I’ve heard the term “rolling disclosure” a few times on the political TV shows recently.

So far as I can tell, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was the first to use the term in 2001.  Matthews:  “He told us what he knew as soon as he knew it, not when it suited him. There was no ‘rolling disclosure,’ no politician out there telling us what he wanted us to know when he wanted us to know it.”

Airlines Regularly Roll Disclosure

We’ve all experienced rolling disclosure with the airlines:

  1. You check in at the kiosk.  The display above indicates that the flight will leave on time.
  2. You get to the gate, and the display says it’s now going to be 30 minutes late.
  3. You go online and check on another airline’s flight.  It leaves in an hour.  Might as well stay here and wait for this one, right?
  4. Forty-five minutes go by.  Too late to catch the other flight.
  5. Right then your flight comes up on the screen as being an additional hour late.  Are you kidding me?
  6. Continue to loop back to step #3 until there are no options left.

Do the airlines use a deliberate rolling disclosure strategy so their passengers won’t rebook on another carrier?  I don’t have the time or interest in proving it, but I do know that the airlines have a much better understanding than they let on as to when incoming flights (your outbound flights) will be arriving.  They know that if they told you right off that your flight was going to be 2 1/2 hours late you’d switch to another carrier’s flight.  Angry yet?

Some Salespeople Roll Disclosure, Too.

We’ve observed rolling disclosure with salespeople when they were faced with the uncomfortable task of delivering bad news to a customer.  When times are tough and selling is more challenging, such as it is right now, it’s counter-intuitive for a salesperson to share all the bad news with the customer immediately.  The salesperson thinks, “If I dump all this bad news on them now, they’ll dump me.  Here’s what I’ll do.   Today I’ll tell them we don’t have the color they want.  Next week I’ll tell them about the delivery delays…”  Wrong.  By the time the customer wonders if there is any more bad news, you’ve likely lost their trust and the sale.

There are three reasons for immediate and full disclosure.  First, it’s the right way thing to do.  Second, you’ll want your salesperson to tell the customer the (whole) story before their competitor spins it to their own benefit.  Third, your customer will not like rolling disclosure at all.  Think delayed flights.  It will anger your customer, just as it does you.

Photo credit: © Sam Downes - Fotolia.com

      

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