Transparency: The understated and underrated business quality

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Two years ago, I got this awesome deal on my internet through Comcast. However, recently I found out that the 2-year contract was up, at which time the fine print allowed my bill to increase by 33%. Sneaky? Sketchy? I couldn’t put my finger on the right word, but it didn’t leave me with a good impression. So much so that I ended up moving to a different internet provider, AT&T Fiber Internet. Faster internet at the same cost AND they offered gift cards for signing up. $350 worth, which I promptly received in the mail. Upon notifying Comcast that I would be switching to a different provider, they quickly offered to lower the price and loop me into another deal. Why the need for the price increase then? Why does it take me leaving for them to offer the original price? This further backed up my decision to leave.

AT&T was transparent. It was very clear what I was going to get and at what cost. While innovation, marketing strategies, and product quality are undoubtedly crucial to success, the importance of transparency in business must not be overlooked. Transparency is synonymous with openness and honesty, and these qualities are the bedrock of trust. In the B2B or business-consumer relationship, trust can be a key differentiator against competitors. When customers trust a business, they are more likely to become repeat customers, recommend the brand to others, and forgive occasional missteps. The latter being incredibly important to businesses that are looking to grow and/or take risks in densely populated markets. A transparent company fosters a positive feedback loop with customers who feel confident and secure that the company will take their suggestions seriously, further strengthening the brand’s reputation and/or stimulating change and improvements.

There are three areas in which it is essential for a business to be transparent:

  1. Communicating during challenging times. Instead of sweeping issues under the rug, businesses that openly acknowledge issues and/or challenges and communicate their strategies for resolution demonstrate a commitment to accountability. Customers appreciate honesty and are more likely to stand by when they are looped into what’s going on.
  2. Pricing. Given inflation and the state of the economy, price is often a customer’s top priority, if not one of the top priorities. Having easy access to pricing information is key. Customers need this to plan and budget accordingly. If your company doesn’t have that information readily available, your competitors likely do. I have spoken with companies that have removed a product from consideration solely because they couldn’t find pricing information.
  3. With employees. The more transparent a company is with its employees about the company’s goals, potential trends, or issues being brought up by customers (depending on the nature of the issue), and how everything is connected – the greater sense of purpose the employees will feel. If an employee is unsure how what they’re doing is contributing to the bigger picture or even how it matters, the less satisfied they will be with what they’re doing. You can see how this might affect employee retention.

Whether it’s with employees or customers, everyone appreciates transparency. A transparent business not only builds loyalty but also gains a competitive edge by standing out as trustworthy, authentic, and… human. I’d love to hear how your company integrates transparency into everyday business practices.

Kristen Higgins – Research Manager