In business, customers are valuable and important. In fact, as the popular saying goes – “the Customer is always right”. Does that mean that a business should put up with dishonest customers who lie and manipulate their way to getting things at the expense of the business?
While it is the duty of any business to take good care of its customers and give them the possible experience interacting with the brand, it is important to face the reality that Customers are human – they are not always right, or nice or honest, but they are still customers. If you work in customer service, it wouldn’t take long to figure that some customers are a big problem to handle. Such customers believe that when they yell long and hard enough, things become free.
How do you handle those customers who tell lies and try to manipulate the business?
#1. Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
Don’t be quick to assume that the customer is being dishonest or trying to cheat you. Double check and be sure that there are no mistakes or misunderstanding. The last thing you want is to wrongly accuse an innocent customer of trying to steal from you.
Remain professional & open minded. Ensure you have the facts right and ask probing questions to be certain you understand the customer and what he/she has in mind.
#2. Be Professional & Respectful
If indeed it becomes clear and obvious that the customer is being deceitful or trying to cheat, strive to remain composed about it, see it as a test of your professionalism. Avoid getting rude or speaking brashly to the customer just to show that you can see through the deceit. Maintain your poise and try to resolve the issue cordially.
You should speak to the customer firmly, but respectfully. Point out the lie or show the customer evidence that reveals their dishonesty, don’t try to hide it. Explain to the customer that it would be of interest to both of you if they are completely honest, then ask for clarification.
#3. Give Them Another Chance
If the customer opens up and admits the lie, watch for signs of remorse or guilt, learn from the experience and give the customer another chance.
Realize after all that the customer is human and has weaknesses, you might never understand what they might be going through, but you must be watchful. Remember – Once bitten, twice shy. Monitor such customers and their transactions closely until they earn your trust again.
#4. Re-evaluate Your Relationship
If the customer continues to exhibit dishonesty in their dealings with your business, you need to pause and re-evaluate your relationship with the customer. Truth be told – not all customers are good for business. There are some customers you are better off without.
As customer service expert Michel Falcon puts it;
"First off, whether the customer is loyal or dishonest, you should be thankful that any customer wants to do business with your organization. The company's leadership team should create a system and guidelines to manage dishonest customers. This process should be shared with frontline team members so that expectations are clear. Don't let customers take advantage of your service offerings. After all, you've worked hard to build your business and reserve the right to decide who you choose to do business with. For example, Zappos.com has a free return policy for their products. However, they have an algorithm built into their software that identifies customers who are taking advantage of their generous policy. The dishonest customer will receive a cordial email after several offenses stating that they are terminating the relationship. Moreover, in my hospitality group, I give full autonomy to my management team to make the right decisions that impact our customers. I will gladly part ways with a customer who is cheating us or being rude to our team members"
If the customer is consistently trying to cheat you, then it is better to end the relationship. Politely let the customer know that they’re no longer welcome to do business with your organization because of their dishonesty.
#5. Keep all customer communications records
If you have a CRM system, ensure customer records are updated frequently with details of such incidents or cases. Keep detailed records of emails, transactions or any evidence of the customer’s behavior.
These will come in handy if the customer decides to spread malicious stories about your business as a way to get back to you. With the records, there is little such a customer can do to your business or reputation. You will be able to tell your side of the story and dispell any doubts if need be.
#6. Take Action
There is always a bright side to any experience. Each time a dishonest customer cheats you (or tries to), you should be able to learn something from the experience. Ask yourself the following questions –
What loophole did the customer exploit?
How do I mitigate future occurrence?
It works best to get other employees/colleagues involved in this step. Have a discussion or brainstorming session to come up with viable ideas on how to prevent further occurrence of such incidents. However, care should be taken as not to deteriorate the experience other customers have with your business – do not make other customers pay for the sins of one (or two).
It is important in all of these steps that you do not become aggressive or hostile towards the dishonest customer when you confront them (or fire them). Doing so usually doesn’t end well.
Whether it’s stealing, cheating, or manipulation, dishonest customers can become a source of income leakage if their activities are allowed to fester. Ensure other employees have good knowledge of schemes and tricks dishonest customers use. This goes a long way in curbing their activities.
When they can no longer have their way with your business, they’ll move to somewhere else.