Forget mere transactions. Today, customers want transparency from the brands they choose. Otherwise, they’re happy to take their money—and raving online reviews—elsewhere.
Transparency isn’t something that’s new to the post-pandemic global economy, either. Sprout Social research from 2019 showed that 86% of consumers placed a high importance on transparency between them and their preferred brands. That’s nearly nine out of every 10 shoppers who walk in your door or click on your website.
How can you build and maintain transparency, though? The process does take a bit of effort. It also requires that you consider all the communication touchpoints you share with the people you serve. However, facilitating a sense of openness with buyers will pay off bigtime, so it’s worth strategizing ways to reveal your true corporate face to the world.
Start your journey by taking the following steps to boost customer transparency and trust.
1. Play the Role of Teacher
You know a lot about your business and industry. Why not share your knowledge in an engaging way with people interested in your services or products? After all, you might be knee-deep in the business of selling high-quality sweaters or understand the nuances of properly applying organic lip balm, and that’s great. Nevertheless, your customers might not understand exactly why they should get so excited about your offerings, or intuitively know how to use them.
By educating consumers, you ensure that you’re seen as a thought leader in your field. If you’re in the clothing industry, explain to them where cashmere comes from and what makes it great. This positions you as a sort of “mind sherpa,” and consumers will lean on your expertise.
Make sure you have fun sharing your insider prowess. Add character and personality (not to mention transparency) to your brand by pushing out exciting how-to videos, information-rich pillar blogs, and snappy social media posts. Your content doesn’t have to be Oscar or Pulitzer Prize worthy to make positive waves.
2. Lead with Your Pricing
Okay, maybe you don’t actually want your pricing to be the first thing your customers see. Fair enough. But keep that word “fair” in mind when laying out how you price what you sell. In other words, be upfront about how much items or experiences cost, even if your competitors aren’t doing likewise.
Customers resent having to hunt and peck to find pricing structures, and will frequently leave a website if they can’t get a solid answer on how much they can expect to pay. They also don’t appreciate being told one price, only to find out they’re really paying another one.
Wherever possible, be totally transparent with how much your customer can expect to pay. This includes changing confusing verbiage. For example, you might have said in the past that shoppers would get “three widgets for $15” when you really meant “three widgets for $15 each.” One little word makes all the difference.
Be sure to emphasize any extra add-ons that customers should budget into their final payments, such as shipping and handling fees or taxes. And if you’re really into 100% transparency, you may want to go the radical route and lay out your mark-up. (It’s rare that companies go that route, but it’s on the table.)
3. Stand Up for Something
Does your company have a corporate mission and vision statement? Check in with it and see if it’s still accurate. If it is, highlight it across all your messaging. Why? An Accenture study from 2018 showed that 63% of people prefer brands with missions that align with their own. In fact, many consumers will actively study your company’s core beliefs before spending another penny at your online or brick-and-mortar store, even if they’ve bought from you in the past.
In an era of social media-driven causes, concerns, and boycotts, you have to be very clear about where your business stands on specific issues—or if you’re taking a more neutral position. You can help customers get a picture of what motivates you as a corporation by peppering your websites and all social accounts with information regarding your business’s values. Just be certain that you’re truly living up to those values. Otherwise, savvy customers won’t hesitate to call you out.
4. Unveil Your Whole Supply Chain
Almost every business has some kind of supply chain. Devote time to investigating yours and making sure every component lives up to your company’s values statement, as described above. For instance, if your business is a firm believer in sustainability, you want to make sure that as many of your supply chain vendors concentrate on sustainable practices. Similarly, if you’re interested in promoting fair trade, you’ll want to ensure your suppliers agree with your philosophy.
Is this a challenging must-do? Absolutely. Yet it forces you to take a deeper look at all the partnerships you make. It can even open your eyes to different ways of doing businesses, or different supply chain models. The more you know about your supply chain, the more you can talk about it with your customers. Many will be eager to know the “backstory” of the products they buy and use.
5. Make Customer Service Easy to Find and Even Easier to Use
Being transparent isn’t just about pulling back the curtain on what companies you work with or discussing what you know about your industry. It also comes from being open to hearing from and giving back to consumers through your customer service.
Ideally, your shoppers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to enjoy an omnichannel customer service experience. Rather, they deserve to be able to get terrific service when and where they need it. Yes, you’ll always have those “pain in the neck” buyers. Treat them right, too. By listening to and caring about everyone who contacts your team for assistance and advice, you’ll set your business up to be thoughtful, transparent, and trustworthy.
In bygone eras, businesses didn’t have to think about whether or not they were being open with customers. They just sold items or services. Today, consumers crave deeper relationships with brands. Be certain you’re ready to fulfill browsers’ and shoppers’ needs by removing any barriers between you and the public.