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How does your company place ethical behavior with customers at the core of its strategy? As a company, it is important to treat your customers with dignity and accept their diversity. One of the tools you can use to improve your customer service is interactive decision trees. In this guide, we’ll take you through ethical behavior and why it is important.
So, let’s get started.
“Corporate executives and business owners need to realize that there can be no compromise when it comes to ethics, and there are no easy shortcuts to success. Ethics need to be carefully sown into the fabric of their companies”. – Vivek Wadhwa
How Customers perceive Ethical Behavior
Businesses survive based on the trust and value customers attach to them. The basis of trust is the perception customers have of the ethical behavior of companies. Ethical behavior with customers is about a transparent, honest, and open relationship that a company would build with its customers. Maintaining ethical behavior would, in fact, be the foundation of all the relationships a company has with all its partners – customers, employees, investors, vendors, and other stakeholders. A company that earns disrepute for being unethical is likely to face its downfall soon. The market is far too competitive and customers have a number of choices now. They would not tolerate even the smallest instance of unethical conduct.
As mentioned several times, customer relationships are highly subjective. Customers perceive companies based on their own beliefs and biases. As such, would consider company behaviors and operating practices based on these. It would be essential for companies, especially the ones that have global operations, to understand what customers in a particular region would consider ethical behavior. Also, they need to know what conducts constitute unethical behavior.
Customers have their own standards and labels for companies and service providers. They have preconceived notions of whom they would typically consider cheaters and whom they would trust. This may seem unfair but customers’ perceptions become a reality for them. These perceptions could have come about from their experiences. If customers have been deceived, misled, or subject to unethical conduct, their perception of other service providers and companies tends to be negative. Conversely, if a customer’s relationship with a company revolved around ethical behavior and treatment, they are likely to trust others as well.
Ethical Behavior To Customers
Ethical behavior of a company with its customers includes (but is not limited to) providing true information and impressions to customers. There would be no attempt by the company to engage in trickery, play with words or display false expertise in order to influence customers to buy. Also included in the realm of ethical behavior is how a company treats all its customers. The level of respect and care must remain the same even if one customer is not as big and profitable as another customer may be.
Serious companies do offer special incentives to their most loyal customers. However, this must not detract from the service levels for all customers. Another aspect of ethical behavior with customers is treating each individual customer as a human being. Customers are people with feelings, interests, afflictions, shortcomings, and quirks. Therefore, companies must manage each customer individually based on these traits. Customers are not numbers or just money-churning machines. If a company treats them as such, that would be unfair and unethical for them. A customer’s perception of a company’s behavior as being ethical or unethical revolves around these broad aspects.
There is a reason that the interactions between customers and companies are a relationship. It is a two-way path. Customers seek information, resolutions, and service and it is the job of the company to comply. Providing honest and the most appropriate responses would constitute ethical behavior. Hence, this kind of conduct is the very basis of great customer service. Ethical behavior with customers is the prime responsibility of companies. They must remain in effect even when a customer cannot ascertain their acts. For example, in the manufacturing or production stage.
Most companies enlist integrity, honesty, and openness as their values, but these must extend to customers as well. Customers should be able to perceive ethical behavior in every interaction they have with the company. Ethical behavior does not relate only to financial transactions, as we have shown above. Any conduct that is an attempt to cheat the customer in a big or small manner would constitute ethical behavior and would eventually come to the fore. Unethical conduct, even a single instance, can damage a company’s reputation for good. “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” – Unknown.
What Does It Mean To Customers
Ethical behavior can mean different things to different customers. For some, receiving precise, swift, and clear responses could constitute ethics. However, for others, a socially responsible company would display the highest form of ethical behavior. Being disrespectful, discourteous, rude, telling partial truths, and hiding facts about the company’s products and services would constitute unethical conduct. Eventually, a customer would sever ties with the company and let others know of the treatment meted out to them. Once a company has the label of unethical, it would be near impossible to change the perception, despite the best and most concerted efforts.
As mentioned, a customer’s behavior is subjective and their perception of a company arises out of their own experiences and preferences. In order to show their existing and prospective customers that the company values integrity and will display ethical behavior in all situations, companies usually create a code of conduct and ethics. All employees of the company are to read and sign this code. They should be willing to accept punishment if they were to flout any conditions therein.
The company would further display its belief in ethical behavior by making this code public. It must be available on their website and social media sites and sent out to their existing customers via email every 6 months. Ethical behavior with customers is the most competitive advantage a company can have. In the current business scenario where companies are sprouting in every nook and corner, customers have no way to know whether they can be trusted. Companies cannot expect customers to trust them instantly. However, they can consistently display ethical behavior in all aspects of their business. Over time, customers will learn to trust them and become a company’s most value-added assets.
Benefits of Ethical Behavior
Ethical behavior with customers under all situations and circumstances leads to strong and sustainable relationships with them. Businesses that run a ‘tight ship’ with regard to ethical behavior will be highly respected by customers, employees, investors, other stakeholders, and even competitors. It takes years to build such a reputation, but a company with such character would be tough to beat. Customers prefer to do business with a company that they can trust. They would even be more comfortable paying more, so long as they know that irrespective of the circumstance, the company would always stick to ethical behavior.
In order to make ethical behavior and systems a culture and a norm in the company, the code of ethics must include aspects such as personal integrity. In fact, this should top the list and the company’s top leaders must demonstrate it in everything they do. Ethical behavior with customers is not a favor or a benefit to customers.
Drawbacks of Unethical Behavior
Without ethical behavior, there would be no business as customers would not like to deal with a dishonest company. Neither would employees want to work in such a company. Investors too would stay away from a company practicing unethical conduct. Who would want to risk their finances with a company known for its dishonesty? Any company that claims customer centricity and service excellence must first display ethical behavior with customers and in all the company’s practices. Being honest and trustworthy with customers is no longer an option. Without these traits, there would be no customers for the company.