Transparent Business

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the benefits of a business being 100% transparent with their customers.  It seems to me that there are really two kinds of business practice that are at work out there–being transparent with customers or…not.  Allow me to explain.

When I say transparent, I mean that the workings of the business are totally out there for customers to see.  The word transparent could also be substituted with the word “honest.”  Nothing is hidden from the customer from the very beginning of the relationship.  This builds genuine trust because the relationship is built on genuine respect.  A shady business, on the other hand, keeps lots of things hidden.  They are not up front with the customer, but instead choose to leave certain things out in the hopes that it will result in a sale.  The problem is, when those things do come out (and they almost always do), the customer feels mistreated and disrespected, and there is little to no trust in the relationship.  Which of the two kinds of business practice do you think would result in more referrals, and more sales in the future?

This principle can be seen very clearly in the sales aspect of businesses.  A business that is transparent cares about meeting actual needs of customers, whereas a shady business only cares about making money.  Shady businesses see customers as a way of making money, and nothing more.  They don’t see them (let alone treat them) like real human beings, so they try to sell them as much as possible, regardless of the fact that the person might not need everything that is being sold to them.

A transparent, honest business, on the other hand, sees and treats customers as people.  They evaluate what their actual needs are and try to meet those needs.  They don’t try to sell something to someone if that person truly doesn’t need it.  No one wants to spend money on something that they don’t actually need, especially when they run a business!  Transparent businesses understand that.  Following the transparent business model might sometimes mean telling the customer that they don’t even really need to use their business, or perhaps suggesting a very minimal approach.  This might mean little to no sales at that moment, but could very likely result in a referral or a future sale.  In Ben’s blog post titled, “Sell Like You’re Selling to Your Best Friend,” he unpacks this idea really well.  It all comes down to treating people with respect and putting yourself in their shoes.

The funny thing is it is usually very obvious within the first few minutes of working with someone which kind of business they are working for.  And no one wants to do business with a shady establishment!  So the second one realizes a business is somewhat shady, they’re out the door, they will probably never come back–and they’ll tell their friends.

At the end of the day, it’s the difference between thinking long-term and thinking short-term.  Shady businesses might make more money in the short term, but most likely will not retain customers or have a good reputation.  Transparent businesses might make less in the short term, but will build loyalty and a good reputation over time–and that results in more success over time as well.