22 Jul, 2020

The Importance of Transparency in Business

Good customer service is one of the cornerstones of a successful business.

Though many often think of it as handling queries (especially complaints), it actually goes far beyond that.

It begins even before customers decide they want to purchase from you.

Even as you’re building your store and writing your copy, you’re already laying the groundwork of the customer experience. 

Do it well, and you’ll boost sales. 

But there’s one important aspect that, when missed, can be extremely detrimental to your business – setting expectations.

What this is is being transparent with your business so customers know what they’re signing up for when they purchase from you.

In this post, we’ll look at the importance of being transparent with your customers, how it benefits your business, and how you can implement it.

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Setting Expectations

More often than not, customers just want to know what to expect and be kept informed.

Though this applies to many different aspects of their shopping experience with you, it’s in shipping where it’s especially crucial because of the loss in control and the higher level of uncertainty.

One of the biggest concerns aspiring dropshippers have is that consumers aren’t willing to endure the relatively long shipping times from China.

But as many have gone on to discover, they are.

There is a catch, though. Customers need to expect this from the beginning.

That means, as a business, not hiding the fact that they may need to wait up to weeks to receive their product. 

Do not hide information and above all, definitely do not lie.

As long as the customer knows that it’s going to take two or three weeks, then they’re happy. – Mitchell Sandridge

This has been particularly crucial in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic completely derailing logistics.

If customers already expect a certain level of communication from businesses under normal economic and logistical conditions, these demands have certainly intensified with the delays and volatility brought on by COVID-19

Sugar-Coating Expectations Is Counterproductive

The purpose of being transparent is to manage expectations so you leave as little as possible to assumptions, which are uncontrollable and unpredictable.

The more customers know what to expect, the fewer the surprises – especially nasty ones.

This has benefits that are two-fold:

  • It keeps them informed and happy, drives customer satisfaction, increases customer retention, and boosts word-of-mouth marketing.
  • It reduces the chances of complaints, returns, chargebacks, and refunds. 

The latter doesn’t just come with a loss in sales. It also comes with time lost from having to manage returns and refunds.

In the long run, you’re also damaging your reputation and losing potential return customers.

Transparency is also an important chapter in the business ethics playbook.

When the coronavirus halted Ahmed Hadi’s shipments from the US and queries from customers flooded in, he could have opted to ignore them and keep their money. 

Instead, he rightfully chose the high road. Not only was he upfront about the situation, but he even offered them the possibility to exchange the product or receive a refund. 

These may appear to be simple gestures, but they have long-lasting and positive compounding effects.

“They told me that they were really happy with the customer service they received and they would be return customers,” says Ahmed.

Transparency in Crowdfunding

Such practices are even more crucial when turning to crowdfunding to launch a product.

Because such projects are usually just ideas or have a limited number of samples produced when they engage in crowdfunding, there’s a delay between investing the money and actually receiving the product. 

This is where communication and transparency can allay any angst from the wait. 

When Shannah Compton Game launched a Kickstarter campaign for her product, the Money Mindset Journal, she had no idea that the coronavirus pandemic was about to hit. But hit it did and it pushed back production.

Instead of sugar-coating things, she was fully open and transparent about delays. She even went above and beyond by providing a digital copy of the journal so her customers got something out of the long wait.

According to Shannah, there’s an easy hack to knowing just what to say and do in situations like these.

“I just put myself in the shoes of, ‘If I was the customer, how would I want someone to reach out to me? And would I want them to give me anything a little bit extra, just so I felt like I was getting some sort of value?’”

What To Be Transparent With

So what should you be transparent with?

The short answer to this is: everything that directly affects customers’ shopping experience with you.

This means things like product quality, shipping times, possible delays, refunds, and more.

Communicate these at every single touchpoint possible – even those that take place before the purchase.

Understanding how crucial this is, dropshipping couple Shishir and Namrata couldn’t be clearer about their two- to four-week shipping time. 

It’s clearly stated in the first line of every single one of their product descriptions, on their shipping page, and even in the confirmation emails they send out. 

“So if they miss it after all that, then we will reply to them and say, ‘We’re sorry you missed it, it’s gonna take two to four weeks,’” says Shishir.

Conclusion

As William Shakespeare once said,

For trust not him that hath once broken faith.

By purchasing products from you, consumers are choosing to trust not only the product but the shopping experience with you.

And as it is with all relationships, it takes just a split second or a misguided decision to break trust, and much longer to earn it back.

Cherish that trust. Build on it. And reap the rewards.

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Ying Lin: Ying Lin is a journalist-turned-content marketer who is on a journey to help companies scale. She is also the co-founder of Dear Content, a content marketing boutique.