song: Tell em what they wanna hear

Should You Lie To Your Customers?

You’re a new entrepreneur, and a potential client asks if you can perform a service. You really need the money, and you’re pretty sure you can learn on the fly. So you tell them you can do it and quote them an arbitrary price.


Sounds familiar?

Many of us have done this at one point.

But SHOULD we?

Is this considered lying?

To some, yes.

To others, the answer is more complex.

On one hand, if this works out, you’ve gained experience, learned a new skill, and impressed a new customer. On the other hand, if this doesn’t, you’ve created a ding on your reputation, your self-confidence, increased your stress, and lost a client in the process.

We spoke to two entrepreneurs to get their take on this subject.

Read their responses below. All names and businesses have been changed or withheld to protect the innocent.

It’s complicated  

First up is Michael, an entrepreneur who owns a residential cleaning company with monthly revenue of over $80,000/month.

As an entrepreneur, your job is to fix problems. When your clients come to you with an issue, you don’t need to explain to them how you’re going to do it, you just need to do it. So, no, I don’t think it is lying. For example, when I first started my cleaning service, a potential client called to ask me if I could clean their office building. At the time I was focusing on residential cleaning, not commercial cleaning services. But the offer was too good to pass up. That was a significant first step for me as a business owner. I didn’t know anything about commercial cleaning, but I accepted the challenged. I searched around and found someone who could do the job, and I quickly brought them on my team. We did the work, and till this day we still have the account. I bring in $6000 per month with that client alone. Could I have failed? Absolutely! But I didn’t because I was dedicated to delivering on my promise. I think that’s all that matters. If you say yes, there is no time for failure; none, zip, zero. Don’t even think about it. You must do whatever within your power to make it work.

We all have to start somewhere. I don’t believe you have to be perfect to start. You can learn on the job just as many of us have done when working for someone else. Of course, I will not say yes to performing heart surgery since that is entirely out of my scope of practice, but if it falls within the realm of cleaning I will say yes and then find a way to make it work. Things can go wrong, but as entrepreneurs, we must learn to apologize if something doesn’t work out and make it up to our clients. You’ll be surprised at how forgiven clients can be if you hold yourself accountable for your mistakes and let them know that you messed up and you know it might cost you their business, but you want to make it up to them. We are all human at the end of the day. We must stop separating HUMANESS from BUSINESS.

It’s simple

Next up is Tracy, who owns an electronic repair shop bringing in $10,000/month.

Once you lie, fib, omit, hold back or whatever you call it, it’s a slippery slope. Lying to your customers will get you in the hot seat and result in you losing business. Personally, I want to build trust and credibility, and being upfront and honest has always worked in my favor. I am very transparent about what I can and cannot do. My clients are really smart and come in my store already knowing about my products, services, and techniques because they look the information up on the internet, so I feel like they will see right through me if I lie. My customers trust me to fix products that cost a lot of money and are very important to them. I think that if someone is going as far as to pay you for a service or product, they are trusting you to deliver quality work. Lying comes with too many consequences – broken trust, bad reputation, losing a client, or worse, losing your business. It is just good business practice to be honest about what you can do. It is like a puzzle, I want to attract clients that fit perfectly with me and what I offer so it makes it easy for the both of us. It is ok to not cater to everyone and focus on a niche, your potential clients will trust you when you are upfront with them.

So, there you have it.

Our take

There are obvious times when you shouldn’t lie to a customer. For example, if a client asks you if something is a right fit for them or if a product will be delivered by a certain time, don’t lie. It is the ambiguous situations, where you’re not outright lying to clients but creating situations of omission or slightly exaggerating that’s a little tricky and Michael touched on that. In which case you still run the risk of a damaged reputation and loss of business if it doesn’t work out. Can you deliver on your promise and will the results be of quality? Are you okay with being on the edge wondering if you can actually produce what you promised?

Ultimately, your business’ ethical boundaries are up to you. Telling your clients the truth doesn’t mean that you have to provide every little detail and be totally transparent, you just don’t want to deceive them. Understand that your customers already trust you if they are willing to hand over money to you – be mindful, practice good judgment, and don’t do anything to break that trust.