What exactly does is mean to be transparent? Transparency can be approached in a variety of different ways.
For example, the German government took the idea of transparency to a literal sense after rebuilding their unified capital city following World War II and the Cold War. Decades of fascism followed by communism made the German people wary of their government. Today, this is why tourists who visit Berlin’s government buildings see an abundance of glass: a glass dome in the Reichstag that allows visitors to peer down at their elected officials and glass walls in the Chancellery that let those from the outside look in.
The German government is…quite literally…transparent in an effort to regain and maintain the trust of its people. Businesses don’t have to take the concept as literally as architects and politicians in Germany did. But there are other means by which businesses can improve their customer experience through transparency, especially with technology. Even if the walls to your business aren’t made of glass, technology has given your customers a unique window to peer through.
1. Tell Them About Yourself
If a business wants to improve its customer experience, it’s important that it starts by taking a good look at its website. A website is often the first place a customer will go when looking to engage with your company. As a result, a website shouldn’t only be a means of advertising your services or your products. It should also be an introduction to your company, its goals, and the people who work there.
Including a detailed “About Us” section on your website will do a lot to create an environment of transparency. Tell the story of your business. However, remember that no story is complete without its conflicts and resolutions. Your customers will appreciate the honesty. Don’t forget to introduce your “cast of characters:” your employees who work there. Humanize them with pictures and personalize them with anecdotes. Be upfront with your customers. Show them who they will be dealing with. And if the page is done correctly, your customers shouldn’t see bankers, executives, managers, etc. They should see people just like them.
2. Put Your Business on Film
Filming your business’s daily life is something any company can and should do. While not the first business to use this method, Patagonia became the most popular when it released a series of “Footprint Chronicles,” videos that detailed every step in the making of its outerwear so customers could hold the company accountable for its ethical standards. In doing so, its customer experience not only improved due to an increase in trust, but customers also felt at ease knowing they could purchase clothing from the company without sacrificing their ethical and moral principles.
Regardless of the product your company sells or the service it offers, pick up the camera and give your customers a glimpse behind the scenes. For a candy shop, this may mean filming your candy being made, displayed, and sold. It may include interviews with the employees and management team. For a restaurant, transparency may include video tours of the kitchen, details on its equipment, and introductions to its staff readily available on the website.
Your customers’ experience will also benefit if these videos better help them understand what you do, especially if your business or practice is one that not everyone has experience with. Everyday people may not fully understand what a financial adviser does. They may not understand what a lawyer spends his or her days doing. Or an accountant. Or a computer programmer. Sometimes this misunderstanding can resonate into distrust and turn clients away from using your services. Create and share videos that break down these barriers and increase awareness.
3. Go Mobile
Nothing is more transparent than letting your customers access your business from anywhere. With mobile apps, customers and clients can do just this, even when your business may not be open. Banks use mobile apps to allow customers to transfer funds and even deposit checks. Restaurants use mobile apps so customers can order food anytime and anywhere. Department stores use mobile apps so shoppers can easily order online and pick up in the store. Even the government is getting involved on both the federal and local level. For example, the TSA has its own app travelers can use to easily check what can and cannot be packed in carry-on luggage in the hopes of making packing a breeze and the lines at airports across the country shorter. At the local level, the City of Pasadena launched its own virtual city hall app, giving residents access to important city information 24/7.
Developing an app is not an endeavor that you can undertake on your own. However, there are companies out there who will gladly help businesses develop custom software. Show your customers that you are there for them anytime by making your product and your services more accessible from anywhere.
With the rise in popularity of social media, everyone’s lives have become a little more transparent. People share their meals on Instagram, their job history on LinkedIn, photos of their recent vacation on Facebook, and their political thoughts on Twitter.
Your customers are sharing more and, in turn, expect you to share more, as well. If your company isn’t active on social media, it may be losing not only a large number of sales but also a significant amount of trust. While 77% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company and CEO visible on social media, about 82% of customers said they are more likely to trust a company with a social media presence.
Even if you have a social media account, you must make sure your business is putting it to good use. When customers ask questions, leave comments, sing praise, or even voice concern on your social media pages, make sure you’re there to respond in a timely manner. Answer questions. Thank customers for their feedback. Address concerns and complaints head-on. There’s nothing less transparent than letting complaints linger on your social media accounts unaddressed. Or worse: having complaints mysteriously disappear.
But social media, like your website, shouldn’t only be a place where you’re advertising your products or selling your services. Social media is so popular because it can be a lot of fun. Post the videos your company made. Create or share engaging graphics. Get your customers involved through sweepstakes and contests. You’re experts in your field, so put that expertise to use through content-rich blog posts. It’s important that you use social media as a place, not to demand, sell, or ask for things from your customers, but instead as a place where your customers feel like they’re getting something in return for their dedication to your business.