Sales representatives need not endlessly dwell on lapses in the service they provide nor spend an entire sales session bashing the products they wish to sell. However, to minimize the perception that they’re withholding vital information from the customer, salespeople must make clear the possibility of applicable additional fees, reasons the business may deny a repair or even why a repair might not work.
Preparing customers for problems they could face will reduce complaints later on. Withholding information from customers immediately sows the seeds of distrust. The last thing a business needs is to appear deceptive.
Reasons for complaints
Near the end of the BBB’s complaint process, complainants may choose to contact the BBB after a business responds to their complaint and express satisfaction with how they responded. This happens 21 percent of the time. If the complainant originally accused a business of lying, they express satisfaction only 16 percent of the time.
Sales issues have the highest potential for miscommunication because they represent the first, and in some cases only, contact between the customer and business. If miscommunication isn’t quickly rectified, a consumer may fixate on the idea that a business intentionally cheated them before finally filing a complaint. The BBB system handled more than 65,000 sales practice complaints in 2017.
When consumers file complaints, the BBB asks that they “classify” complaints according to 12 categories. Many overlap. For instance, Customer Service Issues sometimes stem from Warranty Issues that may stem from Service Issues.
Even though they’re related and a customer may choose any category, complainants tend to select categories that represent the worst aspect of their experience with a business. That’s why one may consider a sales practice issue the most damaging of the categories. In these scenarios, the business started off on the wrong foot and never recovered.
Educate sales reps
According to complaints filed with the BBB, typical sales issue complaints involved unkept promises about deposits, payment plans and asking customers to agree to vague terms that could be changed later.
Keeping promises is a core business principle that most small businesses implement as a top priority, but vague contract details can stealth their way into business operation.
It’s tempting to leave out possible extra fees when making a sales pitch. When any hiccup can disrupt a sale, the idea of discussing potential negatives is unpleasant.
It is still critical that business owners educate their sales reps on the consequences of withholding information. Forget about complaints for a moment — leaving out important details during the sales process can (and does) lead to class-action lawsuits and government intervention.
On multiple occasions, consumer protection agencies have filed suit against Kansas City businesses for withholding material facts from customers. A few definitions for “material fact” exist, but businesses need to know this one: information that a reasonable person would consider germane to a purchasing decision, as distinguished from an insignificant, trivial or unimportant detail.
Transparency builds trust
Businesses don’t need to dwell on everything that can go wrong, but, even if it’s not fun to talk about, they need to prepare customers for the least popular aspects of using their services. For example, warranty companies need to take the time to carefully explain what is not covered by their policies.
If a customer is not prepared for the sticker shock accompanying the replacement of an appliance, they may blame the company for withholding information about the warranty.
The temptation to ignore vital details is powerful. The BBB receives complaints about it every day. Sometimes omissions are unintentional. Sometimes intentions are blurry — sometimes deceptive. Consumer trust is difficult to attain but so easy to lose. If businesses stay vigilant, honest and transparent, consumer trust will build.
More customer service advice from the Better Business Bureau: