Years ago, opening a business was a time consuming series of applications, red tape and waiting. Now, with the advent of online accessibility, all it takes is a few hours of online filing and the purchase of a domain name. Although a successful business requires much more than that to thrive, it is true that the internet provides information in lightning speed, information that is available to all.
At a time when many companies are struggling with today’s global economy, yet another attribute of online access, maintaining operational transparency has become much more than a corporate choice concerning integrity or regulatory compliance. In a sense, every business now has to learn, if it has not adapted such a culture from the onset, to manage its’ corporate and public image as a press agent would. Bad press can go around the worldwide web as quickly as an endorsement or testimonial will, and rarely is one able to erase that which has already formed a digital footprint.
Business best practices today not only include reputable products and the like, but has evolved to include company personality and reputation almost as if it were of a living being. Businesses have come to be thought of in terms of the people behind them and reflect the values of its leadership. Never more than in recent years has the public become more intimately involved with the CEO’s , etc., behind big business, and the mistakes they have made. The key is to do away with the “behind the scenes” corporate mentality and realize that this practice will become increasingly important to owners, executives and managers, across the world. Adapting a company culture of honesty and integrity may quite possibly be one of the most important factors in building brand identity and trust.
True transparency means that that your business is clear and honest and easy to understand when potential customers are looking at you. It means that there are no hidden costs, add on extras or polices that are difficult for the public to understand. It means that your business is in collaboration with your customers, and that you both have the same agenda as posed to a hidden agenda, which ultimately is a happy customer, which equates to a company reputation that is trustworthy.
If your company needs a revamp of its internal operations, there are a few simple steps that can be taken. Begin by reassessing policies. Take a look at employee directives. Encourage collaboration between employees toward the common company vision as this can go a long way to genuine customer service practices. Employees in competition with each other for a sale or other benefit will only serve to deliver disingenuous interaction with customers.
I also believe that it is best to assess what your business does really well and do it. It may seem simple, but you do not have to be an expert in everything. Talking up a product or a service that does not deliver as well as you promise will only catch up with your viral reputation in the end. Gone are the days of product perception. Today performance counts and customers will talk much more positively about companies who do one thing really well, rather than those companies who perform ten tasks with average competence.
Consider getting management out into the community. People like to know who they are doing business with. Put a face to the brand, and find a way to give back to the community in some way. This can go a long way to promoting the values behind your business, build a feel good atmosphere and enlist trust in your company. Executives would benefit by making time to be available and reachable when possible.
If a business issue attracts unwanted critique, accept the feedback gracefully and get out in front of the issue. Be sure to own it. Most people like a comeback from a company owning and correcting an honest mistake rather than the company who passes the buck.
With so much digital access available it can often become confusing for business owners to manage the multitude of outlets of online information effectively. This can translate to confusion and a chaotic customer experience. Be careful not to overwhelm the public with information overload and do be succinct in your approach to online and social media marketing. It may be wise to appoint an employee versed in online marketing and strategy.
In an environment where companies as well as consumers are overcoming the struggles of the last few years and have abundant access to the internet, it is imperative to adopt a culture of business transparency and a focus on well-being for the public at large. Make sure your company is actually operating like one that you and your family would like to do business with.