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Why Lying to Customers and Prospects is a Losing Game Commentary

Commentary By Jasmine Jaume on June 5th 2014

One of the things I really value about working at Brandwatch is that we pride ourselves on being open and honest, both as people and as a company.

That means we share information throughout the business, are upfront about our pricing and answer our customers truthfully on our social channels.

And it certainly means that we are truthful about our products’ capabilities. Why? Because we’re confident that our product is brilliant.

If someone chooses another product, then clearly ours wasn’t quite what they needed, and that’s fine.

We don’t need to lie about our products in order to sell them.

And we certainly don’t need to lie about our competitors either.

We’re increasingly hearing about others in our industry not always sticking to the truth or deliberately spreading misinformation to prospects and competitors’ clients, about both their own products and others. Luckily, our customers are generally a loyal bunch and usually tell us when this happens.

 

love bw

We can understand the desire to do this; when competing in any tough market, we all look for ways to beat the competition.

But whilst these kind of tactics might work in the short term, here’s why lying is a losing game in the long run:

Most customers are investing a significant amount of time and money when choosing a social media monitoring platform. Most of them will do their own research and will look at a number of different platforms (which we wholeheartedly encourage).

Ideally, they will also demo their shortlisted platforms to see what they can do.

And when they find out that your claims about product xyz not doing this that or the other aren’t true, they’ll know that you were lying. And who is going to buy from a company they know is lying to them? I know I wouldn’t.

And even if you do manage to lure them in, they’ll soon realise that you were less-than-truthful about your product’s capabilities. Then you can be sure that they won’t be renewing their contract, nor are they likely to be singing your praises to their peers.

 

lies cat

Honesty = happy clients

 

There are huge benefits to being honest from the start.

If it becomes clear that Brandwatch isn’t quite what a prospect is looking for or doesn’t match their needs, we much prefer to point them in the direction of platforms that are better suited rather than trying to force a match that ultimately leads to a disgruntled customer.

The result, for us, is incredibly high satisfaction rates and incredibly low churn. Our annual customer survey showed that we scored 8/10 for ‘likeliness to recommend’, and various reports from Forrester to G2 Crowd have scored us highly for customer satisfaction. Just check out all those happy reviews!

Ask yourself: what is the purpose of lying? What impact does it actually have? If nothing else, lying screams of fear, and suggests that you don’t believe in your own product.

A bit of healthy competition is fine; we like a challenge, and competition is what keeps the industry innovating and thriving. And of course, bigging up your product is encouraged. But there is a fine line between marketing your features, and lying about them. Lying about other products is one step even further.

We’d encourage every business to have integrity, for all of our own, and our customers’ sakes. Let’s focus on the customer and what’s best for them, and work on making our products and services the best they can be.

That’s how you get the customer love.

 


  • An0nym0usC0ward

    What you’re saying may be true for small companies. Picture this:

    A decision maker listens to lies and makes a sub-optimal contract for a service. The service is implemented, and the decision maker gets credit for closing a contract. Soon users of that service start questioning the decision, since they find out about competing offers which are a better fit for their needs.

    What happens next depends on the size of the company.

    In a small company, the issue escalates, the boss of the decision maker reviews the decision, and, if needed, cancels the contract and brings in another supplier. The decision maker may go unharmed, as long as it wasn’t neglect or ruthlessness that got him to make a bad choice, but the boss’es confidence in his decision making abilities are shaken.

    In a large company, there are usually no mechanisms to escalate such issues, unless some internal audit or control department decides to escalate it. This is already an unlikely decision, since politics inside large companies dissuade people from starting conflicts even when there’s good reason for it. In case it happens, due to the same politics, the initial decision maker will bend over backwards to defend his decision, since reverting it is usually associated with a significant and obvious decrease of status.

    So you see, lying does make sense, from a certain point of view, in large corporations. It’s nothing more than an adaptation to the kind of communication going on in such organizations anyway.

  • Jasmine Jaume

    Hi,

    Thanks for your comment. Whilst, yes, lying can get you to this point and in some companies the decision won’t be overturned, this does not mean it is advisable, or right.

    And, in fact, our experience is that even in larger companies, reviews and audits of software and contracts happen at regular intervals (plus obviously at the end of contract agreements) and it is at this point that a sub-standard or ill-suited solution will be replaced.

    We don’t believe in dishonesty, and our commitment to being open and honest is one of the things our customers say they like about us. So, of course, we’d never recommend lying, even if others do so!

    Thanks for reading,

    Jasmine

  • Great blog post.

    An0nym0usC0ward, if that is your real name :P If you really believed what you are saying then you wouldn’t be using a pseudonym.

    From my experience, lying or deceitful marketing (i.e the use of the term “unlimited” gets thrown around a lot and vary rarely means truly unlimited), eventually comes back to bite. I would rather know up front what I’m getting.

