No one likes to tell be the bearer of bad news. It’s not easy to be negative or to just say no. Why do you think so many relationships drag on and on? It’s hard to let someone down, or be completely honest when you know you’ll cause pain.

So the question is, how often do you lie to your customers? I’m not talking shady business practices or manipulation. I’m talking about the simple truth. For instance.

  • When a customer asks for a feature you know you’re never going to build, what do you say?
  • When a customer outside of your market wants better pricing or has trouble using your service, what do you tell them?
  • When you mess up and ship a bad or buggy product, how do you handle it?

Do you make excuses? Do you tell them the feature is “on the list”? Do you try to talk your way out of a mistake? Or help a customer even though you know you’re not the right fit?

One of the questions we used recently when hiring for customer service was, “When should you fire a customer?” It’s a hard question. We got a lot of “Never!” answers. That’s just plain wrong. Of course you’re going to fire a customer, whether you like it or not.  The point was, we were looking for someone who was willing to be honest. Take the blame, take the heat. Tell the customer, “Hey, we’re just not the right fit for you. Try this other great company instead.” Or, “That feature just isn’t going to happen any time soon, or ever.”

It can be harsh but this attitude and honesty creates such a better relationship than dragging someone along. I recently had a call with one of the companies we use and had a very frank conversation with my account rep. Since last year they had grown at an astounding rate and the market they were going after had changed. Although we could still use their service at the same (heavily discounted) price we really just didn’t fit into where they were headed. He was great about the pricing but very honest about their future. This was hard to hear, and caused some additional work on our part, yet we parted ways on great terms and I’ll continue to support and recommend that company. The alternative could have been much worse.

Be really honest with yourself for a minute. When you interact with your customers how honest are you? Do you tell them the truth or do you sugarcoat it? If they’re not a great fit do you say it and help them move on or do you tweak your sales pitch to compensate? In my opinion, life’s way too short to BS. Tell the truth and move forward. Your business will benefit and we’ll all be happier in the end.