This is a guest post by James Adams, on just why transparency is such a big “deal” these days, and why it can be good for your business. As someone who strives to be pretty transparent myself, I felt as a BGB reader you’d likely appreciate the post and perhaps even have some insight yourself on how transparency has helped you in your own entrepreneurial journey. If so we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Your business is your business, but sometimes allowing others to know your business makes good sense. We all like a certain amount of privacy, especially when it comes to financial dealings and embarrassing details, but staying mum about your business or personal financial health could hurt you in the long run.
Transparency can help your business to grow. Openness about your successes and failures will inspire your customers to trust you when they see that you do not try to make your business seem better than it really is.
By conveying a realistic picture of business finances, customers will trust your brand because they know that you tell them the truth. Rather than putting out phoney numbers or embellishing your track record, just be honest about the condition of your business and you will be surprised at how your customers will respect you for it.
Here are 7 ways transparency can benefit your business.
Stick with the Facts
Revealing the considerations involved in your decision making process may be a good thing, but pointing fingers and assigning blame may not be appropriate.
Your business should disclose some of the decisions it makes and many of the reasons for it, but publicizing who caused a problem or a failure may prove disconcerting to both your employees and your customers. By sticking with the facts, you let customers know what you are doing without presenting any awkward facts or opinions that may make people feel uncomfortable.
Accept Your Humanity
Every business will have a failure in some form over time. Whether it is a quality problem, a communication problem, or an ethics problem, you are best to acknowledge it and take measures to correct it rather than pretend it never happened.
Deep inside we all understand that people are not perfect: customers often will extend the same understanding of your mistakes as they seek for themselves when they make mistakes. When you do the right thing, you inspire confidence in the midst of a pessimistic business world.
Secrets are a Thing of the Past
There used to be some merit in the argument that trade secrets and business problems could be contained. Nowadays, employees leak facts and figures and everyone knows how to make just about everything because the information is all online. Good public relations now trump secrecy, so don’t alienate your customers by refusing to discuss what they already know.
Customers Appreciate Disclosure
Rather than pretending that you offer an impartial assessment of a products you are paid to represent, tell them about your relationship with the company that makes them and explain to them why you feel like the products are right for them. This avoids distaste should customers discover your business relationship while offering you the opportunity to sell your product.
Be Transparent Online Too
If you shop online a lot, you may have noticed how many companies do not reveal any details about ownership, nor do they offer sufficient contact information. Suspicions that your business wants to avoid interaction with customers will usually result in fewer sales. Everyone who has done business online knows that phone calls can be frustrating and time consuming, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your customers that pathway of communication.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to let the online community know who you are. Sure, if people see photos of you and your business, they may think that you are a small or inexperienced operation; but that’s better than leading them on to think you are bigger and more established than you really are.
Put the Customer in Charge
Similarly, if customers want a refund, give it to them. Sure, some customers will take advantage of such a policy of openness, but many will feel secure in knowing that they are the ones that ultimately determine what they do with their time and money.
Besides, trying to trap people into receiving material they do not want forcing them to keep merchandise they do not like only sets you up for disaster. Let the customer opt in or out. Let the customer decide whether or not to keep your product. Let them tell you what they like or do not like about your business and let them choose whether to buy from you or not.
Be Committed to Transparency
If your business says that it will be transparent, mean it. Don’t rely on tricks and ambiguous words to trick people into doing business with you. Learn from Obama. As a campaigner, he promised the most open and transparent government ever, only to renege on that promise inflaming much ire and frustration among the news media and the public.
For example, if you offer a no questions asked refund policy, honor it even if you have to issue ten refunds in a day. Your reputation among customers will suffer if you do not keep your word, especially when it hurts you.
These 7 ways transparency can benefit your business should help guide you into the formulation of an effective transparency policy that will set you apart from the pack. When customers learn that you can be trusted to reveal both the good and the bad, they will reward you with more of their business.