Language is the #1 tool of the social engineer; I believe that in a company, anyone who is dealing with customers should have some basic social engineering skills:
- This protects the company against being exploited by other social engineers, who are looking for sensitive data;
- This places the company in a better light because people will have a positive impression after interacting with the company's personnel.
Today's trick is the use of passive voice when delivering news other than good news.
Warning: shifting blame, as described here, is a psychological effect that makes a problem seem less aggressive, which makes you seem less guilty. The objective is to avoid angry clients, and psychological traumas for company employees. Do not, under any circumstances, push things onto someone else's shoulders. Sooner or later your ass will be busted, and your lies will have to be paid for. If you are one such person, stop reading and go away.
- We lost your account data.
- Your account data were lost.
- An error was made, and your account data were lost.
Notice how in the first case the end user is bluntly notified about data loss. Not only that this is bad news, but it is us who caused the problem, so the user knows whom to hate or sue, whose boss to call, etc.
The second case is less bad, because the user is aware of the problem, and there is nothing in the text that says explicitly that it was our fault. Further, we are "men enough" to acknowledge that something went wrong.
The last case is even better, because the user:
- knows the cause - a mistake in the system caused it (not that this really explains what happened, but it does give one the feeling that they were provided a full report);
- knows the consequenes - the account lost some of the data;
- the company admits that something went wrong;
- the error was not made by me (the person delivering the news). From the client's perspective this could mean that the error was caused by the Internet provider, or by the power company, the weather services... Worst case, it is someone from another department in my company ("the bastards from the HR dept... we always have conflicts with them! will they ever learn?!"), anyone - but not me.
You can have another minor optimization:
An error was made, and your account data were lost, but we are now working on the problem.
This has several advantages, besides the ones mentioned earlier. The mistake was made by someone else, but we are looking for a solution - this emphasizes that it was not our fault, and that we are the good guys, playing in the client's team; things are being taken care of right now.
A good response should:
- Acknowledge the problem - never pretend that nothing bad happened because a lie will always get back to haunt you;
- Explain the consequences - what was lost, which functions won't work, etc;
- Explain the cause - why it happened, which series of unfortunate events lead to such an outcome;
- Point out measures taken - what is being done about it, how long until service is fully recovered, etc;
Note that the last version of the hypothetical response complies with all of the points above; even though it completely lacks technical details and real answers, it does pretend to address each point. This makes the client feel not forgotten - which is a very important feeling; an illusion of full control is created.
Of course, always prepare for clients who want to know the exact cause of the problem, the list of persons involved in the chain, etc. In other words, don't say that something is being done unless it is being done or you have reasons to believe it will be done in the nearest future. Do not say you know the cause, when you are not absolutely sure you know it. Do not say that nothing is lost unless you really know that everything can be recovered. A lie will always bite you in the ass. Do not lie. Ever!
But when you do... at least use passive voice :-)
When shifting blame on someone else's shoulders, do it in this order:
- Someone else;
- Some other company;
- Another department in your company;
- Another colleague in the same department;
- Myself - only when you already have a solution, which is 100% effective and was successfully implemented.
p.s. This is the first bit in the "Office space" category (the list is on the right). The name was inspired by this movie, which I strongly recommend.
This is really interesting!
Although with some people such techniques are pretty obvious and they lead to irritation and distrust. In which case complete frankness helps, I guess.
Comment from: gr8dude [Member]
You’re right, catching someone attempting to manipulate you is not the coolest thing to experience; but cooler than actually getting conned ;-)
Such people are on shaky grounds and they can end up in my blacklist if they push things too far. I am only advocating the use of such techniques when it happens in a neutral context (no casualties, no financial loss, no broken heaarts, etc).
Either way, this story must also be viewed as one that teaches you how to protect yourself.
Being honest is the optimal strategy though, becuase it involves no overhead thoughts such as “what must I do if they don’t believe me?"; therefore you can use your CPU cycles for more important things, such as understanding whether there is life elsewhere in the universe, or eternal love :-)
Form is loading...