Today’s customers are presented with a barrage of promises as brands vie for market share. More than being spoiled for choice, the savvy customer is more concerned about which brand to believe. If you’re in business or working in support, you already know that honesty isn’t a favour or a value addition, but a core element at the heart of customer service.
Getting creative with the truth has long been the go-to advertising and marketing strategy for brands. It’s mostly about being innovative, though it sometimes becomes about manipulating the truth to drive traffic. If customers find your marketing to be anything short of the truth, they’ll be less likely to invest in your product.
Pretty lies have the potential to compromise your brand’s reputation. When the truth comes out, customers who’ve been misled will feel short-changed – and they’ll talk about it every chance they get. That’s a dark place for a brand to be in, especially since it takes a lot of bowing and scraping to get back into the public’s good graces.
Plain truth, inside and out, is a surefire way to avoid the backlash of aggrieved customers. Glossing over the truth to raise aspirations or withholding information during a sales pitch, can boomerang quickly and put brands in bad situations as these instances show:
GameStop’s circle of lies: The Circle of Life (CoL) is a sales strategy at GameStop that allows customers to trade used games for store credit. While the customer thinks they’re getting a better deal on other second hand games and pre-orders of new releases, this strategy benefits GameStop the most. Profit margins on used games are actually higher than new purchases.
Early this year, GameStop took things up a notch by assigning dollar targets on CoL trades to stores and employees. This move caused some employees to feel pressured and believe that failure to meet these scores would cost them their jobs, and brought a host of trouble in its wake.
Soon, employees were lying to customers about new games being out of stock to drive up their CoL scores.
When this story broke on Kotaku, many customers were miffed, and GameStop stock dipped significantly. An internal memo from the COO to all stores aimed to set the record straight as GameStop looked for new ways to revitalize profit margins.
Classmates.com touches hearts to trick souls. Imagine receiving an email saying your classmates are trying to reconnect with you. Not long after, you realize this information comes at a premium, and you’ve got to pay for a gold membership if you want to rekindle old friendships and plan reunions.
Hoping to reminisce, some customers decided to pay. However, no former schoolmates actually reached out, and no reunions materialized. Customers soon realized they’d been played. This old bait-and-switch is a wily way to generate demand and make a quick buck. Until brazen manipulation forces customers to take up the cudgels against brands, the way some users did when they took legal recourse against classmates.com.
Customers listen better to the experiences of others. People want to hear a true story, and sadly bad news always travels far and fast. This is vital learning for these digitally driven times, where negative customer experiences are accompanied by the kind of huff and puff that can bring your house down.