Buzzwords are being tossed around this year but here’s one that you should really focus on: transparency. You can say it out loud. Trans-pa-ren-cy. No matter how you pronounce it, transparency isn’t just important for glasses anymore. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen painful examples of companies that have alienated themselves and lost customers through their refusal to be open about their business practices.
The better known examples are large businesses like American Apparel who were left with a PR mess after it emerged that the company, which touted its American-made or globally-sourced methods, was, in fact, producing clothing in sweatshop-like conditions.
This isn’t to say that your small business will escape the wrath of customers if your questionable business practices are discovered. For instance, the small makeup company, Lime Crime is still in business. But the company’s founder alienated most of their initial customer base through her eyebrow-raising actions like attempting to sue a 13 year-old over photo credits, launching cyber-attacks on makeup bloggers who gave the brand a negative review, and refusing to reimburse customers who lost money when their website was hacked. With major retailers refusing to stock Lime Crime products, it’s likely they’ll remain an indie business with a small following until eventually disappearing.
Whilst most SMB owners’ actions aren’t as extreme as Lime Crime’s, it’s important to learn from companies that have fallen before and apply these lessons to yours.
Be Clear About Your Practices
When starting a new business, it’s understandable to want to please everybody. After all, attracting diverse customers seems like the fastest way to succeed. It’s important to be clear about your practices and offerings when questioned by customers.
Don’t offer a service if your business has no means to do so. It could leave both business owners and customers scrambling to find a solution when an honest answer could have sufficed in the beginning.
Customers appreciate when companies are transparent about internal practices that could affect them. Planning to hire a new financial officer? It may seem mundane but some customers would like to know. Uber’s workplace harassment fiasco was somewhat redeemed when the company was honest with customers and investors about their search for a new Chief Brand Officer.
Make Sure Your Staff Feel Safe
Whether it’s a team of two, or a small company of 20, it’s important to cultivate a culture of trust and honesty. When unhappy staff are working in a repressive environment, they’re likely to speak to outsiders about it. It may result in a negative rating on Glassdoor, which will drive away potential talent. Or it could balloon into legal action and the collapse of your business.
For instance, after news broke of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct against actresses, there was some hope that the company could still be saved. However, that changed after it emerged that employees also had horrific stories about company culture which allowed Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour to go on for so long. The company was eventually sold, but the lifting of non-disclosure agreements means employees are free to speak up and potentially sue the company over their mistreatment.
Invest in the Personal Touch
Customers are craving a personal experience more and more these days. A big part of promoting transparency and fostering trust is showing customers they can speak directly to an employee if a problem arises. Investing in customer service personalizes the consumer experience and allows you to respond on time to their enquiries. Many people have thought twice about doing business with a company after being unable to reach them directly when they needed to.
Enquiry boxes are so last decade. If possible, provide a way for clients to engage with staff through direct chat when they need to.
For instance, Veem allows customers to reach a customer service representative when they visit the home page. With shorter wait times, and multilingual representatives, small business owners can rest assured that they will receive almost immediate assistance when processing their money transfers to other companies and contractors.
Experience the personal touch and sign up with Veem for your business’ financial needs.