Being Truthful: Even if it Hurts

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I would expect that everyone in a CSR field knows the saying “The customer is always right.” Usually this means always trying to satisfy the customer as best as possible. However, there will always be those times when there is simply nothing that can be done to make the customer truly satisfied. Sometimes their request is just outside the realms of being a possibility, whether it is due to company policy or because the request is simply unreasonable. A legitimate customer complaint is a great opportunity to step up and regain their loyalty, but another route to customer loyalty is telling them the truth upfront, even if it costs the immediate sale..

The end goal of a CSR should not always be the closing of a sale – even though that is what your company or manager may want. A CSR is to be there for one main goal – serving the customer. Now that does not mean it should be done at the expense of the company, but neither should the company come first in all cases to the exclusion of the customer. Taking that approach most often leads to treating the customer wrongly, portraying information in a less than accurate manner, holding back pertinent information, or even outright lying in order to complete the sale.

Being honest with the customer may lose the sale, but can gain the loyalty of the customer in the future. Erin Steiner at Return Customer dealt with this issue recently in an article entitled “Using Brutal Honesty to Keep Customers Coming Back.”  He states that recent studies “have proven that being honest and denying your company the short-term sale actually builds loyalty and more sales over the long term.” This approach will require businesses to make a slight change in their thinking process when it comes to sales. “Honesty in marketing is not a new concept; but it's tough to execute when you're feeling the pressure of generating quarterly returns,” states Ernan Roman on Direct Marketing News.

It becomes the difference between thinking short-term vs. long-term company goals. Making a sale today is nice, but not if it turns out to be at the expense of the loyalty of the customer in the future. Is a customer being sold services or material they do not really need? Is upselling always the best practice?

A long-term goal is to secure the loyalty of the customer, and this means showing them respect and honesty up-front. “When customer satisfaction and a good customer experience become more important than simply making sales, the company as a whole is elevated and the increased customer satisfaction will result in increased long-term sales. For some companies this requires a fundamental shift in culture,” Roman rightly deduces.

Oftentimes a sale or upsell can be made simply because of the ignorance the customer has about the product or service. Selling them more than they need simply because they do not know any better or fail to understand is not uncommon practice. Though down the road, if/when the customer does become privy to the situation, it can reflect poorly on the company, causing customer dissatisfaction. Roman suggests three tough questions that need to be asked by a service representative: Does this customer really need all of the products or services we sell? Should we tell the customer that he may not need something? How can we provide information so that customers can make an informed purchasing decision? Yes, it may mean you do not make the sale, or the sale is less costly than it could be, but in the long run, it could buy not only customer loyalty, but the word-of-mouth promotion that customer would give to their connections. Looking out for the customer’s best interest can mean less short-term sales, but will be repaid with loyalty and future long-term purchases.

These are the types of approaches that need to be considered for anyone seeking or in a CSR career, especially in light of the fierce competition and economic issues affecting everyone these days.   


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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