21st century business is notoriously cut-throat — it’s essential for businesses to differentiate themselves to attract customer attention and interest. Obviously, a continuous stream of customers flooding to the business is ideal, but what’s also important for a business to succeed is customer retention.
We are long past the time of customers shopping in a select few shops 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 — the internet dominates the market. 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.
American columnist, John Gerzema, famously 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.
Research by Lansons Communications and Opinium Research, which examined the UK’s most trusted companies, it became apparent that half of the population don’t trust any companies at all.
Do customers really care about transparency?
According to research, 73 per cent of consumers wouldn’t mind paying higher prices for products from transparent companies. Furthermore, 78% argued that they saw brand transparency as incredibly important.
Co-operative Food was the first UK supermarket that sold Fairtrade, when in 1992 they began selling Cafedirect coffee. 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.
However, Co-operative divulged that some product had unethical links. 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’.
Fabrik claims, ‘it’s no longer enough to whack on a shiny label in a bid to distract the customer’. They aren’t daft. 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.
Admit to your mistakes
Realistically, it’s 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 you anticipate a situation which could put customers off, it’s best to hold your hands up and explain honestly. 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.
Word of mouth
Customers trust word-of-mouth from their friends and family over most sources. 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.
Take McDonald’s for example. The fast food giant 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.
Customers don’t appreciate being lied to and taken advantage of. Treat them with respect and they’ll much prefer you to a corporation who churn out lies and deceit like there’s no tomorrow.