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

The industry has trained customers to be rude with a cycle of lies in customer service and poor handling of issues. Abusive behavior begets abusive 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. Why is it a big surprise when customers use abusive tactics to get what they want? It’s not, companies have trained them to. It’s 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?

Consumers continue to show that trust, authenticity and values that match their own are factors that influence what brands they buy from:  “According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 88% of consumers surveyed said “trust” is critical when deciding which brands to buy or use.”

Also in 2021, A study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) together found that customers who choose brands in line with their values now make up the largest consumer group across all products at 44%.

Even as inflation rose in the US in 2022 and cost became a main buying factor, values-based metrics remain important. The McKinsey Consumer Pulse survey, with data from February 25 – March 1, 2022, showed authenticity still impacts the purchase decisions of consumers of all generations at different percentages. Over two thirds of Millennial and GenZ respondents indicated at least one element of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are of high importance in their buying decisions.

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.  Others craft their customer service to actually avoid solving customer problems

Tactics like these come with a hefty risk, not just of being found out, but of crash and burn.  Customers have learned to use the power of the internet. They research brands, share their brand stories and come together over them. Large groups of consumers acting en masse through social media, review forums , blogs or video can uplift or damage a brand. Some recover. Some don’t. 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 (with mandatory purchase), voucher for $5 of ‘free’ advertising (with purchase of $20 of advertising), and the ‘free’, no purchase necessary item (that requires an email address) are not really free.

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 a consumer really needs, 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. It’s time to move away from the cycle of lies in customer service to a mutually beneficial respect.