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“Ethics is, knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do”. – Potter Stewart

The importance of ethics can never be overemphasized in all walks of life. It is necessary for each one to have a set of moral values and in the realm of business dealings, ethics prove invaluable. Ethics in customer dealings presents your company in a good light and customers will trust your company irrespective of high prices or minor service lapses. Ethics in customer dealings improves the quality of service and fosters positive relationships. Business ethics is about being able to differentiate between what is wrong and right and conduct all dealings based on what is right even when doing the wrong thing will reap richer benefits at least short term.

Many top and leading companies have a booklet called the code of conduct and ethics and new employees are made to sign it. This booklet is a formal and clearly worded document telling every member of the company the kinds of actions and behavior they are expected to have and the departure from these would result in serious consequences. This code of conduct and ethics is reiterated again mid-year and everyone is expected to read and sign it again. It will not be inappropriate to say that the top line must lead by example if they expect everyone down the line to match up. People within the company look upon their leaders and conduct their behavior accordingly. Companies whose leaders are not ethical are more likely to be leading a company of people who do not shy away from being unethical in all their dealings.

For a business to be successful and even exist, it needs customers. Customers have become smarter, more well-informed and are quick to perceive if they are being cheated. The company’s success therefore rides on building trust and confidence with the customer which can only happen when they practice ethics in customer dealings. Integrity in every dealing must come naturally and not because there would be legal repercussions. Ethics in customer dealings is doing the right thing every time and in everything. So how can companies display that they follow strict guidelines of ethics in customer dealings? These characteristics must be clearly demonstrated for customers to believe them long term.

– Promotions and advertisements of products and services must be true to the actual offering. Exaggerations and overselling tactics ultimately invite flak and cause customers to have no trust in such a company. As an example – a friend was eager to visit a new burger joint that promised some unusual tastes and combinations, all at very low rates. When she visited the shop she was utterly disappointed to see that the combinations they had mentioned were far from true and the prices were astronomical compared with the products. She left instantly and was so upset that she immediately put out her comments on a couple of social media sites with some scathing comments and a promise never to visit the shop again. The new joint had made a huge blunder by overselling and posting exaggerated pictures of their products. It would seem rather tough for this joint to get the customer numbers they were hoping for.

– Honesty and transparency in financial transactions and accounting procedures. Complete accuracy of all transactions and accurate book-keeping are a must for customers and other stakeholders to trust the company. Ethics in customer dealings is not only about external customers but is also about being completely open with internal customers and shareholders as well.

– The company’s values must reflect a commitment to high standards of customer service and also fair practices for its employees. Companies must ensure that their dealings with their employees are clean and fair and only then will their employees serve them well and speak well of them to others. Fair practices reduce employee attrition and create a relationship of trust and loyalty in the minds of the employees. Happy employees reflect this on to the customers who would be curious to know the reason for such happy staff. If companies can be loyal and honest to their employees, they would most certainly understand the importance of ethics in customer dealings.

– Promises made to customers at the time of making a sale must be kept at all costs. Companies must strive to maintain the integrity of customer service at all times. Each customer interaction and experience must be an over-deliverance of the promises made to customers. This after sales service integrity is a major building block to form solid and long term relationships with customers.

– Each person in a company is the representative of the company even before and after working hours. The leaders of such companies especially must lead a lifestyle that reflects integrity and honesty. Imagine if a leader of a reputed company is found indulging in unfair practices outside the company. The natural instinct of customers and others would be to think that the whole company would be indulging in such practices. Such an image has the potential to damage the reputation and profitability of a company almost irreparably. Personal integrity of each person in the company is an absolute must for customers to believe that dealings with them would be ethical too.

Ethics in customer dealings and otherwise must be an intentional and constantly practiced attribute of any company. Ethical dealings must be part of the company’s values and culture and any deviation must be dealt with severely. Organizations that build their best practices and culture around integrity are more likely to have a loyal customer base and happy employees. The value statement of the company must put down clearly the core principles of the company and these values must be the guiding and dictating force that would lead every interaction and each deal and influence all the major decisions that take place in the company.
Employees must be provided with the requisite orientation and training to ensure they understand the criticality of being ethical in all their interactions. Clear expectations that are documented provide a guide on how they are expected to behave and conduct themselves within the office and outside. All employee meets and departmental meetings must be used as forums to discuss the ethical standards of the company and also clear any doubts that new comers may have.

The culture of the company must be open and employees must be confident that they will not be reprimanded or singled out if they were to report some unethical behavior. For this reason many companies have a confidential mail-box or email id or hotline or all – that would encourage employees to report questionable actions without any fear of retribution or revenge especially if the complaint is against a senior person in the organization. Anonymity and confidentiality for this reporting method are absolutely vital since blowing the whistle on a senior person or even on a peer is never easy and most people would choose to look the other way if they perceive some kind of repercussion.

Companies that have strict guidelines and strict compliance to these guidelines are able to establish a reputation of respect and credibility. They often become the company of choice for customers who seek such honest and transparent dealings. Ethics in customer dealings and all other dealings is a choice that companies make and one that would reap rich rewards for the company in the long run. Companies that choose to ignore the importance of ethics in customer dealings do not last long. Making decisions that are unethical but profitable in the short term, most certainly always backfire in the long run leading to the collapse and disintegration of the company for sure.

Companies that seek long term success and a great reputation, realize the importance of creating a culture of integrity and ethics in customer dealings.

“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly”. – Aristotle

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