    When people are lied to, they are much more inclined to write bad reviews as well (I have no data to back this up, although perhaps Brandwatch does?). As they say “Trust: Hard to win, easy to lose, even harder to win back”.

    The result of lying could be something as small as losing a customer, or as big as jail time, or worse. So you’re left worrying in the back of your mind that the truth could come out. Enron is a great example of lying within a large organisation. That didn’t pan out too well…

    Lying may lead to short-term benefits, but it’ll usually lead to long-term pain. Why lie when you can be upfront and honest?

  • Jasmine Jaume

    Thanks for your reply Scott, couldn’t agree more!

  • An0nym0usC0ward

    I don’t mean to say I find such marketing practices sound, healthy, morally acceptable or even sustainable. I’m just saying there are environments where they are up to a certain extent the norm, and the reason isn’t that people are mean or coward or in any other way bad, it’s just that large companies create an environment in which such tactics are to a certain extent viable, and therefore bound to be applied. (In fact, avoiding this type of environment is the one most important reason I’ll never work for any large company.)

    I have encountered small companies acting like predators, and using such tactics. After a few years, they get a very bad name. No problem: they go bankrupt, then reappear under a different name, maybe in a different city. This keeps them going until they become too well known, and then it’s over – no name change can persuade customers to do business with them again. By that time, however, the owner has hustled away enough money from customers that he can retire. Is it moral? Definitely not. Is it legal? Unfortunately yes. Is it sustainable on a longer term? Again, obviously and experimentally proven it isn’t. But for some people it’s just another way of making a living. And since it’s reality, we shouldn’t ignore it.

    As for Enron, look at how the ex-Enron people are doing. Unfortunately, to some extent, crime does pay. We can make it not pay, but we’re not really active about it. Being honest yourself unfortunately isn’t enough.

  • The Enron execs either ended up dead or in prison. I’m not quite sure of your point, are you saying there’s no point being honest because there are lots of dishonest people out there?

    I believe life is *easier* if you’re honest. While you may be able to succeed in the way you described, it sounds like a lot of hard work.

    Also, for people that do “lie there way to the top”, they create an awful lot of enemies along the way. They may not even realise it, as a lot of people will just have nothing to do with these people. And word soon gets around, especially in “closed knit” industries.

    You can’t change the world, but you can change your own behaviour. The more people that are open and honest, and create companies that align with that philosophy, the better. No point being pessimistic. I could list many more companies that have failed because of dishonesty.

    The internet, even with the EU’s “right to be forgotten” law makes it harder for people to hide their pasts.

  • Watty Helms

    Sounds like you’re talking about some specific competitor(s)…can you fill us in on who is doing the lying and what they’re lying about??

  • Always go with open, honest and upfront. Customers deserve it and pay for it!

    Torsten @ http://www.mightytravels.com

  • Jasmine Jaume

    Thanks for your comment. We’d rather not single out specific competitors or name names, but we’ve seen several instances of product comparisons that incorrectly state our product doesn’t have specific functionalities (or even sometimes saying it does have functionality that it doesn’t!) which is, understandably, sometimes frustrating!

    Jasmine

  • An0nym0usC0ward

    If you google a bit, you’ll notice that at least a few ex-Enronians do quite well.

    My point is that you can’t reasonably expect everybody around you to be honest and to have honest motivations. Acting upon such beliefs is likely to get you bankrupt.

    Of course, the fact that other people’s motives aren’t always honest and moral should not be an incentive for you to become dishonest – IME dishonesty always turns on you in the end (although maybe not from a legal point of view), so really smart people are never dishonest, because they know they won’t get away with it in the long run. But acting like everybody around you is by default honest is IMO stupid, especially in business.

    More related to the original post’s content: lying to your customers is never a winning strategy in the long run. But you absolutely have to assume that at least some of your competitors will do that, and ignoring this fact is bad business practice, especially when considering the social forces at work in larger companies (not just multinationals).

    You should read Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene”, or at least the chapter about evolutionarily stable strategies. It explains better than I am able how come that statistically, in some populations, a certain amount of thieves (i.e. individuals living off resources produced by others, in one way or another – for example by throwing other siblings out of the nest, like cuckoo chicken do, and thus stealing parental effort), is actually sustainable, and how defensive measures taken by the honest population are needed to keep the entire ecosystem stable. In these terms, a population of all-honest suppliers, which never do anything about any dishonest supplier, is as evolutionarily unstable as one composed exclusively of liars – both lead to an unstable market (i.e. one where many Enrons happen).

  • Wynee Douglas

    I would like to applaud you and your company on being truthful. I know from first hand experience that if you have owners and managers lying to customers and employees that it literally causes some if not most employees to even lie to the owners and managers. This is my advise to owners of companies. If your employees will lie FOR you they will lie TO you, and it only gets worse.

  • Brandwatch

    Thanks Meha, I totally agree. Honesty is important throughout the business, and breeds a better culture. Thanks for reading!
    – Jasmine