Why You Never Lie to Customers

Back in my admin days, there was a woman next to me who lied to customers when she got behind. Worse, she would blame it on me.

It went something like this:

Co-worker (on the phone): I understand you’re still waiting for your paperwork. I’ll have it ready for you tomorrow. Unfortunately, the other admin here went home sick and I had to cover for her.

Me (later): I wasn’t sick. And you didn’t cover for me.

Co-worker: But he doesn’t know that. Just play along and help me out. Please. Oh yeah, and if someone comes by and asks about your leg, you sprained it going down stairs and I had to run you into the hospital last week.

Little Lies

Little white lies told to customers may seem harmless, but they aren’t. They often find a way to come back and bite you and ultimately erode customer service.

And those little lies have a way of growing into bigger lies. Ask a company like AT&T that is facing a $100 million fine for misleading (aka lying) to customers. 

The Damage of Lying

Although most of us aren’t worried about $100 million fines—we’re just trying to get a customer calmed down or take less abuse—it’s still better to just be honest.

Here are just a few reasons why you should be honest with customers:

1. Lying doesn’t let you solve the real problem
2. Lies cause stress
3. Lies will destroy trust
4. Liars make poor role models
5. Lies can do unforeseen damage
6. In some instances it’s illegal
7. It’s embarrassing when you’re caught in one

Next time you’re tempted to tell a little lie to your customer, think twice. As for my co-worker, I’m not sure if the white lies caught up to her, but she didn’t last long at the company.

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.