Don’t Let Little White Lies Become Big Dark Lies

Too many times I’ve run into situations where people aren’t honest—either with me or other dealers with their clients. It really bothers me, and while I’m sure dishonest people are in the minority, I’ve been seeing too much of it lately not to write about it.
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Too many times I’ve run into situations where people aren’t honest—either with me or other dealers with their clients. It really bothers me, and while I’m sure dishonest people are in the minority, I’ve been seeing too much of it lately not to write about it.

I wanted to reiterate how critical it is to build good rapport with clients, partners, and vendors. It’s crucially important to be honest so we can trust each other. While few people are being outright cheats (billing for a product or service not provided or at a lower quality than installed) I see a lot of lying in day-to-day communications. It’s those little white lies that eventually catch up to you and cost you all credibility.

Particularly when admitting a mistake, being honest up front may hurt at first and probably will be a tough pill to swallow both for you and the other party, but in the long run it is absolutely the best way to go.

Don’t Sugar Coat Things
If, for some reason, a job goes sideways (a bad wireless access point, a wire cut by a contractor, etc.), don’t make excuses. Just get it fixed. If you’re running late, don’t make excuses—assure the customer that you will stay late to get the job finished. There’s no excuse for not showing up. Don’t lie and don’t make excuses. If you have a family emergency, most clients will understand, but do your utmost to not have to play that card; get someone there even if it isn’t you. If a part fails in the field, then do everything you can to make it right as soon as possible. Sometimes it takes several visits to figure out a defective part or product via the process of elimination.

This week we did a small install for a client. It was a simple living room setup with an Anthem AVR, single-room control, the client’s own Sonus Faber speakers, a new curved TV, and a few other components. It was meant to be a one-day, easy, profitable install. Before we left, everything worked great, the client knew how to use the remote, and she was very happy. When a got the call several hours later that the TV on-screen message said, “HDMI 1 not connected,” I figured something was up with the cable box and somehow the video sensor didn’t kick in. I asked our client to turn on the cable box manually. Still the error. It was evening time at this point so I went out there first thing the next day. What I learned in person was that the AVR wouldn’t turn on. I tried pushing the power button manually on the front of the receiver. No love. I power cycled it by unplugging the power cord from the back. No change. I finally took it off of the “switched” outlets on the legacy power conditioner it was plugged into. Bingo, it came back on. I assumed it was something funky happening with the switched outlets and was on my merry way.

Later That Night, Same Call, Same Problem.
When the system didn’t work later than same night, my client was now concerned it is her nice, expensive new AVR causing the problem. I was convinced that it wasn’t and calmly let her know that all signs point to an older and faulty power conditioner. So I went back and swapped out the power conditioner for a brand new one. Everything worked great. Later that night, guess what? Same call, same problem. The only possible answer is the AVR at this point, so I tell her I will reach out to the manufacturer and get a new one shipped ASAP.

Oh, did I mention she is going in for knee surgery the next day and REALLY wants this to work for her so she isn’t bored out of her skull during recovery at home? Just my luck, the AVR is on backorder and won’t be available to ship for another week. Since the client is now recuperating, I haven’t heard back from her, but I’ve got to come up with a solution because at this point she (as well as I) am very frustrated. I could come up with excuses, blame the manufacturer, and tell her we’ll be there next week when a new one comes in. I’ve already been back for two (unpaid and rightly so) service calls, so this nice profitable job is starting to look like anything but. I’m tempted to tell her we have to wait until a new receiver is shipped out and that she still has the bedroom TV, but I put myself in her shoes (or on her crutches) and realized that is just not acceptable.

There is something we can do. We can go back, rewire the components for a few days so they run directly into the TV and re-program the remote so it works for those few days. That way, she has a solution that, while not perfect, is a lot better than the alternative. While still frustrated, she really seemed to appreciate all the effort we are going through to correct the situation and the fact that we are turning around her calls in less than 24 hours. We are being completely honest with her about what we think the problem is, and how we are going to make it right—both in the short term and long term.

Being honest needs to be ingrained in your company culture. If you start telling the little white lies; there was traffic (when there wasn’t), my kid is sick (when she isn’t), the part didn’t ship on time (when you forgot to order it) it won’t take long to catch up with you. You wouldn’t lie to your spouse, so don’t lie to your clients, your partners, or your employees.

+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation, Powered by Fregosa Design, in New York City.

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