Last week, I wrote a post about raising the bar on customer relationships and how owning an email address is not a relationship. That an email address is a data point and nowhere near “relationship” status. I’ve encouraged brands of all shapes and sizes to work harder to forge a meaningful relationship with their customers; one that the customer values and the brand nurtures. I’ve come to realize that there are so many things a brand can do to nurture a relationship with a customer. The ones that come top of mind are all related to transparency. Of all the scary things I tell people when it comes to getting the best possible results from social media marketing (things like “don’t talk about your brand all the time” and to measure your results), the one that makes them visibly shiver is related to transparency.
It’s the little things
Please understand I am not talking airing out the brand’s dirty laundry. What I am talking about is telling the real story and being honest when you’re awesome and when you’re not at your best. I am talking about setting realistic expectations with a customer and keeping them apprised of changes that are coming. A perfect example of this was this weekend. I was staying in a hotel. The hotel is a chain I am loyal to. I stay there frequently and almost always enjoy the experience. The chain is awesome about communicating things to me as my stay approaches. And then this weekend, the hotel wifi wasn’t working. At all. I know, this is bratty and spoiled and #FirstWorldProblem-y, but I would have loved to know that the hotel was having wifi trouble so I could have packed a cable. I didn’t, and my opinion is now lower of this chain. They had every opportunity to do so in our communications sequence, but they didn’t. Simply letting me know ahead of time about problems would have changed my weekend and the feedback I gave them on the survey this week.
Helping set expectations
The same could be said for all the status updates I see on a weekly basis of people trapped in a doctor’s office waiting hours later for their appointment. A little transparency would go a long way. I’ve never been able to understand how doctors can autodial a billion people one hour before an appointment to say you have one, but cannot figure out how to alert people that the doctor is woefully behind. This call could let me know it’s my appointment is going to be delayed and could encourage me to have my questions written down to help move things along.
Upside of transparency
When you level set expectations and keep your customers updated on happenings that would impact the customer experience you are essentially saying you value their time and they place in the relationship. It isn’t weakness to admit to a problem, it is understandable. It empowers me to make alternative plans. It also will prevent me from venting on social media about a bad experience. It also can prevent calls to customer service, bad survey results and a crushing Yelp! Review.
Downside of transparency
Being transparent is a cultural thing for most companies. It is an approach that takes commitment to execute and execute well. Because when you are more transparent with people, they come to expect it and trust it. So, to do it well means that you have to have your finger on the pulse of the organization which in many large companies is incredibly difficult. However, it is not impossible. I’ve had the experience of calling a company out on a mistake in a direct mail piece only to have received the most transparent response ever. The response was: We didn’t know the piece dropped, we fixed the issue. We are sorry that it wasn’t the best experience.
What worked so well for me with this response it was accountable, honest and transparent. And because of this response, I think I buy more of their product because I feel like they are honest and care about me and my experience as a customer.
What are some of your ideas on advancing customer relationships? Transparency is a tough one, but of tremendous value. What are some of the other ways we can start building real, two-way relationships with our customers. I am all ears.