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Four ways to make your customer experience more transparent

Posted May 26, 2020
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As we continue to navigate through these difficult and uncertain times due to COVID-19, it has become quite clear that transparency of information has taken on increased meaning in our daily lives. The need for honest, unbiased and clear communication has never been more important.

Moreover, recent laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), have brought privacy and consumer protection to the forefront of our minds.

These recent events mean companies are having to reinvent and refine their approaches to transparency from all sides, including from an operations standpoint.

In Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School associate professor Ryan W. Buell called operational transparency “the deliberate design of windows into and out of the organization’s operations to help customers and employees alike understand and appreciate the value being created.” Those last few words are key, because transparency doesn’t just benefit consumers; it holds value for your employees as well.

So how can organizations ensure they’re always being as forthright as possible, particularly in times of crisis? These guidelines can help.

Break down silos

Transparency shouldn’t be an afterthought, but rather an integral part of business operations from the beginning. In the workplace, the departments and units in your organization should come together on behalf of your customers and clients to improve the flow of information.

That means encouraging peer-to-peer communication and sharing knowledge through internal newsletters and lunch-and-learn-type sessions. This kind of collaboration can reveal vital insights about how consumers engage with your brand at each stage of the customer journey, and put you in a better position to build a better, more satisfying customer experience.

Own your mistakes

Business leader and author Amine Ayad once wrote, “Be humble to see your mistakes, courageous to admit them and wise enough to correct them.” When it comes to brand communications, this mantra hits the mark.

If a company makes a mistake, the best, most transparent approach is to be forthright about the situation. Based on a survey published in 2019, 53% of consumers told social media management company Sprout Social they “are likely to consider brands that are transparent on social for their next purchase.” Without transparency, however, 86% say they’d most likely take their business to a competitor.

Social media isn’t the only channel where transparency matters. Should your organization need to own up to a misstep, using press releases and ads to apologize to consumers for company conduct can work well. Owning up to mistakes, instead of ignoring them, goes a long way in helping brands regain their customers’ trust.

In times of crisis, the customer service accounts you’ve built and maintained on channels like Facebook and Twitter will prove especially valuable. You can use them to share updates with followers about changes to your business operations if you are experiencing any service delays and how your organization is managing them, and at the same time, maintain a strong connection with your loyal customers. These social media accounts are also useful for responding to any negative reviews about your customer experience as well.

Prioritize proactive communication

Open communication is important, but so is communication that’s proactive rather than reactive. Are you reaching out to your customers with news about company changes or service delays that could affect their experiences? Are you being equally transparent with your employees? These questions should always be at the forefront of company leaders’ minds.

Informing employees about changes before they occur can decrease the likelihood of a backlash. So can encouraging them to share their feedback and voice their concerns on an ongoing basis. These are good ways to keep your team engaged, maintain open lines of communication, show support to your team members during these challenging times and remind them that they’re trusted and valued. For instance, if you encounter a problem with your day-to-day operations, disclosing the details internally enables your organization to work in partnership to come up with an effective solution.

On the customer side, sending emails informing them of new customer service tools will keep them up to date on their options for interacting with your brand. Any changes to your products, services and how you use your customer data should be communicated on as many channels as possible to cast a wide net, including by email and on websites and social media.

Embrace data privacy to boost trust

Trust is always crucial to building a strong relationship between businesses and customers. This is especially relevant today, when data breaches are almost commonplace and rightfully so, an ongoing concern for many consumers.

Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer Special Report notes that when it comes to their ability to trust brands, 55% of surveyed consumers are concerned about the use of their personal data, how brands track and target them and also how artificial intelligence is applied for customer service purposes. This suggests that if companies are proactive and transparent in sharing how they use customer data, they can gain their customers’ trust.

The brand-consumer relationship is one of give and take, so it’s only right that businesses should be straightforward about what consumers can expect from them, especially in times of uncertainty. Embracing business strategies built around a commitment to transparency is the only way to ensure a fair value exchange that will lead to long-term brand loyalty.

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