Are you fooling your customers?

By April 12, 2016 March 19th, 2019 Evolve Insights

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 5th 2016

Lucy Kiruthu

There is an old idiom that goes “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” It has a simple meaning that once we have been fooled or tricked we need to be wary of it happening again. Like many that have been fooled on April 1st in past years, I was very wary on Friday and for sure I do not get fooled this year.

In the business circles, I suspect that the people who get fooled the most are customers. As customers, we get fooled by websites, by advertisement, we get fooled by sales people and we even get fooled at the point of sale or service. Do we get fooled only once or do we get fooled twice, thrice and even four times?  Why do we accept to be fooled the second, third and fourth time? Are there business that intentionally fool their customers by trading in lies?

Take for example advertisements, do we always believe what we see? I do not watch much TV nowadays but at least I see sponsored adverts on social media. I recently saw one property advert after just having listened to a friend complain about the real estate developer. I wondered if she had seen the advert and how it made her feel. If she had been fooled once then I am certain she would not be fooled again but many other customers would be fooled in their initial purchase.

Unscrupulous sales people also fool us quite often. Some do so by withholding information while others push us to make a hasty purchase decisions. I once interacted with a sales person who made me feel that if I did not make a decision immediately the item I was interested in would be gone. I remember also buying a packet of nuts from the supermarket recently, I could out rightly tell that it had some added preservative but there was no mention of that on the packaging. I felt fooled but decided not to be fooled again by avoiding the particular brand of nuts. Many packaging designs are meant to fool us at the point of sale but they always don’t.

At the point of service many customers interactions happen, many customer promises are made and many customer promises are also broken. When a promise is broken once or twice, customers are often quite forgiving. But if the promises are broken regularly, the customer may feel like they are being fooled or being taken advantage off. No customer would take it kindly if the promises are always broken.

Telling the customers the truth and keeping promises made is key to building customer trust and long lasting relationships. If you have been fooling your customers it is important to know that the shame is on you. As customers we need to be very way of organizations that may be fooling us. The best action we can take is to vote with our wallet and looking for an alternative.


Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on or via twitter @kiruthulucy

Leave a Reply