The 21st century business world is one of intense rivalry and competition. Enticing customers with your unique selling point is of upmost importance, however, so is managing to keep those customers coming back.
With the internet dominating retail, customers don’t tend to shop at a select few stores throughout their whole lives. Yes, perhaps 50 years ago consumers will have bought locally for everything they needed, from fruit and veg, to a corporate uniform suppliers. But times have changed. There is no denying that we are living in the age of the consumer. With thousands of options at their fingertips, browsing through a range of prices and quality is simple. Whilst perusing through the lines of stock online, customers are also able to take on board the various comments and reviews which have been posted about a company.
John Gerzema, American columnist, once said: “Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humour, work in businesses at all times”. Taking into consideration the first two points presented by Gerzema, ‘transparency’, and ‘honesty’ in this article, we look to understand why consumers appreciate truthfulness in regard to major companies.
Statistics from Lansons Communications and Opinium Research, who examined the UK’s most trusted companies, found that half of the population don’t trust any companies at all.
How important is it to customers?
Research from 2016 found that 73 per cent of consumers are prepared to spend high prices on companies who offer transparency about their operations. Furthermore, 78% argued that they seen brand transparency to be incredibly important.
1992 saw the first UK supermarket, Co-operative Food, to stock Fairtrade products. Now, almost 30 years later, the non-for profit organisation is assisting in the sale of more than 4,000 products in supermarkets across the country. It is helping to ensure that the workers involved in the production, packing, and distribution are receiving fair, and equal treatment for their services. Prior to the development of Fairtrade, much of the world did not have their eyes open to where their products where coming from, and what was involved in them getting there.
Although they weren’t perfect, they didn’t try to be, and admitted that some products had unethical networks. As much as this may seem like a completely hazardous marketing strategy, outing all your wrongdoings in public, it aligns with the age-old theory of ‘it’s always better to tell the truth’.
Most recently drinks companies such as Innocent and Naked have performed well thanks to their straight-up, no frills, marketing campaigns. Their products clearly display what they entail, as opposed to making the customer negotiate paragraphs of size two font text in an attempt to understand the nutritional benefit of what’s in the bottle.
When mistakes happen, deal with it
In the famous words of Elton John, “sorry seems to be the hardest word”. At the end of the day, it is natural for us to choke a bit when we have to apologise — it is the hardest pill to swallow! That said, nipping it in the bud early is the best course of action.
If a customer has any reason to avoid your company, address the issue openly. Offer your most sincere apologies and detail the route you’re going to take to ensure that the issue is resolved and will not occur again. Everyone makes mistakes. However it is the way we handle them that will create a lasting impact on our reputation. Covering it up, or at least attempting to, will create an image of dishonesty, or perhaps make the customer feel as if you are completely unaware that the issue exists — making your company look incompetent.
Although we are surrounded by online reviews and ratings, word of mouth still ranks highly for customers forming trust with a brand. It may come as a shock to some businesses, but people communicate with one another. This is a double-edged sword as well, with positive and negative word of mouth having the ability to spread like wildfire. Treat a customer poorly and you can bet your bottom dollar that the internet, alongside every person they have crossed paths with since 1993, will know about it. However, admit your wrongdoing, offer them something to smile about, and you’ll soon discover that they will be raving about you in a rather flattering Facebook post.
McDonald’s came under scrutiny regarding the contents of their meals and whether they were healthy or not. Their share price took a hit and they had their backs against the wall. However, choosing to bare all and implement a policy of transparency proved reviving. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. In business, put your customers first, and your pride second — it will pay off in the end.
Always own up to areas where you aren’t perfect so that customers know you aren’t trying to be. After all, we wouldn’t want to give our money to liars, would we?