You may think the keys to business success are quality products and services, or good marketing and promotion. The real key to success? Strong customer relationships. And one of the best ways to foster these relationships is through transparency.
Keep Your Word
Whatever promises you make your customers, be sure you can hold to your word. If that means carefully promising only what you know you can deliver, so be it. If you fall short, customers will feel taken advantage of and lose their faith. 62% of global customers report they’ve stopped doing business with a brand after a poor customer service experience, so keeping your word is paramount to keeping customers happy.
Mistakes happen, so if there’s a reason why your products or services aren’t going to be delivered as expected, reach out and keep the customer informed, offering something to compensate them for the delay.
For instance, if Amazon determines a shipment will not be delivered in the promised timeframe, they email their customers to let them know. If a prime customer reaches out to customer service and expresses dissatisfaction with the issue, the usual response is an additional month of free Prime services for their trouble.
Be Honest About Everything, Including Mistakes
Be upfront about everything, including your pricing and billing structure. Explain the costs, fees, and deliverables especially when it comes to enterprise level SEO. Keep invoices clear so as to reflect the specifics of everything delivered, and clearly explain your terms. This can help overcome any dissatisfaction regarding vague bills. Being honest and upfront about any key customer pain points can improve overall satisfaction.
No business is perfect, and when a mistake happens, it can be tempting to hide from it and deal with the fall out later. But, the sooner you communicate about a mistake on your part, the better your customers will respond. Explain the problem in a truthful manner, while offering an explanation for what happened and why, what you’re doing to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again in the future, and offer a resolution your customers can live with. You want your customers to understand that you’re about taking action – not that you’re hiding from your mistakes.
In 2013, Target suffered a database hack that left millions of customers’ personal and financial data exposed. The company’s CEO at the time, Greg Steinhafel resigned in the aftermath – but not before a forensics team was hired to investigate how the hack was achieved. Once it was determined malware had ben installed on the system, it was removed, and the public was notified of the breach. In response, the company invested $100 million in upgrading POS technology, after the decline in sales because of the breach lead to employee layoffs. Ultimately, Target offered free identify theft protection to customers in an effort to restore customer faith, and agreed to settle a $39 million dollar lawsuit with several U.S. banks as a result of the breach.
Listen to what your customers have to say. 64% of customers say sales people ignore them, and 66% say they have to ask for the same information repeatedly. When customers don’t feel heard, they’re going to respond with complaints, and worse, possibly leave your business for the competition. But, when a customer feels like someone is listening to what they have to say and doing their best to take their thoughts into account, they’re much more likely to stick around.
Be Responsive and Timely
Respond to customer emails and phone calls as quickly and efficiently as possible. And where social media is concerned, 32% of customers expect a response within half an hour, while 42% expect a response within an hour. 57% expect the same response time even outside of normal business hours. Act fast, or risk upsetting customers.
Inform Customers of Change
If something is changing within your company, be it good or bad, tell your customers in a timely manner. They’ll learn to trust you and what you have to say because you’ll make it clear that you value them enough to keep them informed.
Remember, Communication is a Two-Way Street
When a conversation is one-sided, it loses value, and becomes lost in the sea of millions of other conversations taking place at any given time on the Internet. Not only should you be listening to what you customers have to say – you should respond to it and allow them to engage with you. Let them know what you, or your company is doing to improve their experience now, and in the future.
Say Thank You
One of the easiest ways to show appreciation for your customers is with a simple thank you, or other gesture of gratitude. When customers know you appreciate their business, it helps keep them engaged in the future. Say thank you with a discount code for a future order, a free month of service, or even a handwritten thank you note sent with their order.
Why Transparency Matters
Being completely transparent with your customers helps you in three key areas:
- Trust: Gaining customer trust is paramount to the relationship. When buyers make a purchase from you, they want to know they’re making a choice that aligns with their goals, and personal or charitable interest. You cannot buy trust – you must earn it. To earn that trust, you have to make sure customers understand exactly what it is they are buying, by providing that information up front, and means being honest at every opportunity.
- Loyalty: Brand loyalty can be difficult to earn, but by establishing a connection with your customers, and doing things to empower your customers whenever possible, you can foster that sense of loyalty. Customers who know they’re doing business with a company that is completely transparent about everything from manufacturing practices to marketing, will naturally become more loyal to them. Take for instance, Lush Cosmetics – a global brand of handmade, all natural bath and product products. They’ve built their brand around core values customers love – ethical sourcing ingredients to protect animals and the environment, minimal packaging, and many vegan products. They also have products specifically designed to support charities in line with those values.
- Empowerment: With the Internet, customers are now more empowered with their purchasing decisions than ever before. There’s no longer a limited number of big brands to work with, but a seemingly endless array of small businesses to choose from, all just a search and a click away. No longer are they limited by what’s available in their local area – they can order products and services from across the globe, should they see fit. We are in the age of the customer, where their journey is taking place more frequently without communicating with another human. In fact, by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without human interaction.
Transparency is often feared because of the open and honest stance it requires. But, customers are shouting about what they want – and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll get passed up in favor of the competition. Allow your customers to make better choices, and you’ll be greatly rewarded.
If you have any recent experience building relationships with transparency, please share about it in the comments section below.
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