Transparency in customer relations

“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability”. – Simon Mainwaring

Building trust is extremely important for the sustenance of any relationship. Trust is built through honesty and keeping promises. This amounts to transparency. So also with customers – who are the reason companies are around and without whom there would be no business. Transparency in customer relations will foster trust and customer loyalty. As with all relationships, this takes time and a consistent and diligent effort. Customer satisfaction is and should be every company’s responsibility as without it all other efforts and resources invested will be wasted. Transparency in customer relations is the sure shot and shortest route to any company’s success and profitability.

Engaged customers are the ones who are being actively listened to and this is the first step towards building great customer relations. Companies do this by constantly assessing the level of their customer’s satisfaction with regard to service, experiences, pricing, quality and value of their product or service. In a broader spectrum of customer service, companies must continuously share information on improvement measures undertaken, feedback received and what has been done with it – this is termed as transparency in customer relations. Keeping customers constantly informed provides them with a comfort level with the company and also allows them to trust the company. With trust comes loyalty and repeat business and also makes customers brand ambassadors.

It has been established that in all relationships, trust serves as the foundation. For businesses, the customer’s trust is a critical building stone and contributes towards solidifying their reputation and success of the brand. Companies must focus on strengthening their internal processes and ensuring that their employees are able to instill trust in the minds of the customers. The front-ending staff especially must be able to forge strong relationships with customers to enhance the customer’s confidence in the company. When customers can perceive clearly that the company is working for the customer’s best interest it amounts to transparency in customer relations. This makes it easier for companies to do business in a highly competitive market and ensuring their place amongst the market leaders. What are the pointers for customers that companies are forging transparency in customer relations?

– Companies will provide proper guidelines about health and safety with regard to the use of the product or service they are offering
– Let customers know all the costs involved – both immediate and long term. This protects the economic interests of the customers
– Provide guidelines and manuals that help customers to understand the impact of the choice they make with regard to the environment, society or their own business growth
– Ensure that it is easy for customers to make complaints and give feedback with an effective and speedy redressal system
– Ensure that the product is sustainable and will be available if required long term
– Remain honest in dealings especially with regard to terms and conditions, pricing and product details
– All communication channels must reflect the company’s commitment towards maintaining quality and established standards
– Make public all facts that will impact or affect the customer’s decision and never provide misleading and exaggerated content
– Maintain a standard level of service and products across with all customers to ensure that the company’s reputation is never harmed and there is a constant positive feel in the marketplace
– Remember to make promises only if you intend to keep them and can keep them. All agreements must be adhered to
– Guard customer data like you would any other confidential company information. Customers share loads of personal information with companies with a certain trust that the information will never be abused or falsified. Remember to keep the customer informed as and when some information is required and let them know how it will be used
– Promote a culture of integrity and ethics first in your workplace and conduct all transactions in the same spirit. People with high integrity do the right thing even when it is difficult and such people earn the trust and respect of others.

By adhering to these standards and behavior, companies can ensure transparency in customer relations leading customers to trust them enough to remain with them for a long period of time. There a number of benefits companies can get from maintaining transparency in customer relations. A reputation built on trust and solidified by the customer’s word of mouth, is almost impossible to compete with.

– The brand and reputation of the company rises with each customer. Satisfied customers are most likely to let others know about the great experiences they have while dealing with your company. When such comments and discussions become commonplace especially on social media, others are drawn towards such a company and business increases. People will only do business long term with companies they can trust and who consistently display this behavior. In addition, companies that operate with transparency are also trusted by their employees. Trusting employees are happy and can service the customer with the same level of trust and enthusiasm.

– It is always easier to trust people who have nothing to hide and can be courageous in the face of problems or lapses on their part. Taking onus and being upfront about situations is an approach that is widely appreciated and attracts people towards such a work culture. The trust that such companies are able to build is quite unshakeable and customers are even willing to overlook service lapses since they are confident that the company will make amends. Companies cannot afford the costs of losing the faith and trust of customers. Broken trust is difficult to repair and often leads to other problems that become impenetrable mountains, leading to the downfall of companies.

– When companies are open and display transparency in customer relations, their customers are more willing to provide suggestions and feedback for improvement. New ideas and feedback from the end users makes innovation and creativity easier for companies. Taking in to account the expectations and needs of customers and making products that are most suitable, will further enhance the reputation of such companies.

– Transparency is customer relations also help to improve customer service. Customers can let companies know what they are doing right and what they should do better. Making such feedback public and taking them in to account makes customers feel like they are being heard and being valued. Customers that feel wanted are the ones who keep coming back to the company – since everyone likes to ‘be among friends’.

– With the rise of communication via social media it is increasingly important for companies to manage their image. With transparency and having high levels of customer trust, companies are able to manage any issues much better as they would be given a chance to redeem themselves. Even if a challenge does arise, no one will be immediately ready to form opinions till such time that the company is able to respond. This is a major advantage of transparency and trust building.

Transparency in customer relations and in business is not just a trend that has suddenly kicked off and will die with time. It is a mindset and an approach that companies must have to foster deeper and long lasting relationships with their customers. Companies do not typically have a ‘face’ with which customers interact but using this human approach of trust and confidence adds human emotions to each interaction and customer experience. Irrespective of the growth of technology and social media, this human approach will never go out of style and customers will always be more inclined to work with companies that unabashedly display it.

Customers are the end-users and they are the ones who can know what they want and if companies are willing to hear them, they will share this information. Whether this is liked or not, the truth is that customers run the business and have a major role in deciding the success or failure of a business. Understand their needs, take feedback and use those powerful recommendations to good use and remain honest and transparent in all your dealings – these seem to be the major contributors and guarantees for success.

“The financial crisis is a stark reminder that transparency and disclosure are essential in today’s marketplace.” – Jack Reed