All Customers Are Liars!

Often times, when we’re looking for feedback on our products and services, we go to our trusted customers for opinions on what we’re doing right and wrong. Market research has always been dependable… Right?

Well, I’ve got some advice for you…

STOP always trusting your customer’s insight because, more often than not, they are flat-out lying to you! I know that sounds nuts, but it’s true. And unlike your customers, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about why.

To understand why your customers would want to spit lies at you, we must take a moment to analyze the customer/human psyche. What you will gather from this analysis is quite upsetting because it proves that a few of us, as customers, are a sad bunch of pathetic posers. Here is just one example of how customers roll over us business owners with their ridiculous lies when approached with a situation of market research…

Envision a customer who walks into a liquor store, shopping for a bottle of vodka, and the owner approaches him for some small talk and a casual observation of his buying habits. The customer believes that vodka is a tasteless/odorless drink – So he’s come into the store to simply pick up a cheap $10 bottle of McCormicks Vodka; because after all, he’s just going to mix it into a few cans of Red Bull and will never really taste the vodka anyway. His thought is… “Why buy the premium stuff, when the dirty stuff will do the same trick for half the price?”

Well, that was the plan until the store’s owner approached him in an attempt to gather some valuable market research on his customers. He thinks he’s about to really figure this customer out from the questions and observations he’s about to make. Unfortunately, the poor guy doesn’t even know what’s about to hit him… He’s about to be knocked on his ass by a big fat lie, straight out of the patron’s deceptive mouth!

The manager approaches the shopper before he has picked up his bottle of McCormicks. He wishes the customer a “Good evening,” and begins to try and figure him out with some vodka small talk. He asks the customer which of his vodkas he likes the most…

“Hello… Are we looking for some vodka tonight? Which one is your favorite?”

The customer is thinking… “Oh crap… I can’t admit that I came in here for the cheap stuff! I gotta sound like a person of sophistication! I also don’t want to offend this man by purchasing his least expensive product! What should I say!?”

Finally, in desperation for a rebuttal that comforts his ego, and flatters the manager’s inventory, he says… “I prefer DIAKA Vodka.” …He’s only saying this because the bottle, that he saw on the shelf out of the corner of his eye, looks expensive and fancy. He takes a closer look at the bottle and notices some additional information on the product…

Looking suave he says to the manager… “Did you know that DIAKA uses a diamond filtration process? I’ve made a pact with myself to never drink AAAAANYTHING that hasn’t been filtered by the kiss of a diamond.”

Are you listening to this guy!? He is completely out of his normal character! What about this situation makes him feel like he should compromise who he is as a person? He is screwing up this guys research! Not only did the customer not originally know that it was possible to filter vodka with diamonds, but the only way he can afford a bottle of the gimmicky swill is if he spends 4 days of his salary on it! A simple study of this individual’s buying habits has now turned into a sad display of someone who has no confidence in himself.

So the manager says… “Hmmm, that’s very interesting. Do you drink DIAKA often?”

And the dumbass says… “Oh yea! All the time! My friends go through a bottle of it every weekend!”

…So the manager is now thinking that he has found out some golden insight on DIAKA Vodka from this trusted customer…

“Not only does this customer enjoy DIAKA, but he also has many friends that drink it every weekend. The store currently only stocks 10 bottles of it at a time – I might want to consider ordering a larger quantity due to the explosion of popularity the drink could potentially experience.”

So the next day, the manager orders 5 times what he normally purchases. The customer, who truthfully only wanted a cheap bottle of McCormicks, has lied to a store manager about a product because he couldn’t bear to admit that he was a simpleton who doesn’t buy top shelf liquor. This lie that he told will result in the store having a surplus of a drink that probably won’t sell very well due to its expensive price.

The manager was initially proud of himself for the market research he had performed. He thought that he was dealing with a high profile customer who had an exquisite taste in vodka – So he believed every damn word that came out of the customer’s lying mouth. Don’t you feel bad for the guy? He just lost a lot of money because he believed what he thought was truthful insight from an affluent customer.

The point of all this is that there is an infinite amount of situations where a customer would lie to you during market research. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t even realize that they are lying. It has become “Normal” for people to try and say the “Right” things when partaking in this type of conversation. These attempts to cater to other people’s emotions, as well as an unwillingness to look bad in front of other people, unfortunately result in instances of MRM (Market Research Miscommunication). The lesson to be learned here is that the next time you ask your customer for an opinion, make sure to think twice about what they tell you. Don’t focus so much on the surface of what they have to say… Dig deep into their thought process, and find out WHY they said what they said.

Wishing You Continued Success…

Brad Williamson

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  1. I’ll have to disagree with you. A proper research is never 100% accurate. However, that’s why we place “control questions” on public surveys, cross-reference data and rely on a scientific method to conduct the whole process. William Foddy wrote a book intitled “Constructing Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires: Theory and Practice in Social Research” that serves as a pretty good introduction on the subject, eventough it doesn’t go into actual Marketing practices.

    Some people might answer surveys and interviews in a miss-leading way. But not everyone will do that, and the more people we interview the more accurate the study becomes. Those missleading answers will get lost in the crowd. And lets not forget that a survey will always account for a margin of error.

    What I like about your article is the example provided. It shows the importance of gathering data in a non-intrusive way and that one interview doesn’t make a survey.

    Also, a diligent manager would wonder why DIAKA wasn’t selling out of stock if it was so popular, before increasing the usual supply.

  2. I agree with Bruno, there’s always a margin of error in anything.

    Brad, I am no hypocrite and if go to buy a cheap item I will say so. All my friends are like that, my family and everyone around me. So when we are asked the person doing his research gets the real deal. Never heard of anyone from my circle screwing up when a person is asking something legitimate.

    I don’t agree with “All Customers are Liars” and I hope you could give us factual data to support it rather than have a fairy tale story. As I said, never have I encountered anyone as hypocrite to pretend to buy expensive when they intend the cheap one, so for me it’s a fairy tale story…

  3. I have t disagree with all coments posted here. Although “All Customers Are Liers” is a bid exagerated title for this post, the described situation happens way too often to say it is only a fairy tale story.
    I think that in order to benefit from market reaserch, one should concentrate on building good and solid relationship with the customer. Let’s look at this as you call “fairy tale story” again and imagine that the owner of the liqoure store made an attempt to build a relationship instead of taking a survey. Do you you think the result would be the same?

  4. You’re right Vlad, it wouldn’t be the same.I believe taht that would be a more peaceful way to gather data and it would probably lead to a more honest response.

    It’s not a mere matter of the questios you ask, it’s about how you ask them and in what context. I would give unclear answers if someone went up to ask me what I was buying at a store. But I wouldn’t bother to lie, instead I’d refuse to answer.

  5. This is a touchy subject for many people, but if you read a lot of sales books and sales training, many professional sales trainers do tell you that prospects and clients often lie. And it’s not that they lie for bad intent, it’s just human nature.

  6. It’s true that this is a touch subject, but I’ve read many sales training books and most sales trainers will tell you that prospects and clients lie all the time.

    Not for bad intend, but it’s just human nature.

  7. Alexander Kintis says

    For in-person questions like this, people may tend to lie or alter the truth regarding many things. A way to combat this is for written — an in-direct way to ask questions — responses from visitors, etc. Yes, there could be some disadvantages to this method but you have to be able to gauge the answers you receive from customers. By using many different methods, you can compile, average, and have a better assessment of what your clients/customers/etc feel about certain things.