How Should Entrepreneurs Deal With Dishonest Customers?

Seven practical ways to manage "Sneaky Sally" or "Dishonest Don" and deal with their dishonest ways.

Did you ship products that a customer claims were “never received”? Has a customer claimed that merchandise was returned, but your company never refunded the money? Have you ever had a customer make a purchase, file a phony dispute with their credit card company and keep your merchandise and their money? Did a customer post a false review of your products or services?

Thankfully there are ways to preclude these types of situations, such as shipment tracking, email verification, phone logs and more, but the reality is — every business will deal with their fair share of sneaky and dishonest customers.

Larger corporations deal with dishonest buyers, and your small business is no exception. So, if you’re wondering the best way to manage “Sneaky Sally” or “Dishonest Don” seven entrepreneurs recommend practical approaches to deal with their dishonest ways:


1. Treat dishonest customers with respect.

“Every business is going to encounter customers who try to get something for nothing, and the best advice I can give is to make sure you treat them with respect. Just because you know they are trying to manipulate the situation does not mean you should be abrasive or try to point out their dishonesty. Simply try to resolve the issue cordially and learn from the experience. Some of our encounters with less-than-ideal customers have actually helped us refine our marketing strategies, optimize vetting procedures, and improve [our] customer service. There is always a lesson to be learned and a way to improve from every interaction.”

– Corey Leff, Founder and CEO of spendLO: @spendLO


2. Have a team of specialists and tools at your disposal.

“Entrepreneurs must have a team of resources at their disposal, i.e. accountants, lawyers, contracts, etc.  It is important to have contracts with your clients to minimize working with ‘dishonest customers.’  Every once in a while, even with a contract, people will try to pull a fast one on you; for those people it is great to have that lawyer that can send them a nice little letter letting them know you will exercise your … contract.  This keeps you honest and keeps those occasional dishonest customers in line.”

– Derrick M. Guest, CEO of Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services, Inc.: @griotsroll


3. Don’t always assume customers have a negative intent.

“I assume that my customers are all honest and do what I can to help them. If it means losing a little money to make them happy, then I’ll do it. Most people are honest and do the right thing.”

– Karen Bullard, Founder of PaperFancy: @PaperFancy


4. Always have a service agreement in place.

“At the beginning of any company-client relationship or company-customer relationship, you need to be setting expectations. Having a service agreement does that for you! They go a long way to making all of your business relationships more professional and easier to manage.”

– Liz Theresa, Marketing Coach and Designer of LizTheresa.com: @LizTheresa


5. Keep track of deliverables through shared collaboration tools.

“When working as a service professional, dishonest customers can damage your brand and [the] quality of the service you provide.  If a client is not following through and not keeping their end of the bargain, make sure you keep detailed records of meetings, emails, action items and phone calls. If possible, try to have the client join a shared project management work space to track all communications and to-do’s.  You want to be able to show to the client that you were trying to push the project forward and they were being the roadblock.”

– Dustin Thompson, President of Konnected Interactive: @djthompson13


6. Focus on solving a customer’s issue rather than assigning blame.

“There is always a reason, whether warranted or not, for a customer to be dishonest, so we first look to solve that concern.  By calmly identifying the issue, we set a tone with the customer that we’re here to help, not blame [them] or make matters worse.  Our goal is to leave every customer satisfied and we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

– Justin Cener, Founder and CEO of Crowd Seats: @CrowdSeats


7. Keep all customer communications records.

“Track all e-mail conversations, phone conversations, record IP addresses and keep all the information together with their e-mail addresses, names, and passwords. When a dishonest customer contacts you again, you have a ton of information, including shipping and delivery notifications, you can spit back to them. As long as you have all the proof and records at hand, there is very little a dishonest customer can do to go against you.”

– Ian Aronovich, CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org: @GovtAuctions


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