Customer Experience News & Trends

5 signs a customer’s email is riddled with lies

Customer relationships are increasingly becoming electronically based. And every once in a while, customers will tell a fib or two via email or online to make their complaints or problems more compelling. Here’s how to spot those digital lies — and react to them.

Spotting a lie in digital correspondence is a little more difficult than doing it in person or even on the phone with customers. Often, body language and tone of voice give away liars.

For email, customer service pros need to look for some different telltale signs that customers are telling tall tales, according to Tyler Cohen Wood, a government intelligence officer and cyber expert.

When front-line service pros or salespeople suspect their customers might be stretching the truth, they’ll want to watch for these signs:

1. Emphatic language

People who lie really want others to believe them. They’re even trying to convince themselves it’s a true story. So they’ll use emphatic language and repeat the same idea in different ways throughout their communication.

Some words you’ll see: deeply, fully, strongly, positively, really.

How to deal with it: Ask for more details when you see these words.

2. Non-committal language

Customers who are lying usually don’t want to give a concrete explanation or commit to anything. They’re vague and pepper their written correspondence with words such as “probably,” “pretty sure,” “maybe” and “could be.” The vague language leaves them an out, if necessary, such as, “Well, I never said I definitely filed the paperwork.”

Another form of non-commitment: They dodge your questions. They might change the subject or just avoid an answer.

How to deal with it: Ask more direct questions to pin down facts — using “exactly,” “where,” “when,” “who,” “what,” “why” and “how.”

3. Pushing away

If you get the feeling a customer is trying to get to a point that needs some more hashing out and end the conversation, there could be some lies involved. For instance, if you ask, “How is the new software working?” the liar might write, “The software is working fine.” They tend to treat open-ended questions like close-ended questions.

How to deal with it: Ask questions that force customers to open up. For instance, “What do you like most about the new software?”

4. Tense hopping

When customers switch between past and present tense when they write, it’s an indicator they’re making up lies. For instance, if the situation happened in the past, but they start recounting it like it’s happening now, it’s a sign they’re making it up as they go.

How to deal with it: Keep track of inconsistencies, and ask questions to clarify.

5. Qualifying statements

These are often spoken by liars and are a huge sign that they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes. For instance, “I hate to tell you this …” “To be honest …,” and “No offense, but …” are all signs the customer is nervous about what he or she is about to say.

How to deal with it: Ask probing questions to help them fess up. Say, “Can you tell me a little more about …?” or “How did that affect you …?”

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