How Secrets Can Lead to Lost Money, Respect and Customers

Situations in which secrets harm others happen more than we realize. And when do we finally hear about them? When it’s too late.  Of course, some secrets are meant to be kept, well, secret. So how do we know when to keep a secret and when to let it out of the bag? First, you need to consider the impact of the secret on your customers. Is this secret going to hinder, harm, or aggravate your customers? Second, if so, let them know immediately; otherwise, you will lose more than money. You will lose trust, respect, and future customers.

Case in point: Don’t do what United Airlines did to Dave Carroll after airline employees broke his guitar. Actually, the airline did dave-carrollnothing. It classified his incident as “statistically insignificant.” Well, that “statistically insignificant” customer went on to make four YouTube videos about his incident, and the videos acquired more than 15 million views. Dave Carroll even wrote a book about his misadventure with United Airlines AND is now a much sought after motivational speaker. How’s that for an insignificant customer? Not so insignificant now, huh? Is that really how we want to treat our customers? I think not. And I hope you agree.

Here’s an extended example of a story that illustrates this point.

Real World Story: One of my coaching clients recently relayed the following true story. (The incident is ongoing, so I have omitted all names.)

This story takes place in an industrial building in a secluded part of town, in southern California. This building houses four different man-with-finger-to-lipsbusinesses and is owned by one person, hereafter referred to as “the landlord.” One of the tenants (customer A) owns and stores a large amount of video equipment in his business office.
Several weeks ago, customer A was robbed. The day after, he replaced all the equipment, and was again robbed. Several days later, my client’s company (customer B) – in the same building – was robbed. In my client’s unit, the thieves did not break in through the main entrance. They broke into one of the ground-level offices through a small window, which was the only window without an attached alarm. Three valuable art pieces were taken, but not the computer system. The thieves did not go into any other part of that unit. If they had, the alarm would have been activated. The thieves or thief was obviously someone who was familiar with the building and the alarm system.

After talking with the other tenants in the building (customers C and D), my client discovered that these break-ins had been occurring for weeks, but the landlord never informed any of his tenants (customers).

The tenants were extremely frustrated by the lack of communication because, had they known, they would have taken the necessary precautions to safeguard their valuables. Had the landlord communicated what was happening, everyone would have saved precious time, money, and equipment. And now, the landlord faces losing customer B, who is considering moving!

Strategy to Turn This Around
1. As soon as your company knows about a secret that may impact customers or cause a crisis, inform all relevant parties.
2. Continually give updates to your customers (at least every 24 to 48 hours, depending on the severity of a given situation) until the issue is resolved.

Remember: You have no “statistically insignificant” customers. But you may have insignificant business practices when you fail to act timely and in good faith.

If you’ve experienced trauma as a result of a company that kept a secret, let me know in the comments below.

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