Is It Ever OK to Lie to a Customer?

in Dec 14, 2018


Now let me explain.

In our industry – as well as life – we continuously talk about transparency. Let’s be brutally honest here. Sometimes honesty isn’t the best policy. Is it always that way in real life? If your wife asks you whether she looks fat, you know you’re always going to say “No.” How about those times you go to a friend’s house for dinner and, well, it’s not exactly great. Do you tell him or her? Of course not. You politely say it is good, make a valiant effort to clean you plate and then pick something up to eat on your way home. We like to call these instances of non truth “white lies” and justify them with the knowledge that, in some cases, it’s better to tell a lie than to upset someone by being honest.

Are there parallels in the business world? Of course there are. I’m certainly not talking about deceiving a customer in a transaction, or lying about something of substance. What I’m talking about are those instances where a lie actually preserves a relationship – similar to the goal of the white lies I previously described. When you’re interacting with people, just because they’re customers doesn’t change the fact that they’re human beings. That customer that comes in and needs a lot of help getting financing because their credit is horrible doesn’t need to be beat up and embarrassed. You never know if there’s a co-signer waiting in the wings. You may know for a fact that they aren’t going to get approved anywhere. But you tell them you’ll try. Perhaps you present their file to some of your sub-prime lenders. But ultimately you call the customer and let them know you can’t help them. Think about this though… Some of the most loyal customers began as special finance customers. When one comes through your doors that you can help and they leave with a car, they will just about kiss you. Not only will they be forever grateful, they’ll send every person they know to you. It’s no different with people with excellent credit. It’s all about treating them with respect and providing an excellent buying experience.

There are times when little white lies can actually improve your customer’s experience. For example, imagine a customer calls a week after trading a vehicle in and says they believe they left something valuable in their vehicle. Perhaps this vehicle has already been detailed and cleaned, or even wholesaled out. The fact is that YOU know there is nothing in the vehicle. You could tell the customer you won’t (or can’t) check for them. In which case they’ll be upset, OR, you could tell them you’ll check and call them if you find anything. Which path do you think will be more conducive to maintaining the customer’s satisfaction?

Our world would probably become chaos if everyone could do nothing but tell the literal truth. Customer loyalty and experience sometimes requires telling the customer what they want to hear simply to let them save face, spare their feelings, or satisfy their needs. Keep in mind that there is a fine line but, for the most part, if you treat people right and use your conscience to make decisions — just as you would if your wife asked you a question that it would be unwise to answer honestly — you’ll find yourself making more friends and keeping more customers.

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