Liar Liar Pants On Fire; The Importance of Customer Transparency

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I came downstairs and found the nightly news paused. There was a story that scared my kids and they didn’t want to hear anymore. It’s a complicated problem. Given recent world events the news can be scary for children (and adults). But you can’t simply ignore the world outside your home. As a child I remember fire and tornado drills. My kids now have active shooter drills in school. While you want to protect their innocence, it’s also important to educate children on these events. Despite what we’d like to believe, kids are very aware and without the right education they’ll form their own opinions which could be incorrect or upsetting. You must be selectively transparent.

Selective Transparency

Transparency is an often preached about, but rarely followed practice. During a recent stay at a resort it was very apparent that the hotel was short staffed. Service was slow and below expectation. But the real problem occurred when the manager lied. He explained the lifeguard shortage was due to a “Department of Agriculture regulation”. Granted, it’s been a while but as a former lifeguard I don’t recall the Department of Agriculture weighing in, much less limiting the presence of lifeguards. We spoke with a few guards on duty and were informed, off the record, they were told to lie to patrons about staff presence. Why? Why would you lie to your customers? pants-on-fire

Are You Telling the Truth?
I find this to be a growing problem amongst companies. Many organizations are forced to do more with less and sometimes the customer becomes a casualty. And while customers may be unhappy about a decrease in service, increase in price, or change in support staff, lying or hiding the truth only angers the customer. Even worse, they may begin to draw their own conclusions about your business which could be incorrect. They may assume the company is in financial disarray or an acquisition is impending. We hear time and again that people do business with people they trust. The moment you lie to your customer you’ve violated that trust. So even though the truth may disappoint the customer, selective transparency can work to salvage the relationship.

Is Your Customer Really at the Center?

Put the customer at the center of your communications. This is especially true when managing corporate challenges. When your organization signs a new logo, secures funding, or ranks high on a quadrant you’re probably very quick to notify your customers. So when changes occur that impact your customer you must channel the same sense of urgency in communication. As with all communications, selective transparency requires an explanation of the “why”. You don’t have to air dirty laundry but you do need to explain the impact on the customer, why the issue exists, and the plan in place to resolve it. Put in place a process for feedback. You have a process to sell, ensure you have a process to service. Without this process your customers will take to social media in order to be heard by you, as well as your potential customers. Lastly, respond as soon as possible to all feedback – good or bad. It’s important to show you’re listening.

In a perfect world we would shower our customers with news about free services, product offerings tailored to their specific needs, and other points of value differentiation. But it’s through selective transparency and response that true differentiation is often demonstrated.

How do you remain transparent with your customers?

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Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.
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