Just because its LEGAL, does not mean its RIGHT! The importance of openness & transparency in Customer Experience


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openness and transparency

There are many things that have bugged me for many years when it comes to Customer Experiences that I have had as a consumer. Although I recognise I may not be your average ‘customer’, a lot of the things that bug me, also bug others. For example, it is very common for me to be shopping in a supermarket and see a brilliant ‘deal’ being advertised on a special display. Last week, the ‘deal’ in my local supermarket was for tinned tomatoes – you could buy two branded tins of tomatoes for £1. I cannot remember what the saving per tin was, but the ‘deal’ was prominently displayed in the fruit and vegetables aisle.


Having been trained well by Mrs Golding to look for the ‘deals’, I immediately put two of the tomato tins in my shopping basket. I could have gone on merrily completing my shopping without a second thought. However, I thought I would just double check to see if this ‘special deal’ was in fact the ‘best deal’ for tinned tomatoes. On finding the extensive tinned tomatoes section, I discovered that if I were to buy the supermarkets own brand tinned tomatoes, I could have 3 for £1!!!

You may be wondering why I am blabbering on about tinned tomatoes! Whilst this story may seem insignificant, I personally believe it is a great example of the lack of openness and transparency that exists in the daily interactions consumers have with organisations today. The branded ‘deal’ was very prominently displayed where it would have been almost impossible for shoppers to miss it. The BETTER deal was almost hidden on the bottom shelf in an aisle – only a savvy, suspicious shopper would have noticed.

For years, organisations across multiple industries have been enticing consumers to purchase their goods and services with a series of tactics and techniques that on the face of it, appear to be benefiting the customer. However, for years, many of these organisations have made it increasingly difficult to actually see if the customer is indeed being communicated with openly and transparently.

Take train tickets – I have absolutely no idea how the cost of a train ticket is calculated. I am not sure if a human is involved – all I do know is that the prices thrown back at me whenever I need to book a ticket vary so significantly, it often feels as though I am playing the lottery!

boarding pass1

Perhaps the greatest example of a lack of transparency and openness was the ‘scandal’ uncovered last week in the UK’s airports.  Do you remember when ‘duty free’ used to mean that you could buy goods ‘duty free’?! If you travel outside of the EU, VAT is not payable to the UK government. For years, retailers in airports have been asking/demanding to see a passengers boarding pass when making a purchase. I have never quite understood why this was so. How irritating is it when you visit a WH Smith to buy a packet of chewing gum, only to be asked for your boarding pass first!!

Well last week, it was publicly revealed that there is  absolutely NO legal reason for a retailer to ask to see your boarding pass. The majority of retailers have been using passenger boarding passes to determine if you are flying within or outside of the EU. Where passengers have been flying outside of the EU, in the majority of cases, the retailer has claimed back the 20% VAT and NOT passed the benefit on to the customer. Scandalous!

In responding to this revelation, the retailers fought back – we have done nothing illegal – the majority of them were reported to say. You may well not have done, but that absolutely does not make it right…..does it?! In a world where consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to TRUST the organisations they interact with, stories like this one only cement the ever growing wall between consumers and businesses. Instead of doing things that are right for the shareholder within legal boundaries, why can’t companies do what is right for the customer, employee AND shareholder within legal boundaries?

If you cannot trust your bank to be open and honest……or your utility company……or your telecommunications provider……or your retailer…….is there anyone else left? Customer Centric organisations are ones who ‘put the customer at the heart of everything they do’ – that means that every time the organisation makes a decision, it does so considering the effect that decision may have on their customer. All of these examples prove how difficult it is to find a genuinely and Customer Centric organisation….. anywhere on the planet.

I am sure you can provide other examples of a lack of openness and transparency – I would love to hear them. I would also love to hear about organisations who are doing the very best to be open and transparent – it would be great to give them the credit they deserve!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.


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