If you actually follow the mantra that says the customer is always right, then you might as well look up, because gullible is written on the ceiling. Customers aren’t always right. In fact, they’re often wrong. Many even lie about different issues. Do you have a plan in place for handling these customers?
Face It: Customers Lie
In the business world, we’ve been so conditioned to think that customers are like gold. They’re highly valuable and can’t possibly be anything but pure. It’s probably been indoctrinated in your brain over the years that the absolute worst thing you can do is lose a sale or drive a customer away to the competition.
And while these aren’t ideal outcomes, you shouldn’t let your pursuit of sales and customer retention fool you into thinking customers are perfect. They’re imperfect creatures, just like the rest of us, and regularly lie and deceive to get their way.
This isn’t meant to be a hit piece on customers, but it is designed to enlighten you on the fact that customers can be dishonest. You’re doing your business a disservice by regurgitating the tired idea that they’re always right – no matter the circumstances.
Customers tell white lies and blatant lies. They’ll lie about never receiving a product in order to get another and they’ll fib about how much a competitor is charging for the same service. Customers will even lie about how a product has been used in order to qualify for a warranty or return. If you’re in business long enough, you’ll see all of these things.
How to Handle a Lying Customer
The reason most businesses don’t confront lying customers – at least not directly – is because they’re fearful of damaging their image. They’re worried that they’ll get bad publicity or negative word of mouth for refusing to follow the demands of the customer.
While this is a valid concern, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll ultimately end up devaluing your company more if you don’t stand up for yourself. With that being said, here are a few things to think about:
1. Be Wary of Chargeback Claims
If there’s one thing that can be a nightmare for businesses, it’s chargebacks. Sometimes your business is at fault, but most of the time, there’s some other issue. There could be a hacker in play or the customer could be lying to get their money back.
A lot of so-called experts will tell you not to waste your time disputing chargebacks, but this isn’t always sound advice. “The best way to handle a chargeback is to work with the customer,” High Risk Pay explains in this blog post. “Make the attempt to solve the problem by reaching out to the customer first. Find out the source of the problem and figure out whether and how both business and customer can solve the problem.”
2. Know How to Decode an Email
Email has become a breeding ground for deceit. Customers will use email because it’s non-confrontational and allows them to craft a story without having to directly interact with your customer service department in real-time.
You need to become good at spotting lies in customer emails so that you can respond in an appropriate manner. Tyler Cohen Wood, a government intelligence officer and cyber expert, often looks for telltale signs like emphatic and non-committal language, pushing away, avoidance of questions, hopping between tenses, and using an excessive amount of qualifying statements.
3. Be Willing to Fire a Customer
Lying customers don’t like to be called out. Even when they know you’re right and they’re wrong, they’ll get defensive and confrontational. If you’re going to call out a customer for being deceitful, you also have to be willing to fire them – i.e. let them go.
It’s strongly suggested that you avoid directly using the word “lie” or calling the customer a liar. Instead, call the lie out by using terminology like “transparency.” Ask questions and encourage the customer to speak in specifics. If the lying continues, give the customer a chance to come clean before parting ways.
4. Hire the Right People
Your customer service representatives are the most tangible extension of your team. These are the folks that your customers interact with the most (outside of sales, perhaps) and you can’t afford to get lazy with your hiring habits.
Who you hire in customer service often determines how your company is viewed by customers. While it may be tempting to go the cheapest route possible, spend a little more time and money and choose to be selective. It’ll benefit you in the long run.
Tread Lightly, But Take Action
You never want to take an overly aggressive stance when confronting customers. The key is to tread lightly, but stick up for your brand. You may experience some momentary backlash from a frustrated customer, but it’s better to be firm than to be known as a pushover.