The growth and evolution of technology has redefined our everyday lives and even some of our terminology. Think of the word viral and the term transparent—both of which have a different meaning when associated with businesses and the internet. While the basic definition of transparent is “see-through,” as a business term in today’s marketplace, it relates more to a customer service standpoint, meaning complete honesty, openness and full disclosure.
Statistica.com recently polled a number of consumers and made this assertion— to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Business should be more transparent about what it does” An overwhelming percentage of those who responded replied they agreed (47%) and strongly agreed (31%) while only a tiny fraction (2%) disagreed or didn’t know (3%).
In light of these numbers and considering how important transparency is today’s consumers, here are six ways that transparency benefits your small business:
- Don’t Point Fingers – When revealing information to consumers, especially when addressing a problem or negative situation, don’t assign blame or point fingers, acknowledge the issue, apologize if necessary and move on. While it is important to publish information on business decisions and other important matters, bringing up the identity of a person or situation that caused a problem or created a failure will do little more than to alienate consumers.
- Death of Secrets – This is especially relevant considering the amount of information available online. Secrecy is dying in the business sector, so don’t alienate consumers by hiding information that they probably already know. Trade secrets are a thing of the past—think of it this way—practically everyone knows that your “secret sauce” is just mayonnaise, ketchup and relish. This and every other “secret” is readily available on the internet nowadays.
- Disclose Relationships – Rather than attempting to remain impartial towards the products you represent, make the relationship you have with manufacturers or parent companies known to customers. Invite them to see and share information about your vendors or partners as this will give you another opportunity to showcase your products and services—it’s win-win.
- Welcome Feedback – When your business is an open book, there are more opportunities for consumers to comment and share. This will ultimately build better relationships with your customers. They will also believe that their opinion matters and you are listening to their questions, comments and concerns. Obtaining feedback from current customers also helps build credibility and trust for your website.
- Give the Consumer Power – Make it simple for customers to make choices, opt in or out of subscriptions, return unwanted products or receive refunds. In the long run, they’ll appreciate your sincerity. Sure, there are some who might try to take advantage of this practice, but those few will be outweighed by more satisfied consumers that are likely to become repeat customers.
- Build Trust Inside and Out – Internally, transparency builds trust and thus promotes a more collegial team atmosphere, which eventually reaches out to consumers. People can often sense discord within a business and are more likely to move on if they feel things aren’t “clicking” or running smoothly.
When you think about it, its a little ironic that in order to be better seen today, it is important for a business to be completely transparent to its customers. In the long run, you will build better relationships with consumers and they will respect your integrity, honesty and willingness to be an open book around them.