Last month, a years-old lawsuit against Dell Computers was unsealed. And Dell’s actions as shown in the documents about the suit weren’t pretty.

Big deal. a huge company is less than forthcoming about the way they do business, and skirts honesty issues by never quite lying, but going out of their way to do less than what the swearing-in process in most US-based courts demands.

The words are “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth“. Did you ever ask yourself what that phrase means?

Leaving information out of something you’re explaining is a funny thing. You might do it to move a conversation along more quickly (ask my kids how much they wish I’d do some more of that). On the other hand, you might interpret that “tell the whole truth” thing as meaning that until and unless you’re asked a specific question you have no obligation to offer up information that you don’t wish to report. It’s what’s sometimes called a “lie of omission”. And if you tell those lies to cast your position more favorably it’s . . . generally not OK.

As the lawsuit revealed, that’s what Dell did when customers had certain kinds of problems with computers Dell sold over the course of about three years. Dell management specifically encouraged customer service staff to avoid the subjects, because admitting the problems under discussion would have cost a lot of money in customer service claims.

Like I said, big deal. Dell is a big bad corporate monster that would rather save money than do customer service the right way? Shocker.

There’s a better way to do customer service (and stay off The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame). It’s called Honesty.

The funny thing about honesty is that it really isn’t that hard to do. And while it might cost you the occasional buck, it pays back many times over in goodwill. And best of all, saves you money when lest-than-honest actions waste time. Remember the story of Nissan of Manhattan Customer Service? Or the lies from A&E Factory Service?

How about the way The Public Theatre handled customer service for people trying to get tickets to last summer’s Shakespeare in The Park production of The Merchant of Venice? Pure omission, meant to deceive. NOT customer service.

And all of those examples cost time. Lots of time.

Time is a precious resource. And as the old saying goes, time is the one thing you can’t make more of. So why waste it to save a few dollars, and simultaneously ruin your image?

The new year is upon us. If you’re looking for a great resolution to create business change in your company, try implementing honesty.

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