It seems to be human nature to not want to admit error or cop to mistakes.
And that probably makes sense, in an evolutionary way. Those ancestors who leaped up to take the blame too eagerly were likely punished in severely unpleasant ways… and could have also been seen as too wimpy for mating with.
Those folks who clammed up tight and denied everything stood a better chance of surviving the wrath of the community. It’s certainly the way politics still works.
And, as I recall from my bachelor days, truth was a scarce resource in the dating world.
But this is no reason to adopt denial and lies as “standard operating procedure” in your business. In fact, it’s probably hurting your bottom line much more than you think.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. We’re doing business with a joint that is very good at talking the talk of “quality control”… and the way they tout their customer service, you’d think they had discovered super-human powers.
But it’s all talk. In our short business relationship, we now have experienced dozens of situations with these guys where quality control was a delusion, and customer service failed utterly and completely.
And they will not accept this as reality. It doesn’t jive with their internal world-view… and thus must be wrong. There are no problems. Everything’s fine. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…
It’s irritating, far beyond the inconvenience of not getting what you paid for. Denial is stubborness that gives the finger to reality. When people dig in behind a lie, reason is the first casualty.
In life, and in business, you can avoid compounding many problems simply by copping to the truth of the situation. If you screwed up, you screwed up. Lying about it, or trying to cover it up, may work some of the time… but when you get caught doing that, well, pretty soon the fan can’t handle the volume of shit that hits it.
In politics, it’s a well-worn (and well-ignored) cliche that it’s not the crime that does you in… it’s the cover-up. People will tolerate exaggeration and bloviation, but get very, very nasty when lied to.
Couple of examples: We just logged a much-needed five-day vacation over on the Northern California coast. We’ve gone to this one gorgeous old town, on a bluff overlooking the ocean, for years. Mostly, we resign ourselves to not having good cell phone service, and zero high-speed Internet connections.
But this time, we were intrigued by a bed-n-breakfast that advertised both excellent cell phone reception AND DSL as part of the package. Killer views, privacy, pets allowed… it seemed like a great deal. Both Michele and I had small bits of work we had to do, and we wouldn’t have gone to the coast this time if we couldn’t connect to the Web.
I was suspicious, because in multiple previous trips, the town seemed to exist in a high-tech-free bubble.
But the ad featured these new services. We called, and they insisted it was all true.
So we booked the joint.
And while you could use your cell phone in certain parts of the house — standing in specific positions — the DSL hook-up could not be coaxed into working at all.
We complained, they sent out a “technician” who insisted it was all fine, and we were told (in irritating superior tones) that different computers had different requirements for accessing DSL, and we were probably just doing something wrong.
In other words, it was our fault. Not their problem.
Obvious bullshit. We easily discovered a message board on their Website that was filled with complaints from other folks who’d been flummoxed trying to use the DSL. It wasn’t just us — their Internet connection was certifiably screwed up, and had been for some time. (Michele had to hang out at the local coffee shop to get online, using their free wireless.)
When we pointed out that their own Website had proof they were lying to us, they offered a partial refund. Reluctantly. Exasperated at our childish insistence that their version of reality might be wrong.
And we had to put our work plans on hold. We’ll recover, but we feel cheated.
This was just insane. They lied, and pissed us off, and it was all completely avoidable.
Compare this experience to another: Yesterday, I had to book a room in another hotel, in another city. I called one cool place I’d stayed in before, and asked about their high-speed services (because, again, I’ll have to work on the trip). The lady on the phone admitted they really wanted to get their DSL working, but it wasn’t. There was a single, cramped hot spot in the hotel lobby where you could get wireless, but it wasn’t all that reliable.
She was being totally honest with me.
And I didn’t book a room with them. But neither did I cross them off my list of future hotels I might stay at… cuz when they do get DSL in their rooms, I feel fairly confident they won’t lie about the quality of the service. And I still like the hotel — I’ll probably go out of my way to visit their cool house cafe (which overlooks a gorgeous lake) while I’m in town.
So, yeah, they “lost” a sale. But if they had lied or weasel-worded the situation, they would have had a very pissed-off customer on their hands, demanding a refund and telling everyone I know about the fiasco. (Just as I’m doing about the bed-n-breakfast on the coast.)
Way too many businesses believe their own hype. They get caught up in the enthusiasm of an aggressive “mission statement”, gulp their own Kool-Aid, and insist that all evidence to the contrary is either not really a problem, or just a temporary glitch.
I’ve had several experiences lately where — after phoning in to complain — I was hit up with a sales pitch for more services or products from the very company I was mad at. They have a severe myopia about their shortcomings… and, since I’ve worked on the other side of this situation (fielding complaints, back when I worked for The Man), I know that customers who gripe are actually considered the “real” problem.
It’s the CUSTOMER’S fault the gizmo’s screwed up. Somehow. Some way. Sure, it LOOKS like it’s our fault, but who are you gonna believe — our hype, or your own lying eyes?
Just tell the friggin’ truth.
In life, and in biz. Lying about snafu’s just pushes the problem a short way into the future, at best. It will gain size and power as it thrives in the shadows of denial, and can bite you on the butt in ways that far exceed the damages you would have experienced had you just copped to the screw-up in the first place.
The really sad thing is, this isn’t something new that just popped up in business or human nature. It’s always been the case, and always will be the case.
However, this makes it an opportunity to stand out from the pack. Both as an individual, and as a business, being honest with people puts you in a rare category.
You don’t even need to go overboard, and become a Tourette-style truth-teller who can’t shut up, and hurts people’s feelings and reveals company secrets. Respecting truth doesn’t mean it’s suddenly your job to point out everyone else’s faults, or to share inappropriately.
It’s okay to be circumspect, thoughtful, and to keep your secrets.
It is NOT okay to blatantly lie about something in order to get what you want.
It is, in fact, dumb.
So let your competition be dumb. Take the higher road when you have a choice… even if it means losing a sale. Business cycles are relentless, and very cruel to charlatans and crooks. There will be multiple chances to win that sale back later.
Trust me on this. You’ll sleep better when your waking hours aren’t built on a web of lies and deceit.