Watch Your Words: The Cycle of Lies in Customer Service

Cycle of lies in customer service © Alexander Pokusay

Watch Your Words: The Cycle of Lies in Customer Service

Customers complaining about businesses or calling up and abusing customer service agents until they get their way are common stories. Why is that though? The industry has trained customers to be rude with a cycle of lies in customer service and poor handling of issues. Negative behavior begets negative behavior. If you don’t watch your words you train your customers to do the same.

We Value Your Business

Often what a company says doesn’t match what a company does. Just like with politicians, this habit is causing the public to feel distrust. Why is it a big surprise when customers use abusive tactics to get what they want? Companies have trained them to it. It is like an abusive, codependent relationship. One side treats the other badly and the other responds in kind. Repeat. 

Jeanne Bliss, Founder and President of Customer Bliss, brings up a great example: “The number one phrase that makes all of us crazy is this doozy, I’m sure you’ve heard it, “Your call is very important to us, please continue to hold.” Well, why am I on hold if it was that important?” 

All of those ads and automated phone messages that say how valuable the customer is to the business. Really? With the massive hold times, multiple transfers, having to repeat information and low satisfaction, not all customers are buying it.

If you’re going to say your customers are important to you, act like they are. You have customers who recognize when company actions don’t match company words and it smells bad. Yes, this has been going on for years, but times are changing. Customers expectations are changing too. 

Why bother?

Positive customer experience has become a main factor in customer loyalty. Numerous studies support the impact of excellent customer service. Honesty and transparency are part of great service. 

Reports like Stackla’s 2017 Consumer Content Report, show an increase in the number of consumers who value brand authenticity and who will stop supporting a brand that they feel is false. 

This shift is an opportunity for the brands that promote authenticity with actions that back it up. They stand to benefit in longevity and ROI. “Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, explains that “There are four prerequisites of a company’s survival; profitability, growth, risk protection and earning public trust.”’

What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them

This may be true at times. Many companies have successfully engaged tricks, some of them downright deceitful, to speed growth. 

Tactics like these come with a hefty risk, not just of being found out, but of crash and burn. 

Myspace sent an ad to millions of emails when they started, without consent. Facebook did the same thing. One is alive and kicking, the other not. Place your bets.

Fine Print and Legalese

How about those epic terms of service and privacy policy agreements that customers have to click ‘agree’ on in order to use a website or make a purchase. Do you really think your customers have time to read those? Do you? You’re not the only company your customers do business with, so imagine those Lord of the Rings length policies times 20. 

Like Jeanne Bliss observes, being forced to agree to these types of requirements results in a negative impression.  “It leaves us feeling uninformed, uncomfortable, and worst of all, we’re left with a feeling of distrust for the company that required it.”

Free! (just kidding)

The ‘Free’ gift card that comes with a mandatory purchase. The voucher for $5 of ‘free’ advertising, that requires a purchase of $20 of advertising first. The ‘free’, no purchase necessary item that requires the customer to give their email address to be spammed by the retailer daily. The discount coupon with an expiration date hidden in the fine print.

From Christopher Elliot on Forbes: “Raising customer expectations, only to attach non-negotiable terms and conditions, obliterates trust between businesses and consumers. When consumers have a choice, they’ll leave.” 

If you have to trick your customers into doing business with you how deep do you think their loyalty goes? It’s like tricking someone to go on a date with you by putting up a fake profile. When they find out what you’re really like they will run the other way. 

If you sell something they really need, they may resentfully buy it. But be sure they will leave as soon as they find a suitable replacement. They may leave you a scathing review as a parting gift.

In Conclusion

All of this is not to excuse rudeness or abuse from customers. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, abuse is bad for both sides. There are tools and methods to help watch your words and your customer’s words too. Stay tuned to upcoming posts on moving away from the cycle of lies in customer service to a mutually beneficial respect.