Five ways to increase transparency in your business (and why you should)
Trust is hard to come by, and that may be true for businesses even more than for people. If you want a consumer to buy from you, you have to get him or her to have absolute faith that you're going to deliver on your promises: that your product will be worth what you're asking for it, and if anything goes wrong, you'll be there to help set the matter right.
20 Jun 2016 11:14
There are several ways to build trust, which include simply managing to exist over time, and cultivating good customer reviews and good business coverage. But if you want to preserve and expand that trust, you’re also going to have to provide some measure of transparency. Increasing corporate distrust
Many people don’t trust traditional advertising these days, nor do they trust the brands that are behind them
. There are many reasons for this, but among the most common and powerful is the idea that brands always have something to hide, or that they’re only out to make a profit from consumers.
Transparency - the act of making more information open and honestly available to the public - can mediate against these popular notions, and eventually lead to the development of a more trustworthy brand image. Transparent companies enjoy the reputation of being more honest, and earn higher customer acquisition and loyalty as rewards. Strategies for greater transparency
The following five strategies can help you achieve a higher level of perceived transparency among your new and old customers alike:
- Tell the truth. This is the first point. It’s the most important and, we would hope, the most obvious. Simply tell the truth as a business, in every context and channel you can think of. Be honest in your advertising campaigns; be direct about all the advantages - and disadvantages - of your products and services. If a customer asks a question, tell the truth - even if you suspect the person isn’t going to like the answer. The truth isn’t always easy to swallow, but if you tell it consistently, people will inevitably learn to trust you.
- Introduce your team. Including an open “team” page on your website or drawing in personal brands of your leadership is a great way to make your company seem more transparent and approachable. It shows your company is more than just a faceless name or logo, and makes people trust you more. Just think about how much more powerful the Facebook brand has grown, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s personal but often very public involvement.
- Admit to your mistakes. Your firm isn’t perfect. No company is. Businesses are run by people, after all, and people make mistakes now and then. What’s important to most other folks isn’t how many mistakes you make, or what kind (within reason), but what you do about those mistakes. In most cases, your best move in the interests of transparency is to acknowledge every error and offer an apology. For example, Goldman Sachs recently apologised for a number of irresponsible practices that helped create the financial crisis of 2008. The company also offered $500 million in damages, but the point is that Goldman Sachs admitted publicly to having committed errors, and undoubtedly earned back some trust in the process.
- Acknowledge your criticism. Obviously, in a perfect world, all your reviews would be good ones and all of your customers would love you. But this isn’t the case, obviously; no matter how good your business is, you’re going to face criticism - sometimes harsh criticism - and you’re going to encounter some expressions of hatred from certain customers. Acknowledging and respecting their criticism, rather than burying it, will make you seem more transparent and give you the opportunity to respond. For example, when investor Tim Sykes was called out for being a “douchebag” in his marketing campaigns, he freely admitted to the incident and made light of it while also offering a serious and official response. Tim Sykes Challenge review posts also serve as acknowledgment of criticism.
- Give the people what they ask for. Eventually, you may find yourself in a position of being required to hand over corporate information to the general public. For example, a customer might demand that you show further evidence of an exchange; or on a larger scale, you may be called upon to release financial documents. In these cases, it’s almost always better to reveal the information upfront. Refusing to hand over such items, or trying to ignore the requests initially, will only make it appear as if you have something to hide.
Your strategy for greater brand transparency doesn’t have to be exceptionally detailed or complicated. In fact, the best strategies are the simplest ones
: be honest, and if you’re asked a question, give a direct answer.
It can be difficult to do this when you’re trying to manage complex business relationships and maintain a sparkling public image, but sometimes it’s better to show an imperfect face to the world... as long as that image is still a sincere one.