True Story: Why I Lied to You When You Called

I’m a bit embarrassed about this story. It’s about lying. You’ll see if you read on that it wasn’t bad lying, not tricking anybody for any bad reason. But it’s a true story, so I’m posting it here because 1.) it might be useful to somebody; and 2.) I’m curious about how often it happens.

Did you ever see the television commercial where the one small business owner changes his voice on the phone to sound like different people? I did something like that for years. I answered the business phone as Evan Rocha, not Tim Berry. (If you know me well you’ll guess how I came up with that name; and if not, it doesn’t matter. )

It started when I was a one-man company. I’d done the software and the manual and the advertising, and I also took the calls. I didn’t answer the phone as me because I felt like that would be bad for business. Right or wrong, I thought there’d be an image problem, or a lack of confidence. So I became Evan.

Later, even after the company grew up, long past the early days when I had to take calls, I still took tech support and sales calls often. I did it sometimes for special case problems, sometimes to fill in when we were understaffed, and sometimes because the phone got past the fourth ring and I wanted it answered.

I like talking to customers. I always have. And it’s something every business owner should do, and especially software or web entrepreneurs. You should really talk to your customers regularly. But having the president answer the phone feels weird, so I kept using the name Evan.

It’s been several years since I was last on the phone as Evan, so I thought it would be okay to share that now. And if you happen to be one of the customers I talked to as Evan, I didn’t mean to be deceitful and I apologize for lying. It just reduced the awkwardness. But yes, that was me.

Are you an entrepreneur, or small business owner, who’s done that? I’m curious about how many others there are.

5 thoughts on “True Story: Why I Lied to You When You Called

  1. Tim:
    Fascinating, but bizzare. I have to say that other than those TV ads, I’ve never known anyone to do this — or at least they haven’t admitted it to me.

    In retrospect, don’t you think that this flies in the face of building great relationships with customers? If Howard Shultz served me coffee at Starbucks, I would love the company more because it would cement my bond with the brand. I would KNOW that the CEO cares.

    When customers see the top dog in a position of customer service, it tells them that this is no ordinary company. That the executives are not heartless and faceless people making financial decisions … but that they are real people who care deeply about the most important aspect of their company — me, the customer.

    Let me put the question back to you… Would you do it again?

    1. David, you pose a very interesting question there, thanks for asking that. You made me think. I wouldn’t do it now, and I haven’t done it for at least four years, because now we have 45 employees and a lot of branding and I think most people would react like you suggest, and I would to. But when I go back to the days of the one-person company or very small company, I might do it again. Things have changed, with social media and individual engagement. I do post here on my blog and I tweet as well as me, with no reason whatsoever to pretend I’m not me, so that’s an interesting question. I may revisit this one later, after I’ve had more time to think about it.

  2. I’ve done this for years. It is easier to have someone to pass the issue up to if there is a problem. I don’t consider it lying or deceit, though. When I answer support I am playing a role of a different person in the company and take on the persona of an authorized to help the customer support person. I’m not sorry for doing it and would never apologize for it.

  3. I have not pretended–yet–to be someone else on the phone, however I have created a ‘face’ and a ‘name’ on one of my websites for branding purposes. If you go to my blog site, EZ-Catalogs.com, you will see ‘Bob McCatalog’ being used to present stories, trivia, etc. along with the site offing the visitor free catalogs on a second site EZ-Request.com. This blog, combined with ‘Bob McCatalog’ also being on Facebook and Twitter, we hope to create interest in the website and sign-on more catalogers. So Bob McCatalog is Bob Olsen!

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