did not mean to lie, but they did.

In today’s lean, environment every organization wants to apply just enough resources to get the job done and no more. As a result, when new business comes in (and new business is fragile) it stretches the resources and something can get lost in the shuffle.  While the business looks good (right now), it can be a house of cards. 

I remember another sales organization I worked with. The commission structure was changed, so that we were paid based on profit. Sales people became OK with losing clients because resources would be pulled and profits would go up (short term) on that book of business.  As profits went up, so did their commissions. That company no longer exists in the marketplace except as a poor memory for most people.

So what are we to do? I don’t believe that most people or organizations want to lie to their customers. I think that some get caught up paying attention to other things and they lose sight of what earned them their initial success in business. Despite what the business schools and gurus say, it still boils down to trust. We do business with people we trust and we refer our friends to businesses we trust.

Let me suggest some steps that have worked for me:

1.    Under promise and over deliver – I know this has been around for a while but it still works. Pleasantly surprised customers are easier and more profitable than disgruntled disappointed ones.
2.    Listen – As Steven Covey says, seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. Customers want to know that you care. One way to demonstrate that you do care is to listen in an open way.
3.    Be vulnerable – I remember one really large win for a company I used to work with. The buyer asked if we had the resources in place right now to implement. We were honest and said no. We typically don’t have people sitting on the bench waiting for a client. We were the only finalist to be that open and this relationship turned into millions of dollars.

Ask yourself this question from Keith Ferrazzi, “What if failure to deliver our promises had serious consequences?”

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