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I work in a small technological company, less than 25 persons, in two different countries in Latin America, clients in both of them.
I'm in charge of operational issues, which means to install servers and software, giving support to problems and answer questions from clients. I have a team of four persons working with me.
Usually most cases from clients arrive and are resolved without knowledge of the CTO or the sales managers (one on each country). Only important cases are informed to let them know.

One case arrived the other day, regarding to a possible failure in a system a couple of days before, since we did not have enough evidence we could not give a quick answer. Then started the problem, the sales manager was informed of this issue and he quickly sent an email to the client saying that the problem observed was not ours. Later that day I informed to the sales manager that maybe we had a problem, but he chose to not make more noise about it. Since the client did not have a explanation to the problem, they continued investigating the source of the incident.

The problem is that this incident had a high chance to be repeated, because we did not have the whole solution at hand. In the meantime the client was gathering more and more evidence that it was our fault.

Few days later the incident repeated, with slight differences. This time I quickly told the client that the problem was ours and we had a diagnosis, hence a upgrade for the system would be available soon. Because the probability of repetition was high, and the client was already suspicious.

After that the system failed two more times with the same pattern.

Now we have the patch and the problem probably will be controlled. But I still have the bad feeling of having the sales manager answering support cases to calm the client whenever an issue does not have a fast diagnosis, or worse, having the customer sending incidents to the sales manager instead to the formal channel communication. Surely he thought that it was the best strategy to lie at that moment, but we did not have a decent lie then.

So the question is: How can I prevent the sales manager getting involved on issues of my responsibility while we keep a good relationship between us? He is in the other country, while the CTO is in my same office. Obviously, even though my boss is the CTO, the sales manager is more important than me in the company. Since the company is small, no written rules are available.

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    Lying to the customer is rarely a good strategy. Lying to the customer when you don't know the facts is often a bad strategy. The one thing that sales people are very bad at is keeping their mouth shut when they should keep their mouth shut. I feel for you.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 15:18
  • Customer Contact - Who is responsible for this job? (Should be one person)
    – Sandra K
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:00
  • @SandraK . Since is a system in constant change, there are al least three or four different person in contact with the client: sales, project management, design and support.
    – Santiago
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 18:36
  • @gnasher729 That last sentence can also apply to Engineers - except that we are likely to be all too truthful and say exactly what the problem is!
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 15:08
  • 1
    @PeterM In my experience, most engineers are either quite clever, or the boss doesn't let them anywhere near customers. That's difficult with sales people.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 18:47

2 Answers 2

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Based on your comment:

There are at least three or four different person in contact with the client: sales, project management, design and support.

I think this is the issue here. Customer who speaks with different contacts, will for sure get different answers.

I would bring it up to my manager and team and decide internally who (one contact) speaks to the customer. Unless your team is very very very coordinated/organised/synced (which seems to be not - hence why you are asking here).

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since we did not have enough evidence we could not give a quick answer

This is one of the most challenging things about operational support of tech around critical functions. During some incidents, you need to manage multiple groups of people and a lot of technical information, and make decisions and communicate on partial information.

If a client has reported an issue, especially a potentially critical one, they will be anxious or critical of your service the longer the delay is before response. This is somewhat independent of when the actual problem is fixed. Sometimes a client will have a better impression of your team if you manage them clearly through an issue on their side over the course of say three days, rather than resolving it in two, but leaving them hanging. (The exact timelines depend on your business; could be hours. Could be minutes!)

This is not irrational by the client. If there's a problem with your service, maybe they need to workaround it for a time so they don't have onward impact.

The salesperson is understanding this part of the relationship, "keeping the client warm", but then making a mistake in inventing a best-case answer instead of relating the real technical risk.

Perhaps, since it seems like there was some risk it was your issue, an early response from your team along the lines of "We don't see an issue on our dashboards at the moment, but we're doing some extra checks to make sure it's not some more subtle issue on our side. If you see further problems, please help share so we can help triangulate."

You might need to give multiple updates depending on how much time passes, and especially when more information is known to identify whether it's your issue or not.

Maybe with that approach in mind, you can approach the sales manager (maybe with your boss backing you up), and say "we should have responded faster in this case. Here's what our team is planning to do in the future. For sales, in future incidents, please make sure you check with us so we are speaking to the customer as one team."

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