Saturday, March 10, 2007

Don't Lie to Your Customer

Perhaps the headline of this blog offends you. You are thinking, "I'm honest with my customers; I pride myself on being ethical." Unfortunately, too many "ethical" companies, comprised of many ethical people, lie to their customers on a regular basis. Not necessarily big lies, or calculated lies, but rather broken promises. From the broadest advertising campaign promise, to a commitment made by an individual employee, any time a promise made to a customer is broken, they've been lied to.

A case in point: Rochelle needed to rent a car for her trip to Louisiana. She chose Enterprise because of their promise of convenience. As anyone who's heard their TV commercials knows, Enterprise makes this promise: "We'll pick you up!" What could be simpler?

Rochelle and her daughter arrived at their destination and were ready to get their rental car and continue on their way. Well, Enterprise didn't show. They waited and waited. Finally, Rochelle called. A woman answered, "Oh, we are swamped! It will be about 45 minutes for us to pick you up."

Again, Rochelle waited and waited! After another 45 minutes came and went, she called once more. The same woman, a bit more frantic, answered, and said, "I will send someone right now." Finally someone came and took Rochelle and her daughter to the rental office. It turns out that that one woman was the only person there. She was the one taking care of renting vehicles, cleaning cars, answering phones, etc., etc.

Did this woman mean to lie to Rochelle? Most likely not. I am sure she would be shocked to be called a liar after all, she was doing her job to the best of her ability. But she did lie, and in fact, ultimately, all of Enterprise lied to Rochelle. In every Enterprise commercial in which customers are picked up easily and on time the company is making a promise: this what we'll do for you! When Enterprise fails to make sure that each and every rental location can keep this promise they are bound to end up lying to their customers.

The problem with broken promises and lies is that customer will remember and chose another company. Even worse, the customer may then tell their friends and family about the lie too!
Just as Rochelle told me her story, and I am now telling to you, maybe you will tell it to someone else. You can see how one small story can snowball.

Are you lying to your customers? Does your advertisement promise something that you are unwilling or unable to provide? To be successful, you need to keep all your promises, however large and small.

Keeping your word is the first step to winning and keeping your customers. Make sure you do it every time.


Glenn said...

Let me get this straight. The entire company lied because one employee failed in her job?

I don't think so. No matter what company it is, I would never advocate branding the company itself a liar unless I saw proof that this was part of their corporate culture. As a regular, yes loyal, customer of Enterprise, I have never experienced anything like this.(And I have blogged about my positive experiences as well.)

What the employee did was wrong. She should be coached or disciplined depending upon whether this was part of a pattern or an isolated incident.

If Enterprise did make a mistake here, it could have been in hiring the wrong person.

But I know enough about Enterprise to know that if this employee keeps this up, she will not last long. Enterprise is one of the few companies who measure how employees interact with their customers and then holds them accountable for it.

As for being honest with your customers, I agree with your point. I disagree with the way you illustrated it.



Laurie Brown said...

No the entire company didn't lie. However I do believe that consumers FEEL that the action of one employee speaks about the entire company. I do know that Enterprise is known for good customer service. But this particular customer won't use them again.

Eric Durant said...

I think it is an interesting perspective. There are customers who label the entire company based on an experience with a certain person or division of that company. It is very important to clearly define and re-enforce company values and "promises" with each employee so that those situations are minimal. Regular re-enforcement of commitments is extremely important. If you are going to advertise something as a promise to your customer, you are going to have people call you on it. As long as EVERY employee of your company hears the company message to your customers and is held accountable, you'll have a lot less accusations of lying.

Regards Eric

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